November 19, 2009
Labour's Communications Spokesperson is asking whether Broadband should be viewed as a basic right like water or electricity? I am a huge supporter of the power of broadband to transform communities and economies. There is no doubt that good quality broadband can revolutionise education, health and help integrate communities. However, policy-makers will need to consider what the alternative uses are for between $2billion and $9billion of investment. More importantly they will need to consider exactly how the nation's productivity will be raised through such investment.
There is no doubt that the risk of a new digital divide is significant. There is also little doubt in my mind that government leadership will be important. But we also need to make sure that NZ Inc does not squander this opportunity to build a high-productivity hi-tech economy. Our children's generation will not thank us for bequeathing to them a large debt without commensurate returns from wise investments. Rather than debating whether we should make it a human right - perhaps we should just get on and do those basic things that most of us know will be required in any case - for example improved international connectivity, improved open-access fibre backhaul, abolition of the TSO Levy, and a national stocktake of existing ducting to identify gaps which can then aid in rapid fibre deployment?