North coast a high priority for fast broadband

THE Federal Government is rolling out a $43 billion project to wire up Australia for high speed broadband. It has started in Tasmania and policy makers are now pondering who will be next. It is critical that the regions are on the list and our region has a strong case to be high on the agenda.

The managing director of IBM in Australia and New Zealand, Glen Boreham, recently told the Canberra Press Club it was imperative that the roll out started in rural and regional communities to avoid the widening of the digital divide with the cities.

I would go one step further and say the Mid North and North Coast of NSW provide a high priority area for the roll out of the network. In terms of population growth, industry development, education needs and social inclusion these regions would benefit from being a high priority area.

The coastal strip of northern NSW is increasingly recognised as a prime 'seachange' area and one where population growth is higher than the state average . Much of the infrastructure development, such as upgrading the Pacific Highway, occurs to facilitate through traffic. Of course this benefits the local economy but the establishment of high speed broadband has the potential to directly transform business conditions in our region.

Digital technology will revolutionise the way we do many day-to-day activities. We must also understand that it will be a two-way flow - local businesses will face increased competition from new 'digital' competitors, as many retailers are currently experiencing, but there is no reason why our local businesses can't compete in other markets outside of our region.

Indeed there is no reason with our wonderful natural environment and lifestyle we can't attract national or international businesses to make the headquarters of their digital operations in our region. That is, provided we have the necessary broadband capacity. In a sense it is like having a decent road or rail network that facilitates the shipping of physical goods like dairy and timber.

The difference is that services are the product and broadband is the highway.

As the modern workforce continues to globalise, more companies are evaluating a telecommuting strategy to save costs and lower carbon emissions, as well as to retain top talent. This also involves finding locations that are attractive to the top talent. It also involves having the right digital infrastructure. A resilient, robust and sound telecommuting strategy in this region would benefit both employees and employers. Broadband has the potential to become a key business development driver in this region. Our natural attributes attract people and the technology can facilitate them bringing their industry with them.

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