Reactions to Broadband funding

Peter Griffin blogs:

All up the Government has committed around $500 million today to infrastructure investment most of it to be distributed in the same way past funding in this area has – through contestable grants and through direct funding of hospitals, schools and government departments.

It’s certainly not visionary, ambitious. That level of funding isn’t going to change the broadband landscape. It is incremental change that runs the risk of spawning numerous projects that overlap and don’t share a common outcome. …

Labour never indicated it would try to outspent National on broadband, but surely the government could have come up with something more inspiring to convince us that growth and innovation is actually valued in this country.

Ernie Newman from TUANZ:

The highlight is expenditure of $325 million over five years in the framework of a Broadband Investment Fund based on contestable grants available to any legal entity including local government, power and phone companies, and community groups.

There will be quite a complex application process with a gap of almost year from the time an applicant submits an EoI in August, until the result is known in June 2009. The process for a group wanting to lodge an application embraces applicant support, an EoI, an application, analysis and recommendation within the MED, a recommendation by a group of officials, sign-off by the CEO of the MED, and final sign off by Cabinet. It sounds very much like the “Broadband Challenge of old with significantly more money, but with bit more bureaucracy tacked on.

The handouts included a flow-chart to show how decisions would be made on funding. I joked to Ernie that any process which needs a flow-chart to explain it is too complex!

There’s also $15 million in there as capital expenditure towards a new trans Tasman cable. On its own that would get the cable about to Somes Island, but obviously it will be leveraged by private sector investment. Its a good signal.

The investment in international connectivity is welcome.

On the positive side, the fact that money has been allocated is a positive sign. What we have now is cross-parliamentary support in concept for significant public money to be spent on telecommunications infrastructure. That is a big breakthrough from a couple of years ago.

But to be honest, I feel a bit underwhelmed. The amount of money is pretty sparse and I guess I was anticipating more. The administrative processes are complex and slow – I foresee rosy times for the burgeoning Consultation Industry with lots people huddled in interminable meetings. By the time the consultation, evaluation and analysis is done, hamlet by hamlet, will the amount of money left to dig trenches through the streets of Waitotara cut the mustard.

My reaction is similar to Ernie’s. I was expecting more vision and more funding. It’s not about this being something “nice” but about the environmental and economic benefits we can gain from widespread fibre deployment.

InternetNZ says:

InternetNZ Executive Director Keith Davidson welcomes any increase in public expenditure on broadband, which he describes as critical infrastructure and essential for ongoing economic growth. The announcement confirms that the debate has moved to decisions on “when” rather than “if” better broadband is required

“A clear difference has emerged between Labour and National as to how they are approaching this policy question, in terms of amounts to invest, pace of rollout and methods of public engagement. Different levels of detail are also available,” says Davidson.

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