Friday, 20 December 2013

Why we need the NBN

How much internet did you use 5 years ago - when Facebook had just 100 million worldwide users (it now has around 1.1 billion)? And before the existence of:
-WhatsApp and
-Google Docs

How much internet did you use 10 years ago - before the existence of:
-Khan Academy
and when Skype was just starting up.
Before Smartphones and Tablet devices were invented?

In either 2008 or 2003, could you have predicted the massive increase in your own internet usage, and in usage around the world? You probably would have thought today's usage would never happen, or would be in some far off distant future. Yet it was within a decade.

How much internet will we be using in another 5, or 10 years?

There has been an enormous increase in fixed line broadband use in the past few years, and despite the massive rise in smartphones, far less of an increase in mobile wireless internet use:
(graph is taken from this ABS information).

Australia needs a world-class broadband network. Sure, it will cost a lot. But Australia has a lot of catching up to do: it lags a long way behind many other nations in terms of its broadband capability, and average internet speeds.

And whilst it will cost a lot, it will achieve a lot of financial benefit to the nation, for instance with far better internet access for rural and remote areas (connecting businesses, schools and households with metro areas, and overseas), better capability for e-health (so you can attend a checkup without even leaving home - especially great for the elderly and for rural Aussies), almost unlimited capacity for technological innovation (just look at how much we've achieved in the past 10 years!), as well as a myriad of benefits we can't even conceive yet. Could you have even conceived the concept of Facebook, or YouTube, or Skype, before they existed?

The experts agree that the original NBN plan (where Fibre was connected directly to the Home/Premises, aka FTTP) was far superior to the policy proposed by the new Government (where Fibre is connected to Nodes on your street, and then copper wire takes it to peoples Home/Premise aka FTTN), under Minister Malcolm Turnbull and PM Tony Abbott.
If you are interested, check out this article from The Conversation.  And check out this, for an infographic comparison.

And now, after all the talk about costs, and finishing dates, and whether there is a difference between the old plan and the new plan, there has been a Strategic Review, which has not found particularly good things for either plan. Both will actually be more expensive, and take longer to complete.

However, the new Government was elected, promising to deliver broadband that was "sooner, cheaper and more affordable", and that households would still get a good deal. Well, that's not entirely true:

The sooner and cheaper deal has now been shown to be false, a "broken promise".  Not sooner.  Not cheaper.

And as for more affordable, well, many experts say that we will simply need to upgrade the proposed FTTN (Turnbull/Abbott policy) to the original FTTP (Labor policy) in around 2025 anyway.

So if we are going to spend $41 billion on the FTTN policy now, and then spend tens of billions more in around 15 years time, is it actually more affordable?

To end this semi-rant, I'll quote the words of an expert of this field:
"It's not too late for Malcolm Turnbull to do the right thing – and not just the cheapest thing – for Australia. First, he'll have to accept the Strategic Review's damning indictment of Coalition NBN policy – and its suggestion that it will cost just $800m more per year to build a network that will last 100 years, not five." - David Braue.

Do we want the much faster, much better option, that will take longer now and cost more in the short term; or do we want the cheaper, worse option, that won't last nearly as long, and that will need replacing within just 10-15 years? More than 270,000 people agree with Option A.

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