According to Commsday this morning, the Australian communications minister Steven Conroy recently said that if prices don't come down the NBN will build its own cable to the US. The $40B NBN project certainly has the firepower to build a cable if it wants to, but their current project list is surely long enough to keep them busy for a long time without adding a submarine cable project to the bottom as well.
With the collapse of the Pacific Fibre plans for a New Zealand to California link, some of the forces behind it are clearly looking for a new vehicle. With big plans for their domestic FTTH networks down under, there is a desire at the policy level for a big bandwidth alternative to Southern Cross with direct connectivity to the US in the long term. That being said, if Conroy really meant it he wouldn't be talking -- he'd be putting together a consortium right now.
But prices for bandwidth between the US and Australia have come down sharply of late due to other Pacific cable capacity increases, which is a big part of why Pacific Fibre couldn't get funding. Whether that recent trend will hold up going forward is another matter, but for now the business case for a new cable between Australia and the US is hard to make. Not that such trivialities are slowing down grand submarine plans elsewhere these days...
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