Professor Gerrand has been one of Australia’s top telecommunications consultants and is author of a recent paper on the future of the NBN. “Since the demise of the Australian Telecommunications User Group in 2011 there has been no effective lobby group representing the views of small and medium-sized telecommunications users,” he told iTWire.
“The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network does a good job of looking after the interests of consumers, and the big end of town can take care of itself, but SMEs have no one to represent their interests in telecommunications policy.”
ATUG closed its doors in 2011 after 30 years of advocacy for greater competition in Australian telecommunications. Its conferences were well attended and it had significant influence on government policy during the 1990s and 2000s, years of tumultuous changes in the industry. But those very changes made it less relevant and membership declined until the organisation was no longer viable.
“While I was writing my paper on the NBN it really hit me what a gap the demise of ATUG has left,” said Professor Gerrand. “There are still plenty of lobby groups in the industry, but none are specifically supporting SMEs. This has led to an NBN that is consumer oriented, mainly designed for households to watch streaming video.
“SMEs need affordable high bandwidth symmetrical Internet access to operate in the digital economy, and they are demonstrably not getting it. Perhaps if they had a stronger voice they would be able to lobby government for a better deal.
“In New Zealand retail service providers are offering a 900/450 Mbps Ultra Fibre service to SMEs. Vocus’s Fibre 900/450 product is priced at NZ$137.42 per month for unlimited data. In Australia there is no national vision for how the NBN can provide competitive advantage for Australian SMEs participating in the global digital economy.”