Govt should fund internet cable - Greens

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 12:48 17/12/2012
Russel Norman
RUSSEL NORMAN: The Greens wanted to see ICT apprenticeships, but would prevent software patenting.

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The Green Party is proposing a $100 million investment by the Government in a second international internet cable.

The investment, part of the Green's three-pronged ICT package announced this morning, would give the Government a 25 per cent cornerstone shareholding, co-leader Russel Norman said.

The plan was endorsed by Lance Wiggs, the co-founder of Pacific Fibre that unsuccessfully proposed to build a trans-Pacific undersea cable to compete with Telecom's Southern Cross Cable.

"If we'd had $100m it would have gone through. The business case is compelling," Wiggs said, adding that potential funders of Pacific Fibre had not made the "leap of faith" needed to see beyond the first three to four years.

Norman said the $100m could come from reprioritising existing spending and represented about 0.8 per cent of planned spending on motorways and instead of 3.3km of motorway would help pay for 13,000km of cable.

It would lead to cheaper and faster internet, have wide economic benefits and protect the Government's existing investment of $1.5b in ultra-fast broadband.

He said ICT was a green industry with great potential that was producing $500m in exports. It took fewer resources and because exports were "weightless" they had a low impact on the environment.

The Greens are also proposing a change to procurement policy so that wider economic benefits were taken into account, open standards were required and smaller firms were given a better chance of winning "disaggregated" contracts.

The third element of its package is a push for greater skills training by including ICT in apprenticeships and supporting internships in the industry.

The Greens said they would also prevent software patenting, which was an obstacle to innovation.

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