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Date : Friday, 9 May 2008
Author : Jeremy Rockliff MP
The prohibitive costs of supplying broadband backhaul to Tasmania is stifling innovation and investment within the sector, forcing internet service providers (ISPs) and graduates out of the State.

Acting Leader of the State Opposition, Jeremy Rockliff, said that after meeting with stakeholders within the ICT industry yesterday it was clear that Tasmania's broadband woes have been ongoing for some time, with ISPs keen to expand their services into Tasmania but unable to do so in light of the excessive costs involved, as often happens when a lack of competition exists.

"Despite some great examples of ICT businesses in Tasmania, information and communications technology graduates are rapidly losing incentive to remain in the state to work in their area of expertise, and we have been told that an estimated 90% of graduates are leaving the State as a result," Mr Rockliff said.

"Moreover, with such a limited choice of services available at a high cost, innovation within the industry is seriously stifled, forcing many ISPs out of the State.

Mr Rockliff said that the State Opposition has reinforced its commitment for the need to aggressively pursuing high-end industries such as information and communications technology, agribusiness, research and development and improving Tasmania's skills base strategies to make Tasmania a magnet for innovative, productive and creative people.

"However, at a time when all efforts could be focused on making the State as economically secure and as productive as possible, we have a Government that has dithered around on ICT and failed to act to commercialise the Basslink cable when they have had it at their disposal for 2 years.

"In the real world, such negotiations simply do not take this long, and there can be no doubt that this delay is stifling investment in broadband infrastructure which only serves to undermine business confidence in this state.

"Commercialisation of the Basslink cable is needed to introduce much needed competition into the backhaul market to make it more affordable for companies to provide connections in Tasmania, whereby cost savings and improvements in technology would be passed on to customers.

"A faster more competitive network would allow growth in new, innovative software that simply cannot be done over current networks, leading to improved telecommuting, such as high definition teaching-videoconferencing, and the export of more of Tasmania's products and services to drive economic progress and lift productivity."

Mr Rockliff said Data Centres, computer rooms used by business and government to house valuable cyber information, had the potential to become a real growth industry for the State if broadband connectivity is improved.

"Demand for Data Centres is growing and there are a number of advantages in hosting such facilities in Tasmania, such as our relatively stable environment making it less prone to disasters, and our proximity to Melbourne and Sydney. "Tasmania could become a leader in data centre delivery but due to state government incompetence it is rapidly becoming an opportunity lost."

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