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Friday, 01 October 2010 12:31

Rowland: A telco expert enters Parliament


In a week in which the National Broadband Network has been a core issue debated in the Federal Parliament, a maiden speech has revealed that another tech-centric member has joined the House of Representatives.

Michelle Rowland is the newly-elected Member for Greenway in Sydney's west. She grew up in the electorate, was educated at Lalor Park and Parramatta before studying law and embarking on a ten year career at Gilbert and Tobin in Sydney, where she specialised in telecommunications regulation, competition, privacy and broadcasting laws.

Another voice in committees and on the floor that is technology literate and attune to consumer and business needs is a good thing for the sector.

Gilbert and Tobin has a strong telecommunications practice, and Ms Rowland practiced widely, both in Australia and overseas. She credits her law career with nurturing a personal belief in the power of information technology to deliver just social outcomes.

Projects she worked on with the firm included the design of the regulatory environment for the high-speed broadband network in Malaysia; improving telecommunications access in remote areas of Cambodia; working in Ramallah to help establish an independent regulator and promote investment in the sector; universal service delivery in rural Sri Lanka; and infrastructure development for underserved regions of China.

It should be no surprise that Ms Rowland is a big fan of the National Broadband Network and spent about a third of her maiden address to the Parliament highlighting the down stream benefits of the infrastructure as a catalyst for economic and social change.

As a former regulatory lawyer, she says the NBN debate has often overlooked the "fundamental infrastructure reform" the network represents.

"Let us be clear: the wholesale only, open access infrastructure of the NBN will transform the very structure of the telco sector," Mr Rowland said.

"By separating the network layer from the services layer, the NBN will facilitate effective competition and choice for all Australians, regardless of where they live or work. It will do this by treating the network'”the ducts, the poles, the fibre cables and the electronics that constitute the NBN'”as it should be: a national piece of utility infrastructure."

"In 10 or 20 years our children will look back on the current debate about the NBN and will be shocked by the short-sightedness of some of the views expressed about the NBN today, particularly the commentary that is fixated on the download path: the false assumption that the NBN is merely a matter of faster emails or web-surfing. The reality is the NBN is not about the download. It is all about the upload."

"The need for a nation to invest in a truly national broadband network is no longer the exception; it is the rule. Other countries, both within our region and beyond, understand the importance of high-speed broadband for economic growth. They understand the technical limitations of copper and wireless networks and the critical role of national government in making high-speed broadband a reality."

Ms Rowland will be a fierce advocate for the National Broadband Network and says she will press to have Greenway - particularly Riverstone and its surrounding areas - as the site of the first metro roll-out in Sydney.

This is good news for western Sydney generally. A passionate and informed voice who can represent the interests of the under-served areas of Australia's most populous city.


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