Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Broadband isn't a luxury - it's a basic service

Any communicator or market worth their salt should be voting for the best and fastest broadband option available. It's a basic tool of the trade - with bandwidth and speed to the maximum number of people for the maximum amount of time unleashing enormous opportunities to communicators and consumers alike.

From a business perspective, it can deliver a competitive edge internationally, not just in Australia. There are already some communications and marketing businesses taking advantage of time zone differences to produce and finesse content here ready for the first breakfast meeting overseas later that day (think about it!).

And effective competition in our business is not just about superior ideas and creative, it's about being able to deliver those ideas - many of them in the form of large audiovisual or even print-ready files - to customers when they want them.

As we think about the relative merits in the imminent Australian Federal Election of Labor's $43 billion fibre to home concept and the LNP's collage of various technologies (for around $6 billion), we should consider what this network has to deliver. Unfortunately, I believe it's often discussed within the framework of 'internet'. For some, this means simply being able to read emails which, I think, is why we get such crazy arguments about not needing the bandwidth and speed of fibre optics. That's why businesses with skin in the game should stand up and be counted on this as a primary election issue.

Through this broadband pipe, we increasingly pump television, general telecommunications, movies on demand. online games and so on. And the variety and volume of content is but one dimension of the increased demand on the delivery network. Look at the phenomenal growth of social networking sites like Facebook, the new users they introduce to the web, the exponential number of new links created, the thirst for bandwidth demanded by hi-resolution on-line games and movie entertainment.

I am sure all of us can think of great products that have been compromised to the point of underperformance in function, appeal and sales simply because some bean counter said by eliminating such and such a feature or design element would save $nat's..... per unit. Of course, I'm not suggesting $37 billion is a piffling amount. But peel away the price sticker and look at the value before making a decision.

We're in the information age. Users are increasingly paying for content and access - and they're prepared to do it. Mobile communications would not be in the midst of a boom and iPads would be unsaleable if people were not prepared to pay for content delivered how and when they wanted it. Let's take the broadband decision out of the three-year election cycle and look at its benefits long term.

And by the way, I'm not ruling the low-cost option out. I'm just sceptical!

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