Next generation telecommunications infrastructure is expanding and supporting rapid growth of broadband technologies and a digital economy. In this context, digital information and communications technologies (ICTs) are of increasing importance as a means for people to gain access to health or social services, employment opportunities, information and social networks. In this article we draw on our recent case study research to examine the policy (and politics) shaping implementation of Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) and its likely effects on equity of access to high speed broadband (HSB) services. We monitored NBN policy and implementation from 2015 to 2018 through policy documents, reports, and media. To assess likely effects of NBN policy on implementation and subsequently on equity of access to HSB we: a) applied a framework defining four elements of equity of access; and b) analysed stakeholder views drawn from media articles and 22 interviews with experts on NBN policy including politicians, government staff, and industry representatives. We found that equity considerations competed with political and commercial imperatives during the rollout of the NBN. This resulted in positive and negative consequences for equity of access to HSB, with a change in policy and implementation in 2013 bringing greater risks to equity of access. The case study provides a framework for considering equity in the implementation of next generation telecommunications infrastructure and highlights the importance of considering equity in the evaluation of telecommunications infrastructure.
- Equity of access