Turnbull - Time to walk your own talk
Australia is at a crossroads as incoming Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promises a new approach to government.
An approach that will see he and his party focus on the substance and reason of a well-articulated vision for change rather than the robotic delivery of 24x7 soundbites and slogans. He has spoken passionately about the need for Australia to be “agile, innovative and creative” if it is to succeed in the global economy. He has also stated the need for Australians to “recognise the disruption we see driven by technology … is our friend, if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it.”
Turnbull will have few better opportunities to walk this fighting talk than with the approach to the rollout of the NBN and the championing of ‘digital government’.
The recent release of the NBN plan signified the end of the backwards looking positions around the inadequacies in strategy and execution of the past Labour government’s NBN plan. The success of the NBN to address the stated social and economic benefits of a national broadband infrastructure and associated ‘ICT ecosystem’ can now be attributed to the Coalition Government. Turnbull will also be free to position the Digital Transformation Office as the agent for change in how it spends it’s $6billion technology budget.
Turnbull’s has promised a “thoroughly Liberal government committed to freedom, the individual and the market.” So what are some of the more obvious and immediate changes that he should make?
Make good on the promise to ‘open up’ the NBN to competition
The lack of infrastructure based competition in Australia can be linked directly to the failure of past governments to address the monopoly that is Telstra. The policy response to replace a monopoly (Telstra) with another monopoly (NBN) is ludicrous. The move to a multi-technology mix in the delivery of the network is a rational and pragmatic start. The next step is to ‘open up’ the NBN assets to be used by alternate carriers and remove the obstacles for competitors to build infrastructure.
Define the standards for third party interconnectivity
As a key step in ‘opening up’ the NBN, Turnbull needs to promote and demand the attainment of standards from carriers and service providers who want to interconnect to buy and sell services from NBN. The global standard for interconnectivity to a Layer 2 network (which is what the NBN is) is the Metro Ethernet Forum (www.mef.net). The NBN should immediately certify its services with MEF and use these standards as the frameworks for the interconnectivity with third party service providers.
Make the NBN an even playing field
Creating 120 points of interconnect (POIs) means that only the largest ISP and Service Providers have the scale and oversubscription benefits to benefit from the NBN’s access network. The NBN should run a competitive tender process (with Telstra excluded) and secure on long term contracts backhaul to create a ‘super POI’ each capital city. This will allow the NBN to actually delivery on a fundamental promise of consistent, metro comparable broadband across the country.
Stipulate the requirement for Government departments to buy from competing carriers
Government departments should be required to buy a percentage of their services from alternate carriers to Telstra. This would drive the business case for carriers like Vocus, Nextgen and TPG (Pipe Networks and AAPT) to build their own fibre to regional and remote Australia. It will also create infrastructure redundancy which is critical in ensuring the availability of services in areas that are prone to flood, fire, cyclones and other events that ‘take out’ the Telstra network.
Engage the states to open up their rail and utility fibre assets
Each of the state governments have fantastic fibre assets that are ‘owned’ by the rail and utility providers. Engage the state governments and develop a compelling financial model for them to utilise these assets in getting the NBN rolled out faster to areas that most need the services.
Turnbull has made a great case for his leadership. The opportunity is now his to make good on these promises.