Writing in The Australian,  federal Liberal MP and former Optus executive Paul Fletcher says Kiwis show how to roll out a broadband network.

He’s right.

While Australia’s policymakers work themselves into a lather over technical, economic and political questions, New Zealanders just get on with it. Today work is well underway on two separate networks, the UFB serving urban customers and the RBI reaching out to country areas. Some customers are already seeing the benefits.

New Zealand’s networks have three main advantages over Australia:

  • First, the idea to build fibre networks was originally a Labour Party policy but was cleverly picked up by National. This means both sides of politics agree it needs building so we’ve avoided the ideological wrangling distracting Australia’s NBN project.
  • Second, the New Zealand government co-opted the nation’s largest telcos to help build its projects rather than clashed with them. Telecom’s separation helps. Chorus and Vodafone are the government’s partners, Telecom will be a customer of the networks.
  • Lastly, New Zealand is doing it on the cheap – when the NBN was first mooted, the budget was A$42 billion, New Zealand started with NZ$1.5 billion – a figure that never scared taxpayers. In the end, former communications minister Steven Joyce squeezed an even better deal out of the industry – the eventual taxpayer bill will be well under NZ$1 billion.

Fletcher says a Coalition government will “look for opportunities to apply the principles that have made the New Zealand approach so much more successful.” I’m sure there are plenty of consultants on this side of the Tasman willing to share their expertise with our Australian friends.

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