Australia's future is in broadband, says PM

The Australian government has established a new company with the express purpose of building a national fiber-to-the-home broadband network. The project is expected to take eight years, and cost 43 billion Australian dollars, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in his announcement today.

The ambitious project seeks to connect 90% of all Australian homes to a 100 Mbps pipeline. Under the Rudd Government's national broadband network, "every house, school and business in Australia will get access to affordable, fast broadband."

To build the network, the government will engage in a 50/50 partnership with the private sector, where taxpayer money will be used for the initial investment, and then interest will be sold down five years after the network is fully operational. So the taxpayer's investment will not be recouped until 2022 if all goes according to plan.

Due to Australia's doughnut-like population dispersal, the non-coastal areas of the country are mostly wilderness. To reach the populace in these regions, the company will not be deploying a "Fiber-to-the-bush" network, but will instead rely on "next generation wireless and satellite technologies that will be able to deliver 12 megabits per second or more."

The Prime Minister sees this as an opportunity to build Australia's economic future.

"Just as railway tracks laid out the future of the 19th century and electricity grids the future of the 20th century, so broadband represents the core infrastructure of the 21st century,"Rudd said.

Currently though, Rudd says that the country is "a broadband backwater" due to years of failed policy. Indeed, the country's reputation for poor quality at a high cost is reflected by international price-per megabit rankings, disgruntled citizens, even by Betanews' own Aussie readers.

Despite its high cost, the Internet in Australia has extremely good penetration , with 60.4% of the population getting online, according to the International Telecommunications Union.

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