NBN: The naked truth with iiNet’s Greg Bader

In this frank, exclusive Q&A with My Business Editor Justin Grey, iiNet Chief Business Officer Greg Bader dismisses all the politicking and explains why business owners should get excited for the NBN.

In this frank, exclusive Q&A with My Business Editor Justin Grey, iiNet Chief Business Officer Greg Bader dismisses all the politicking and explains why business owners should get excited for the NBN. 

NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley’s recent retirement announcement is the latest episode in what some mainstream media would have us believe is a never-ending scandal encompassing and often discrediting all things NBN. But business owners need not get bogged down in the politics surrounding the National Broadband Network, argues Bader.

 

A new survey released this week by Servcorp that says only 51 per cent of Australian businesses believe the NBN will make a positive impact in terms of supporting growth and productivity suggests that business owners may not be appreciating just how much of a game changer the NBN is. Read on as Bader spells out the NBN in clear terms.

My Business: When you strip away all the political rhetoric and hyperbole, just how much of a game changer is the NBN for business owners?
Greg Bader: I don’t magically see millions of x-rays being sent around the country, but it is a changer. To some people it’s absolutely going to make no difference, I’ll be honest. For other people, it will. And that’ll be around price – some businesses will be able to jump on the NBN at a price point that’s lower than what they’re paying today. So when times are tough, ever bit counts.

There’s other people who are restricted in terms of throughput because of the copper they’re connected to, so this will be a game-changer for them. They can take advantage of products that up until now haven’t really been accessible to the small guys without considerable investment. Having a decent pipe into your office that’s simple, easy and reliable allows small and medium businesses to start taking advantage of some of the services that the big guys have and take for granted.

MB: There’s three key areas you believe the NBN will benefit businesses – opportunity, speed, and reliability. How will these positively enable business owners?
GB: Australia is so well represented in the small end of business. There is an inherent digital blight in Australia in terms of the capabilities of the current connectivity products you can buy if you’re a small business. If you happen to be in the right area, you’re laughing because you might have a choice of three, four, or five different providers or products. If you happen to be in the wrong area, you’ve got one. And on top of that there’s certainly a metro versus regional split.

Internet and digital-type communications have become such a key part of our society, and if someone living in a country town has the same capability as someone living in Sydney, then that’s going to change things a lot. I’m hoping that it leads to even more growth in small business. And this metro versus regional thing will start to break down as well – there will be this ubiquitous type of nature to the service. Once the rollout is complete, we should not be in an era of haves and have nots, which is perfect.

Reliability is going to mean different things to different people. The reliability I’m talking about is the lack of consistency in terms of performance – if you happen to be living close to a telephone exchange you’ll get great speeds of DSL, and if you happen to be living a long way from the telephone exchange you’ll get medium speeds. So fibre brings out that level of uniformity and predictability in the service.

MB: Disregarding all the politicking, are there any negatives to the NBN?
GB: The biggest negative of the NBN is with the recent changes [in government] we don’t know what it’s going to look like. From a customer’s point of view, ignore the technology bits in the back end – people like us [service providers] will sort all that bullshit out. To the customer it’s just a simple interface and the best possible product you can get in the market.

So from a consumer’s point of view, you shouldn’t be concerned. If you’re in an area where you’ve got the opportunity to get across to the NBN, I would strongly suggest you do so. I can’t think of any downside – and least of all, there’s no commercial downside. And the opportunities that it opens up…there are several great opportunities today, but there’s going to be more and more in the future. And that’s the interesting thing – the amount of software and product development that’s going on readying for the day when Australia has a large-scale, ubiquitous high-speed network. The products that we see today are a fraction of the products we’ll see in a year’s time. 

So start thinking about taking advantage of when [NBN] magazines arrive in the mail or [NBN staff] you see at the shopping centres. Take advantage to ask questions; it’s nowhere near as scary and complicated as it sounds, and I’d encourage everybody to jump on when they can as it’s a great initiative. If I ignore the politics and I ignore the funding issues around it, I personally believe it’s just a 21st Century sewerage – it’s 21st Century roads. It’s just another way our society is interacting with each other. And we need it.

MB: Any final words on the NBN?
GB: A lot of my mates run small businesses and I speak to them about broadband and their eyes glaze over and they fall of their chairs. They’ve got zero interest – and nor should they have, to be honest, because small business is tough enough as it is making money in what you know, let alone investing any time and effort into something you don’t know. But people are going to need to make a decision and it’s hard to see any downside to switching to the NBN. From a plan point of view, the prices, at worst case, are the same – and you pick up performance.

The beauty of the NBN is everybody is going to have to make a decision. For some businesses, the internet or their telco services in general have just been something passive in the background for years. So it sparks thought in people and they get to look around and upgrade their wider range of services from a range of providers. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a lot of people investing a little bit of time and changing a few things about how they operate today.

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