Ruddstra: The National Broadband Network:

Rob Pickering writes: Re. “NBN will be viable … but not Telstra” (yesterday, item 1). Again, being in the IT industry, I should be expected to have a little bias on this situation, but here are some real life figures which should put this into perspective. In Australia, the cost for the telecommunications infrastructure for our company alone along with the bandwidth/technology available is:

Sydney: 10Mbit — $1800 per month (EFM)
Brisbane: 10Mbit — $2100 per month (EFM)
Melbourne: 10Mbit — $ 1800 per month (EFM)
Newcastle: 1Mbit — $1000 per month (BDSL)
Albury: 1 Mbit — $1200 per month (BDSL)
Internet Breakout : 10Mbit — $1200 per month

Nb: EFM is essentially stuck together xDSL lines, more or less like taking 5 x 2Mbit DSL lines and making them into a 10Mbit pipe

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Total cost per month: $9100 per month for 5 sites, or $1820 per site on average. So your $100 a month for a 100Mbit service is looking pretty good now, isn’t it? Heck, I’d pay $500 a month to get 10 times the bandwidth per site and I think you’d find IT Managers/CIO’s around the company making the same value equation.

Admittedly, these costs are for a “business” class service, but it does not provide Class/Quality of Service nor any ridiculous SLA’s, so it’s pretty indicative of what other medium/large businesses are paying if they’re NOT with Telstra, which in this case if you were you could sell your grandmother and still not even approach the monthly cost of a single 10Mbit service from them.

It’s only been in the recent three months that we’ve even been able to get anything more than 2Mbit in all of our sites except for Sydney. This has stopped us from rolling out Video Conferencing, VoIP or any number of other collaboration tools that benefit from high speed internet connections.

Compare this to Europe where our parent company is from and you’ll see the price difference is marked. They pay and can get almost everywhere, around 200 Euros per month for a 10Mbit service (believe me, we have offices in the middle of nowhere, so reach isn’t a problem).

In regards to whether we need this speed or not, the simple fact is that while we may not need or use it now you should consider that if we only save a person five minutes a day in an organisation of 100 people then we’ll be saving a full eight hour business day in the organisation which I think you could easily make a business case of costing a company $50,000 or your entire internet bill for several years.

We lag behind significantly compared to other countries in broadband and I whole heartedly support the government’s initiative to roll out FTTH to our premises. This will be the biggest thing that the Australian government has done for us in my lifetime and I’m extremely excited about it. I’m even more excited to see Telstra removed from being the chokepoint which has stifled our internet infrastructure since it became the 800lb gorilla of the telecoms world in Australia.

I dream of a world with scalable high speed internet connections — it’s something I wish other people could dream about as well. Let’s not forget that 100Mbit is just the start of what’s available and the content delivery over this will be endless. Here’s to one line providing voice, data and real time video over it into our private homes and businesses.

Shirley Colless writes: Once again Malcolm Turnbull has used his children’s future wealth to whinge about the Federal Government’s NBN project, crying that the government should not be burdening children with future debt. Funny that. If my forebears had not supported past state and federal governments, New South Wales would not have had publicly funded roads, railways, airports, schools, universities, hospitals, school buses, public transport, the Snowy Mountains scheme, postal services, electricity and telephone systems, thus burdening their children, including me, with public debt. I have benefited enormously by their foresight and willingness to accept financial sacrifice.

Remember that the private sector was a dismal failure in the 1850s at providing rail transport and by the 1880s a state-wide education system. In Australia, possibly because of the circumstances and the time at which, in contrast to the USA, white settlement occurred, the provision of essential services by government was both expected and accepted. And in the main Australians accepted the fiscal responsibilities that went along with the provision of such services.

My father, who was not a rich man and certainly not from the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, invested in Commonwealth Bonds which effectively became his superannuation. Now with his example in mind, recognising that the wars that are fought today can be struggles in peace, and as I happen to have a spare $5000 to invest, I would prefer to sink my money into a Federal Government guaranteed NBN development bond, rather than invest it (and any other spare cash I happen to have at the moment) with any of the major banks who have been so niggardly in passing on interest rate cuts to people borrowing to buy homes, or to farmers struggling with the effects of drought and poor markets to keep this nation fed.

Mike Carey writes: Malcolm Turnbull wants to know how many families will take up the proposed national broadband service and how much it will cost a month before he can support the Rudd Government’s National Broadband Service. Wouldn’t that be like, not backing the construction of a Sydney Opera House before you knew how many punters were ever going to turn up and how much the tickets would cost?

But wait a minute; the Liberal Government (and its ideological progenitors) did oppose the building of the Opera House, like it opposed the Harbour Bridge and the Snowy Mountains Scheme! While it has a long and unworthy history of opposing grand unifying schemes of national development, this time it worries me! Is the Coalition opposing the NBN and the stimuli packages in the hope Rudd will fail? (Without our support Rudd stumbles and we win the next federal election).

In the USA, the Republican mouth piece, Rush Limbaugh has, at least, had the courage to say publicly he hopes Obama will fail. Is this what the Coalition is whispering behind closed doors? At least, if Rudd gets the NBN up and running it will be almost impossible for a real fascist on horseback to cut the ribbon on opening day.

Virtual storm trooper? A different matter!

Rod Metcalfe writes: Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the Government’s broadband and infrastructure plans I blame some economic theorists for the current state of Australia’s often run-down infrastructure. Back in the 1930s the NSW Government built a harbour bridge on borrowed money with six traffic lanes, two tram tracks and two railway tracks. Sydney’s west was serviced by multiple train tracks and lines were pushed to suburbs where hardly anyone lived then — but do now.

Today we are building road tunnels (in NSW) of two lanes either way — already a car park at peak hour — and we debate constantly building new rail lines while existing service levels are down. I remember one utility executive decrying the fact that back in the 30s and 40s they “gold plated” all infrastructure – i.e. overbuilt. Yet it was that overbuilding which allowed Governments to cut spend further on infrastructure, live on what already existed and drive down Government debt to meet the broad Milton Friedman et al doctrine that Government debt was bad.

Now, unfortunately, that infrastructure is often failing, inadequate, or requiring vast sums just to bring it up to state. The debate should not be about whether we can afford to build infrastructure now, but whether we can afford not to. Seems we only build infrastructure to meet today’s needs — not tomorrows.

Where is the vision thing? Who has the vision to build Sydney’s Opera House today?

Sherree Goldsworthy writes: Yesterday, Bernard Keane wrote: “Motorists — you and I — and freight companies are getting a massive free ride on government-funded infrastructure because politicians are too scared to ask us to pay an appropriate price for it”.

I am beginning to tire of the “user pays” mantra that seems to be accepted uncritically by the media and community and universally by our leaders. Can anyone tell me what we pay our taxes for? I pay a huge wack of my salary and I thought that was to pay for many things, schools, health care (whoops I pay a levy there too), roads etc. we also pay huge taxes when we buy petrol.

I think it’s stiff to expect that we pay through tax and then pay more when we use without any examination of Government spending and prioritisation. And in between, you can bet your granny that some private company will be creaming off the top (tolls!) to collect this “appropriate price”.

I smell double dipping. It is lazy management and we seem to be quite happy to swallow it.

David Tulloh writes: Re. “Quiggin: The broadband slog is just beginning” (yesterday, item 13). John Quiggin as part of your excellent NBN commentary suggested that we need a killer app for the network and it should be video telephony. Video telephony is one of those ideas proposed by science fiction but unlike talking computers it refuses to die. AT&T launched their Picturephone in 1970 and people have failed to sell it ever since. The inescapable fact is that people don’t like it; they want to answer the phone in a towel while picking their nose.

Even with cameras becoming cheap, built in to most mobile phones and laptops it still hasn’t become common. The significant application will almost certainly be TV. Music drove the broadband adoption with providers advertising their download rates in terms of how many songs you could get. Music will remain a factor but with increased speeds the drive will become TV shows. If people can easily watch an episode when it’s convenient for them rather than the TV networks timetable, they will.

Downloading or recording shows to watch later is already becoming popular with convenience trumping copyright infringement. As this becomes standard practice the TV industry will adapt or die, just as the music industry is doing under broadband’s pressure.

Ivy Jane Gardiner writes: Re. Les Heimann (yesterday, comments) who wrote: “Then there is wireless technology — growing like mad”. Okay, wireless. Wireless is not a panacea that a lot of people think it is, where is the spectrum going to come from, 3G is not as good as it’s advertised, due to bottlenecks at the towers (only so many people can use one tower.) And again SPECTRUM. I can’t say it enough, where is the spectrum going to come from, for this type of service, the bandwidth needed is huge, and we have enough issues with using what we’ve got.

Already ACMA is taking a large chunk of the 70cm band, aka 400MHz from amateur radio operators, to give to the government, and I’m sure there are other sections they’d love to get. The issue is the lower frequencies which where the amateurs play are no good for data, think listening to AM at night with it fading in and out.

The other frequencies are still used by analogue and digital TV, up to 400MHz, and as one starts getting higher in frequency, for example our wireless networking devices (2.4GHz) these became quite short haul, and with the latency of radio not good for long distances (the tcp/ip stack was never designed with this in mind.).

Again Wireless isn’t a panacea.

Noel Pearson’s resignation:

Andrew Bartlett writes: Re. “Crikey Counterpoint: Noel Pearson’s resignation” (yesterday, item 14). In response to the Crikey counterpoint on Noel Pearson’s resignation. The Wilderness Society may be lots of things, but Alex Mitchell is wrong to call it a “spin off of Bob Brown’s Greens.” TWS (originally the Tasmanian Wilderness Society) existed before the Greens did, both in Tasmania and elsewhere, and their first Director was Norm Sanders, later to be elected to both the Tasmanian and federal Parliament as a Democrat.

It is also wrong to assume, at least in Queensland and probably elsewhere on the mainland, that there is an automatic connection between the strategies, priorities and views of TWS and the Greens, let alone the decisions the Greens make on preferences. Issues such as Wild Rivers and World Heritage listing of Cape York raise potential conflicts between proper protection of environmental values and enabling self-determination for the traditional and current Aboriginal owners of the lands and waters. But the conflict is potential, not automatic.

While there are some difficult issues here, they are far from insurmountable. It’s not my intent to defend TWS or the Greens or reject all of Noel Pearson’s view on this issue. But whatever your individual views might be about Wild Rivers, Noel Pearson, TWS, the NT Intervention, etc, it’s not accurate to imply that this stuff has suddenly come about as the result of a last-minute pre-election deal.

Wild Rivers has been a major campaigning issues for TWS — and the vehicle for a very public and heated dispute with Noel Pearson — for some years, as has World Heritage listing of Cape York (for its cultural as well as environmental values).

Land clearing has also been a major and very public campaign by TWS in Queensland for many years. It is hardly an indication of collusion with TWS that the Greens were supportive of ALP policy positions on land clearing, as it was an obvious and major point of difference between Labor and the LNP on a key environmental issue.

Vincent Burke writes: I’m broadly in agreement with Chris Graham’s assessment of Noel Pearson. In setting himself apart from the mainstream indigenous movement, his ego-centric attitude, and his “I’m the only one who’s right” approach, set him up as a patsy for the bigoted right. Howard and Brough rubbed their hands with glee over his every utterance. He will no doubt continue to snipe from the sidelines, relying on well-crafted headlines under Murdoch’s masthead.

Public trust journalism:

David Havyatt writes: Re. “Democracy and the near-death of public trust journalism” (yesterday, item 4). I’ll probably regret responding to Eric Beecher before Alan Kohler has had his say, but it is perhaps worthwhile to consider the history of newspapers before reaching conclusions about the future of “public trust” journalism.

The newspapers that thrived on classified ads started as just that — effectively classified ads. It was primarily a record of activity, including commercial activity. The component of “investigative journalism” came later as a way to boost circulation and increase the price that could be charged for advertising. However, the self-same technology, the printing press, was also used in the pamphlet business, mostly political but some “stand alone” display advertising. The modern newspaper including “public trust” journalism is the combination of these three different uses of the technology in “one place”.

The new media landscape sees the Internet already a great place for polemic and short form analysis, in blogs and on line journals. It has as Beecher notes started to become the medium of choice for classifieds. But the challenge of accessing the Internet remains — even with the power of search engines and feed readers — total dis-intermediation makes for a hard slog. The newspaper of the future looks like those horrible things we used to call portals. Many portals survive on the basis of their ability to obtain all that “public trust” journalism for free. But that is not a sustainable model.

Don’t ask me what the final end-point looks like — I don’t know, and if I did I’d probably be trying to sell my soul to Rupert Murdoch. But ultimately readers know they want the product of “quality journalism” and will be prepared to pay, through their loyalty as visitors to sites, for it. It is inconceivable that we could think our democracy is best protected by putting the Government in control of the news.

The RBA rate cut:

David Gothard writes: Re. “RBA rate cut: this could be as good as it gets” (yesterday, item 2). The Government has given a guarantee against bank deposits. Why not change this and make it conditional and only available to those banks which do pass on the lower interest costs IN FULL. Feel sure the depositors would soon bring every Bank to the party with lowered interest rates.

Nick D’Arcy:

Allan White writes: Re. “D’Arcy and Dajka parallels cannot be ignored” (yesterday, item 22). The Pshycological brutality of what Swimming Australia is doing to this young goose, is far worse than what he did to the other bloke.

The parallel import of books:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Productivity Commission’s draft report on books makes no sense” (yesterday, item 21). The great debate around the restrictions on the parallel import of books (PIRs) is being won hands down by local publishers and authors — book readers who actually pay the cost are not organised to fight back. Dr Danielle Clode (author), writing a supposedly objective review of the subject, cannot avoid tugging at the heart strings — referring to writers who “scrape by on a wing and a prayer” and “the small returns many authors and publishers receive for their efforts.”

Visions of unfurnished garrets, crusts of bread and pneumonia. I did not make a submission to the Productivity Commission, but if I had so it would have been as follows:

  1. I once wrote a children’s’ book which was rejected. I imagine correctly. I never thought to blame the system for this failure and would never expect buyers of books to pay a tithe to fund my efforts.
  2. It is alleged that the PIR system does not affect book prices — which is strange as every time I am overseas I stock up on books — because they are cheaper (by much).


Mark Hardcastle writes: Most people should support James Burke’s wishes (yesterday, comments) for Afghanis to be free from oppressive force. However the strategy of military occupation and combat is a hindrance to achievement of such noble goals. The rise and ascendancy of War Lords and Taliban can be traced back to disruption resulting from past military occupation and combat.

The solution to a learned culture of combat is a demonstrable alternative model, where power, action and resolutions are grounded in civil engagement. Practical civil engagement and support for people in Afghanistan (and the Congo, Somalia, Pakistan etc) requires that rich nations of the world (who have concentrated control of the wealth) devote more resources global justice than to the military profit complex. Current efforts for civil engagement are woefully under resourced compared to the spiralling budget for war.

As a friend of America, we need to support them to reduce their addiction to war, not support their continued structural dependency on war. As James Burke indicates, failure to turn from our current trajectory could result in use of nuclear weapons.

Climate change cage match (now with its own blog):

Tamas Calderwood writes: Harold Thornton (yesterday, comments) says that when CO2 was orders of magnitude higher than today it was an “utterly different world hundreds of millions of years in the past when Antarctica was a tropical paradise”.

Well, yes Harold but you have heard of plate tectonics? Hundreds of millions of years ago Antarctica wasn’t on the South Pole. Since it’s drifted there it’s built up a massive ice sheet and become a little less balmy. Give it a couple hundred million years and it’ll be all warm and tropical again.

CO2 not required.

Disagree with Tamas? Have your say at Crikey’s Climate change cage match blog!

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