You can’t turn the clock back and in the case of the NBN that means you can’t undo those parts of the Multi-Technology-Mix (MtM) without immediately destructing billion of dollars. While it is a pity that the original plan – providing fibre-to-the-home to 93% of the population – can’t be continued the next best thing is to deliver fibre to as many premises as possible as that could avoid replacing the MtM in a few years time.
According to the well respected broadband research company Point Topic – “Copper based technologies (DSL, ADSL and ADSL2+) no longer have the dominant share worldwide. In terms of any connection with fibre in the local loop there are now more infrastructure lines in the ground than end to end copper.”
Within this context it is simply inconceivable that Australia continues to go against the trend and install more copper connections.
I find it very frustrating that on the one hand the government comes up with great policies on innovations and smart cities and on the other hand builds a second rate broadband network that will have to underpin innovation, smart cities and a whole range of other developments such as the digital economy, sharing economy and the connected economy. The government is very well aware of this misnomer as it avoids as much as possible mentioning the NBN in relation to those other policies. If they believed that their version of the NBN would be the best infrastructure for these initiatives they would go out of their way to promote their NBN policy for that purpose, but they don’t. That is very telling.
If a government is not willing to provide a first class infrastructure for the nation, it should not be involved in building that infrastructure anyway. Why not leave it to private industry who already in 2005 indicated that they were willing to build a fibre to the node network. There is a good chance – looking at the global development of fibre optic networks world wide – that by now in 2016 several of these companies would have been well and truly on their way to start changing the FttNs they build a decade ago to FttH; as a matter of fact this is precisely what is happening in for example New Zealand, USA and several countries in Europe. But here at home, if we look at companies such as TPG this would indeed also be the case in Australia. They are eager to build FttP networks; however in order to protect their MtM the government has put regulations in place that forbids private industry to build those superior networks.
While partisan politics in Australia not only has seen us wasting ten years of broadband infrastructure building, we don’t even get the network that the rest of the world is now building. This is well illustrated by the fact that in 2005 we were number 25 on the international ladder of broadband connections and every single year since that time we have dropped a few position, now ending somewhere around the 40th or 60th position (depending on what you measure). With the rest of the world building fibre networks there is little hope for Australia to improve our position.
This is not a prestige issue, this has everything to do with international competitiveness, moving our economy more towards innovation and providing a better lifestyle for the Australian people.
So while a lot of damage has been done over the last three years, any new fibre is an improvement and perhaps even more importantly this will bring us back into a more positive mode towards broadband and what it can do for our society, economy and other policies such as innovation and smart cities. With a positive look from our political leaders towards broadband rather than a negative one we can much better stimulate innovation, smart cities, smart building and indeed the most important part is that we allow our people to be smart people.
All of this requires good, solid, long term and above all bi-partisan policies and no quick, cheap fixes that are going to cost us much more over time, not just in money but far more importantly in missed opportunities for our country and our people.
Paul Budde is a bloggist like me. He has kindly allowed me to reproduce this blog. For a link to his blog site, see http://www.budde.com.au/About/Contact.aspx.