National access to fast broadband will prop up the economy, the communications minister says.
Senator Stephen Conroy was the closing speaker for the World Computer Congress in Brisbane after flying in from New York where he presented the government’s broadband report to the United Nations Broadband Commission.
The UN Commission says broadband is a game-changer in the delivery of healthcare, digital education, empowering marginalised communities and mitigating climate change.
Senator Conroy said broadband would underpin the economy while driving social and economic policy.
“ICT is a vital component of every industry and an integral part of the digital economy,” Senator Conroy told the audience.
“And everyone in this room is aware that the digital economy is the economy.
“As an economy-wide enabling platform, it has the potential to break the tyranny of distance once and for all, but only if everyone has access to it.”
It would also support 25,000 jobs every year, on average, over the life of the eight-year project, he said.
For the first time, the government would provide a Medicare rebate for a GP or practice nurse to host specialist consultations, with patients in rural, remote and outer metropolitan areas.
Access Economics estimates the benefits from this wide-scale implementation could be in the vicinity of $2 billion to $4 billion a year.
Climate change through monitoring of utility use and being able to work from home would ease traffic congestion.
And, most importantly, education would be more accessible to all Australians.
“Australian kids will be able to take a virtual tour of the Smithsonian museums in the United States and be back by recess,” Senator Conroy said.
“Contrary to some beliefs, the NBN (national broadband network) will deliver much more than faster movie downloads.”
On Monday, the opening speaker of the congress, dot深圳夜生活会所, entrepreneur and Wotif founder Graeme Wood, questioned the need for fast broadband for private use.
“I think it’s a brilliant thing for business but where’s the analysis to say the investment is worth it for non-business users (or) private use,” Mr Wood told AAP on Monday.
“If all you do is download the same stuff – only faster – how can you justify that as an investment?
“If the mix of the normal usage – email, music, video, Facebook, gaming – stays the same, but just happens faster, is there an economic or social benefit in that for the private user?”
The government’s report into the NBN said investments in broadband were simply too important to be allowed to become a casualty of bureaucratic rivalries or changing policy priorities.
The coalition also opposes the $43 billion NBN.
But opposition spokesman Malcolm Turnbull refused to comment to AAP about Mr Conroy’s speech on Thursday.
In Tasmania, where the rollout began late last year, the first customers have been online since July. On the mainland, 6000km of optical fibre backbone is being laid across 100 communities in regional Australia.
The first mainland sites should start early next year.
The network will be based predominantly on fibre and cover 93 per cent of premises, delivering speeds of 1Gbps.
The remaining seven per cent outside the fibre footprint, will be connected by next generation wireless and satellite services with speeds of 12Mbps or more – significantly faster than what is available today.