Australia left behind in high speed broadband: ex-ICANN chief

Asian counterparts' lead will see changes ahead for the NBN, Paul Twomey says

The former chief of domain name regulator, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), says that while the NBN will put Australia on par with the world’s Internet leaders, the country is still years behind.

Speaking on the ABC’s Inside Business program, Australian Dr Paul Twomey, who recently stepped down as ICANN head, said that Asian countries are leading the world on broadband technology.

“The leading fibre-to-the-premises countries mainly are Japan, Korea [and] the Singaporeans put out a tender for gigabit to a home in February. [The NBN] would certainly take Australia back up those ratings but you've got to remember the Government says this is going to take eight years to build so we're a certain period behind,” Twomey told <i>Inside Business</i> host Alan Kohler.

Twomey said the Australian Government needed to look not only at the challenges of constructing the NBN, but also the types of applications and services that would be likely to run across the network.

“The thing I think is important for [Australia is to] look at what the Japanese have been doing in the last 10 years - they focused a lot on infrastructure in the first half of this decade,” Twomey said.

“Their focus now is upon smart ICT to solve what they call society's problems and I think the challenge the [Rudd] Government's going to have is how does it roll out a network and also do what the Japanese are doing now, which is focusing on the applications and the services...”

Twomey called the NBN “a terribly exciting project”, not only for its push towards fibre to the home, but because of its structural separation model.

“I think the whole idea of structural separation is enormous because a structurally separated wholesale network really only cares about selling bits. It doesn't need it to give returns [to the equity market].”

“I think that separation both drives competition, but more importantly, drives innovation, which is what we need.”

During the interview, Twomey stayed mum regarding the speculation he’s in line to run The NBN Company, and also said he is unsure whether he will settle back in Australia, or pursue further options in the US.

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