2:55pm – Technology Sector Group – Very Fast Broadband

Noel Ferguson

How the Southern Highlands could develop its own very fast network (10 times faster than NBN fibre) to attract international “best of breed” companies to the region.

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Very Fast Broadband

Employment opportunities in rural areas of Australia have traditionally been based on either agricultural practices or steel and coal production. The global reduction in requirements for coal and steel (especially from China) has left many residents of rural Australia facing a difficult future and a hard time finding reliable employment. Into this environment has entered ideas to change employment opportunities and the industries rural Australia can attract. The introducing of super-fast broadband to rural regions has opened up the chance to attract tech sector companies from their traditional city locations. The installation of 1 gigabit broadband connections allows rural areas to effectively become globally connected hubs where location becomes irrelevant from a pure data flow perspective. There have been examples of this occurring around the globe including Waikato in New Zealand and many small towns in the US have also been adopting super-fast broadband, either backed by fundraising incentives or even companies funding the upgrades themselves.

Very fast broadband is way ahead of the standard fast home connection. It is important to business for many reasons, and is the backbone of tech start-ups and established companies. The NBN rollout has experienced massive fluctuations in both speed and line quality, it is not the required standard for high level tech usage. The speed of the internet connection directly affects the speed at which many tech companies can function. More important is line integrity, dropouts and unstable connections simply can’t be tolerated by businesses relying on internet connections to carry out their work.

An issue which has had to be overcome is convincing young technologically proficient job candidates to move to rural locales. Traditionally tech businesses have been based in cities, the benefits being having access to skilled workers, complimentary professional services, data connections, business networking and the lifestyle many younger staff demand. But this is changing as the benefits of a healthier outdoor lifestyle, lower living costs and a life in tune with the environment makes the move an easy decision. It also makes the changeover from following a career path to raising a family a smoother transition, with no need to move from the city to give your children a healthy outdoor childhood.

Once the actual technology is in place for the region to create the right environment to attract tech companies there are a few pre-requisites that must be met, and some that are beneficial. One prerequisite is that there are professional services which can complement and work closely with the larger companies.  It is to be expected that with an influx of well-paid individuals there will be a need for high level services like schools and entertainment facilities. Education is often cited as a major pre-requisite, especially for highly educated tech employees. Access to airports and highways is also very beneficial and allows there to be a perfect mix of rural living with global access. Being too rural is definitely a negative and unlikely to be considered by many workers, it is important that at least one major city is close by.