NBN: Where’s the love, Eric Schmidt?


blog When it comes to the National Broadband Network, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt’s cup runneth over. Who could forget those heady days at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February when Schmidt gave Stephen Conroy’s bouncing baby network such a positive serve? And now he’s done it again, telling Fairfax:

“I’m quite sure that I’m right in saying that the decision to have universal fibre access is one of the most important decisions the Australian government has made. Every time we’ve seen this level of step-up in performance of an underlying network, we’ve seen an explosion of new and unanticipated uses.”

Now much of the general population (and, most likely, Conroy himself) will undoubtedly see Schmidt’s comments as validation of the NBN project. The script goes something like this: Global technology giant deems Australia’s pet broadband project so worthy that its chief executive comes down from on high, Zeus-like, to cast his blessing on the humble initiative Down Under and to raise the nation up from the backwater status that it sometimes is plagued with, into loftier international waters.

However, the truth is, that like so many organisations who have commented on the NBN, Schmidt is more or less spruiking for Google when praising the project. Google has demonstrated a strong engineering commitment to Australia, and maintains a large sales team in Australia courtesy of our strong advertising market. However, the company steadfastly refuses to establish its own datacentre infrastructure locally.

Would Google welcome massive government investment in next-generation telecommunications infrastructure so that Australians can better access the search giant’s globally hosted services — Google.com, YouTube, Google Apps and so on? Of course. But is Google willing to invest in Australian infrastructure itself? Absolutely not … yet.

Where’s the love, Mr Schmidt? Surely, with the massive datacentre space expansion going on in Australia, and fibre being laid out everywhere, it’s time for Google to put some of its own skin in the game locally? Maybe some of that $700 million in annual Australian revenues could be funnelled back locally from Ireland?

Image credit: World Economic Forum, Creative Commons


  1. I’m sure Google are looking at Australia very closely.

    I can’t find a reference – (I’ll keep looking) – but when the NBN was first announced to be starting in Tasmania, Google indicated that it would consider locating facilities down there. Obviously it hasn’t happened, and might never happen.

    But once it reaches critical mass down there, they may revisit the concept.

    As for anywhere else in Australia – we’re still in the trial phase of the NBN, so a company like Google isn’t going to make a commitment – yet.

    Whether they do or not is again the question – but we need to encourage them to come talk.

    Imagine the unease with Schmidt and Conroy around the same table talking busines after the “biggest privacy breach in history” gaffe!

    Counting against Australia is that when you look at a flat map of the world, it’s not very central to anywhere else in the world. That’s why the Singapore’s and Hong Kong’s of the world are more attractive for big global scale infrastructure – they are closer to more places.

    A completed NBN will be a big boost to the sector – but we are still at least 8 or 9 years off anything really serious getting going.

  2. And that’s why the NBN is so important. It’s a truly long-term initiative to entice business and development in Australia.

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