If completed, Labor's rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) would represent a triumph of social inclusion. Future-proofed high speed internet access would be available inside the homes of nearly all Australians living in built-up locations irrespective of their income or social status.
The week's good news was that the Federal Coalition has decided to back down from its previously announced plan to trash the NBN if it wins the 14 September election. It now intends to retain the NBN, but using a model that discriminates against the poor.
A Coalition government would deliver high speed internet access to street cabinets (pictured) located up to a kilometre from users' homes and business premises. The need to retain Telstra's old copper wires to complete the link would reduce speeds by a factor of around three quarters.
It would remove for most Australians the option to take advantage of broadband applications such as home medical examinations for the elderly and infirm.
But super-fast access would not be lost for those who can afford the internet equivalent of a business class flight. In many locations, it will be possible for users to pay between $3000 and $5000 to secure a high-speed fibre connection from the street cabinet to their premises. The majority would still need to endure the slow speeds of the Telstra copper wire cabinet to the premises connection.
It is significant, and pleasing, that the Coalition has now acknowledged that some version of the NBN is necessary for Australia's future development. We may still lack the city metro or high speed intercity rail connections our peers in the developed world take for granted, due to the lack of vision of previous governments. But at least those of us who can pay will benefit from the new economy.
Those who cannot will make up the large new underclass of the digitally disadvantaged.
Opposition Communications Spokesperson Malcolm Turnbull frequently cites Britain's inequitable fibre to the cabinet (FTTN) as a model for Australia. It is a revealing coincidence that the Coalition made its NBN announcement during the week of the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who championed user pays as part of her often quoted principle that there is 'no such thing as society'.