The Australian government has announced it'll push ahead with plans for a nationwide broadband network, just as U.S. officials mull and argue the fine points of how to improve net access across the country with money from the Stimulus Bill. The Aussie net will run right to the door—fiber-optic and fast.
Super fast in fact: 100 megabits per second, roughly the equivalent of having a fast ethernet cable connected directly to your ISP. That's thanks to the fiber-optic network the Australian system will use, which will apparently be crafted in a way that brings the fibers directly to consumer's premises—a change from earlier plans that had seen a network of fibers terminating in street nodes.
In fact, the whole plan has undergone much bigger changes than that. It was originally crafted as a competition, but it turned out that no single company was willing to adopt the tender—worth $34 billion (U.S.). The government has decided, however, that a next-gen internet infrastructure is so vital to the nation that it is pressing ahead anyway, forming a company to run the process that will be initially 51% government owned and with the intention of selling down its share within five years. The new fast internet will directly connect up 90% of Australian homes, and the remaining 10% (presumably in hard to reach areas) will get next-gen Wi-Fi coverage. It'll start rolling out in all regions—city, regional and rural—from 2010.
It's in stark contrast to the situation in the U.S. where around $7 billion was committed to improving only "rural broadband" in the Stimulus package. The plan is already mired in difficulty—starting with a bureaucratic debate over exactly what constitutes a "rural" or "underserved" area. There's also considerable, an pointless, discussion over whether it'll improve business in rural areas or not. There's even an apparent lobbying movement by existing wireless network and cable carriers trying to prevent local governments from using the stimulus cash to build and manage networks by themselves—something these companies see as a threat. Finally, there's disagreement over how to carry out the improvements, with solutions varying from over-power-line systems to local wireless hotspots. Australia's plan, on the other hand, is being led aggressively by the Government, which intends to push the necessary regulations through and start an implementation study immediately.