• Stephan

Australian Politics (Non-Enviro) ⚖ : #NBN Project - The Truth

This post relates to Australian Politics & Technology.


I am often asked about the current state and direction of the NBN (National Broadband Network) roll-out in Australia [#nbn #nbnfail]. Both sides of politics, clearly, have point-scoring agendas, so can hardly be relied on prima facie for an impartial assessment. Let's focus on the party in power however - the one, after all - responsible for current policy, pace and design of the technology deployment and its results. The coalition refers to a multi-mix design, using whatever set of technologies is "best" (read as cheapest) for a given scenario (or so they claim). Taking the spin out of it, below is my take on the NBN to date.

  • Starting as a true nation-building project, the NBN has become a complete and utter shambles. The speeds that were touted by the then shadow minister for communication were either pie-in-the-sky fantasy or a direct lie. The projected results by 2020 will not be achieved.

  • If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing properly. The "multi-mix term used by the coalition has resulted in a rat's nest of a solution. One that is largely inadequate for current requirements, let alone the platforms and needs of the future. The mess that this project has become will hamper innovation and job creation for decades to come. We have shot ourselves in the foot; there is no doubt that other nations will pass us by. Note: Kenya already has better Internet access than Australia does.

  • In terms of cost, because the existing copper will need to be replaced in the short to medium term -- depending on condition -- the NBN will cost more than the original proposal. In many cases, it is a desperately poor use of tax payer funds.

  • Backhaul capacity is largely insufficient. Resently RSPs (Retail Services Providers: the organisation that you receive the bill from, reselling NBN connection services) have had to admit that advertised speeds, in many cases, cannot be achieved. Certainly not at peak times. Surprise, surprise: there is an uptick in usage when Australians get back from work/school and this falls away when they go to sleep. Shocking!

  • The coalition repeatedly talks about speeds sufficient for watching Netflix or similar content. This is a complete and utter red herring; misdirection at worst. This is only one application of high speed Internet. We refer to enabling tele-commuting (reducing congestion, increasing productivity, reducing air pollution) through to remotely diagnosed medical conditions, to new ways to study remotely ... all the way to applications that we can scarcely imagine. Who would have imagined the possibilites enabled by smartphones only 20 years ago. All will be hungry for massive amounts of data in both directions - upload and download. Generally speeds are insufficient at the current point in time. In future they will be woefully in adequate. This is particularly true of FTTN (Fibre to the Node) delivered services where the last section is copper. A ratio of download to upload is generally experienced of 1 to 4 or less. Upload speeds are pathetically insufficient.

In conclusion, and not mincing words, the NBN currently is a stuff-up of epic proportions. The hashtag of #nbnfail is completely appropriate. In terms of sound, strategic decision-making, you can compare it to Custer's Last Stand.

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