While political debate about broadband in Australia is a step forward, the exclusive focus on building network infrastructure is disappointing, according to Communications Alliance CEO Anne Hurley.
In the lead up to the federal election on November 24, 2007, she called on political parties to take a more holistic view of Australia's broadband future.
"Infrastructure is important but we need to broaden the debate," Hurley said.
"We need commitment to the creation of the right environment for facilitating growth, innovation and competition so that customers can reap the full benefits of broadband services. "In order to create that environment our leaders must understand the need to consult with all of the stakeholders to agree on a vision for our broadband future."
Through consultation, Hurley said government would then be able to develop a comprehensive framework of legislative and administrative measures that are purpose-built for the broadband world, not bolted on to the legacy tools of the pre-digital age. She said the development of the broadband framework should include technological neutrality, transparency, deregulation with more industry self-regulation and the removal of barriers to industry development.
"There should also be a focus on the long-term interests of end-users and national economic growth," Hurley added.
Hurley said the new parliamentary term will provide an opportunity to put in place a broadband framework that recognized the changed realities created by the convergence of telecommunications, broadcasting and information technology. "Australia is on the verge of a new era in which broadband technologies will dramatically change the way that information is transmitted, used and consumed," she said.
"Therefore we can no longer restrict our thinking and our planning to fit into the old legislative and regulatory silos that were developed for a time when telcos delivered all of our communications services, media companies just produced television, radio, newspapers or magazines and computer companies just sold boxes that sat on the desktop.
"The boundaries between all of the players have been rapidly dissolving. We need our decision makers to work with the industry to devise a vision for the future that prepares Australia for the broadband world of converged technologies, networks and services."
The federal government has pledged to provide 99 percent of the population with access to fast affordable broadband by June 2009.Information and Communications Technology Minister Senator Helen Coonan said Australia Connected will provide 12 megabit per second broadband services across Australia.
"The centerpiece of Australia Connected is the immediate rollout of a new, independent, competitive and state of the art national broadband network that will extend high speed services out to 99 percent of the population and provide speeds of 12 megabits per second by mid 2009," she said.
Meanwhile, the Opposition plans to invest A$4.7 billion (US$4.33 billion) in a new national fiber broadband network to be built in partnership with the private sector.
The National Broadband Network will connect 98 percent of Australians to high speed broadband Internet services - at a speed more than 40 times faster than most current speeds, according to Labor's communications spokesperson Stephen Conroy.
"Federal Labor will increase speed to a minimum of 12 megabits per second. This means business, education and household services on the Internet including entertainment will happen in real time," he said.