Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (above) plans to spend $43 billion extending internet broadband across the nation. That’s $43 billion — six times the amount President Obama wants to spend in the U.S. The Australian newspaper’s Malcolm Colless warns, however, that “there is real political danger for the Rudd Government.” The “more sensitive issue” in Rudd’s plan is the cost of access to consumers. “For this project to fly,” Colless writes, “there cannot be a perceived cost differential between those consumers living in high-density metropolitan areas and those living in sparsely populated regional sectors.”
The so-called Ruddnet plan is to provide 100 megabit per second fiber optic broadband to 90 percent of Australians through homes, schools and workplaces. The other 10 percent — Colless says it will be 15 percent — are in far-flung rural Australian and will be served by wireless and satellite, which will be slower.
Rural Australia is much stronger politically than rural America, and it shows in how The Australian writes about Ruddnet. “Creating a level playing field across the country on price and service should be a priority for the Government as it fleshes out the back-of-the-envelope costing of this mammoth project,” Colless writes. “The complexity of the Ruddnet project ensures that it will encounter big obstacles along the way. But alienating the rural vote does not have to be one of them. On the contrary, the speedy introduction of competitively priced satellite broadband services to regional Australia could be a vote winner for Rudd. It would demonstrate an understanding and compassion for the communications problems faced by regional communities, something they would say has been lacking in previous governments.”