to NBN or not to NBN, that is the question!

Posted: August 11, 2010 in Election 2010, NBN

The discussion on the NBN have been running hot.

Below I am reposting an edited and enhanced comment I made on a forum earlier today.

The forum entry was in response to a blog from an IT professional, who

  • was attacking the NBN as ‘unecessary waste or tax payers money’, and
  • indicanting that Liberal policy will deliver equivalent results at a much lower cost

Let me try to dispell some myths:

  • We can’t afford the NBN – Yes, we can.  Over a period of 50 years, the NBN will cost 5% of what Medicare costs every year
  • We don’d need the NBN – Yes, we do. Every serious developed nation is investing on similar networks to the NBN
  • Liberal policy will deliver similar results – it will not, copper technology is 120 years old, and no matter how many times it has been updated, it does not compare with Optic Fibre
  • We can do the same thing with newer technologies such as Wireless – No, it is impossible.  If Wireless is the solution for metropolitan delivery of fast broadband, why is it that the entire Telstra backbone is made of Optical Fibre.
  • Copper will catch up – Yes it will, at both ends (copper and optical). If Telstra is so keen to demonstrate how Copper and Fibre can deliver, I would like it to start with the inter-exchange network, in Canberra or at least around Federal Parliament!
  • Nobody will benefit from the NBN – this is not true.  The contrary is actually the case – liberal policy will help Telstra maintain it’s monopoly on the copper network.  I wonder how much money Telstra donated to the Liberal party recently 😦

Economic rationalism has a place in the discussion, but if this is the only argument, we will stand still.

Progress depends on some real leadership . The Sydney Opera House, Medicare and the Sydney Olympic 2000 are good examples of long term investments loved by most Australians – none would exist if economic rationalism had won the day!

The copper network is over 100 years old.

Technology created in the 19th century is not going to deliver the backbone for the 21st century information economy.

Considering otherwise is the equivalent of saying that Steam rail and Steam Ships can address our transportation needs (steam is from the same era as copper networking)!

Yes, technology has evolved in communications and the copper network has served us reasonably well until now.

We need however to take a deep breath and consider if copper can deliver what a glass network (Fibre Optics) can – and the answer is clearly not.

My views are:

a) The NBN will cost $250 per user per annum over 8 years.
This is quite cheap, especially if you consider that the benchmark retail cost for a NBN connection will be well under $100/month for unlimited downloads at speeds of 100Mb. { I have heard of wholesale costs around $30/month, and if this is true, the NBN connection for a consumer could be delivered at around $50 a month }

$250 x 8 years x 20,000,000 Australians = approx. $40 billion

b) The NBN will service Australia for more than 50 years. Over it’s life span, the NBN will cost less than $1B a year, or about 5% of the total annual cost of Medicare. Yes, we can afford it.

c) Within a medium term macro-economic perspective, the NBN will be very positive for the economy (as lower cost broadband will increase efficiencies in the economy, and add significantly to the available discretionary budget for households). Yes, we want it

d) The Jobs I want my grandchild to have access to will depend on fast low cost internet access. I am happy to pay my bit, but please DO IT NOW! Yes, we need it

e) Fibre to the premise is the only technology that can deliver reliable > 100Mb speeds. Wow, that sounds fast!

f) I accept that Wireless is the most cost effective method to deliver a basic service (slow speed by comparison to Fibre Optics) to remote locations such as farms, or a slow connection for people on the move (using 3G or 4G). Okay, lets compromise with < 5% of the population living in remote areas.

g) Wireless is unreliable, slow and can’t scale up to millions of connections within a city.
A city with 4,000,000 people will need well over 1,000,000 connections to the Internet, when you consider that many households already have 1 computer, at least 1 smart phone and 1 Internet TV or TiVO! These devices, and many more we can’t even dream of, will require connections.

h) Telstra is the only organisation to benefit from the maintenance of the copper network, as Telstra owns it, and uses it everyday to squeeze the competition and delivber third world services to Australians. BOOO Telstra

i) Every developed nation is building a fibre to the premise network. Australia will miss out completely on all the benefits from a REAL broadband network, which is not the same as Telstra wants you to have! Go NBN

I have attempted to be jovial about the heavy arguments above, I hope I have not offended anybody in the process 😦

Labour is not 100% right, but then nobody is.

* The Internet Filter comes to mind (it will never work)

* Apparently in the process of saving the Australian economy from a recession, we wasted a proportion of the investments made by the government in schools, insulation and cash handouts.

* Whether that proportion is low or high, I don’t know – what I know is that if we wasted less than 10% of the total investment, it was well worth it. The ABS or Access economics should be able to simulate the impact of DOING NOTHING at the time, which appears to be standard liberal policy these days.
I want a leader that will take us to the future, not just be negative about everything and be locked in the past.

Abbott wants take us back to the 1950’s, where John Howard is.

Gillard wants, with our help, take us to the future.

Is Tony Abbott related to Bud Abbott from Abbott & Costello?

I guess not,

Bud Abbott was American burlesque comediant in the 1930’s and

n  Tony Abbott is an Australian politician in the 1950‘s


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