Defending its $43b national broadband rollout the Federal Government has consistently argued that the cost is justified because this network will boost productivity and enhance Australia's international competitiveness.
We have been showered with Government spin about the nation building benefits that will flow from what is the biggest infrastructure project in the country's history.
For example, announcing, during the heat of the election campaign, that this super fast fibre cable would be extended to 93 per cent of premises across the country from the originally projected 90 per cent Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said the network's speed would be "beyond the imagining" of what was currently available to Australians.
This "unbelievably fast" service would offer, among other things, a new world of internet based health care services between home based patients and their medical practitioners, she forecast. This issue seems to have faded from the radar screen in the post election environment of a hung parliament.
Nevertheless lost in all this hype is the core issue of what bang consumers want for their buck when they sign up for the NBN's top speed of 100 megabits a second.
If anecdotal evidence from the initial take-up of the NBN service in Tasmania is any guide the answer may well be gaming.
Since July around 500 homes in the Tasmanian towns of Smithton, Scottsdale and Midway Point, have been connected to the NBN. Most of these have signed on for 10 mbps at a cost of $30 a month . It is understood that about 50 have taken the 100 mbps service at a cost of $100 a month.
The NBN Co says it has no idea what content is driving the take up because this is a matter between the retail service providers who are connecting premises to the NBN cable and their customers. But industry sources say customer feed back suggests the !00 mbps speed is particularly attractive to people interested in multi-player internet games.
If these reports are correct and this embryonic trend extends through the national rollout it will challenge the altruistic platform on which this multi-billion Government policy is being built.
That it should be a significant component in the push for higher speed broadband is probably not so surprising . Gaming has traditionally been one of the main incentives in the take up of subscription television, for example.
Justifying its decision to require, from next January, all new developments in Australia to be at least fibre ready the government says this has the potential to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas production. This, it claims, is because fibre networks are more energy efficient and have the potential to reduce the need to travel particularly for work.
But there is an inference here that the NBN is seen as a substitute for an ongoing lack of adequate traditional communications facilities such as roads and railways servicing new developments particularly in regional areas.
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