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Wednesday, 10 March 2010 15:52

ITU report backs Rudd Government telecoms policy

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The International Telecommunication Union has given broad support to the Rudd Government's telecommunications policy of funding the NBN in parallel with a tightening of regulation, in a wide-ranging report looking at telecommunications regulatory reform worldwide.

The ITU's "Trends in Telecommunication Reform", its annual report on the state of ICT regulation worldwide, now in its 10th edition, argues that regulators and policymakers can proactively address the risk of under-investment in tomorrow's networks through a two-pronged approach that combines fiscal stimulus with regulation.

"The economic crisis has served as a wake-up call on the importance of effective regulation and raised questions about the role of government and the laissez-faire approach that had prevailed - especially in the financial sector. Government and industry are now being forced to reassess their roles and the need for state intervention to ensure, among other things, the development of a new 'broadband economy'," the ITU says.

It points that the last two decades of telecommunication reform in most countries have reduced the direct role of government in the sector. "The basis of such liberalisation and privatisation policies has been the observation that government ownership or interests in national telecommunication providers risks a misalignment of investment planning, risk and reward, with resulting inefficiencies."

However, it says this trend is now reversing, and Australia is leading the way (it was also a leader in the telecoms market liberalisation). "There are now signs that the importance of high-speed networks to national economic policies in some wealthier countries is leading to increasing government involvement through financial investment and public-private partnership arrangements (PPPs), often organised through economic stimulus funding'¦The most ambitious of these is the Australian Government's $A43 billion plan to build out FTTH capability and to subsequently privatise a large portion of the network."

While Australia's plan might be the most ambitious it is not the largest when measured by per capita investment. That honour goes to New Zealand at $US205 ($US840m) Australia at $US159 per head of population is and just ahead of Singapore at $US154 ($US710m total investment).

An executive summary of the report is available here. The full 246 page report can be purchased from the ITU's online bookshop.

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