19 Jul 2011

The Australian Government has been trying to roll out a national broadband network throughout the country, the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken by the country. The goal is to lay fibre optic cabling to 93 per cent of Australian homes, schools and businesses, in order to provide broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, with the rest of the country connected by wireless and satellite technology.

The network is expected to cost A$35.9 billion to construct over a 10-year period with the government investing A$27.5 billion. The government set up a private corporation to build and operate the network, with retail providers selling internet access to consumers. Government funds invested in the network are projected to be repaid by 2034, although these projections may be overly optimistic.
The national broadband network is currently being rolled out in Tasmania along with mainland sites selected in around 12,200 premises in Brunswick, Aitkenvale, Mundingburra, Minnamurra, Kiama Downs, Armidale and Willunga. While the plan has been controversial due to its costs and construction deadlines, the provision of a national broadband network through the country raises questions about the impact of the network on the economy, mobility, and knowledge creation. Will the network result in higher business productivity? more work-from-home employees? expansion of creative industries? or just faster download speeds for people looking to play video games online?