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Oct 22, 2010

Conroy comes knocking

Watch out - Conroy's about! He'll make you use the NBN and he'll charge you thousands for the privilege. At least, that's what some in the media want you to think.


Another day, another volley of outlandish propaganda from The Australian. Be more specific, you say! Which particular war — on Labor, on the ABC, on bloggers, on the Greens? No, it’s the war on the NBN, with another series of articles slamming the roll out today.

That’s in addition to not one but two furious reactions to being called on its campaign by Stephen Conroy, with a comment piece by Matt ‘I don’t do comment pieces’ Franklin today and a hard-hitting, no-holds barred interview yesterday of editor Chris Mitchell by the unfortunate Geoff Elliott, in which Mitchell offered the stinging retort to Conroy: ‘I know you are, but what am I?’

Beneath the cover of sanctimony and lies, however, there was some furious rowing back going on at our very own right-wing version of The Onion.

A critical part of the attack on the NBN has been around the idea of households being forced to use the network and compelled to spend large amounts of money to do so. The Australian ran a story just before the election claiming it would cost households $3000 to connect to the NBN. Conroy has been complaining this week about The Australian claiming it would cost $6000. Today, the paper ran a response denying it had ever used the higher figure.

The Oz is right. It never used $6000. That would be another News Limited publication, The Daily Telegraph, where noted technology guru Piers Akerman claimed it would “cost every household between $6000 and $10,000”.

Conroy should gets his facts right about which News Ltd outlet is lying through its teeth before he attacks them.

Not merely is the $6000 figure complete rubbish, so is the $3000 figure. How do we know? Well, The Oz admitted it today. Under cover of its attack on Conroy, its latest line is that wiring will cost $400 a room. You’d have to wire up the bedrooms, the garage and all the toilets to get anywhere close to $3000, let alone Piers’ $10,000. In fact it gets cheaper the further you read. The actual figure is later given as between $250 and $400. Eventually, it’s down to $100 a port for new houses.

But even those figures don’t stack up. As Mike Quigley pointed out at Estimates on Tuesday night, NBN users in Tasmania are using the network without any upgrading of their in-home wiring. They’re using their existing routers, wi-fi or blue cables. To take advantage of very high speeds, yes, you’ll need to upgrade your wiring and switches, or have your ISP do it for you. Or, more realistically, you’ll upgrade next time you buy some new hardware like a PC or a router.

But The Australian’s agenda is to suggest you’ll be compelled to spend money, when you won’t.

That’s but one line of attack on the NBN. There are some recurring elements. “Wage blowout threat to NBN” it screeched on September 10, claiming the NBN budget would blow out by nearly $1.5 billion due to labour shortages. One of its sources was James Tinslay, head of the electrical sector employers’ group the National Electrical and Communications Association. Tinslay was heavily involved in the housing insulation program saga, as NECA had given early warnings to the government about it, but he is also a persistent critic of the government’s IR system and a go-to man for The Australian when it wants a quote critical of the Fair Work laws. NECA, after all, is a long-term foe of the Electrical Trades Union.

Tinslay was also the source for the $3000 claim. That was the price, he claimed, of what the journalists concerned called a “standard retrofit” to use the NBN.

So who was the source for today’s new claim that it would only be $400 a room, a figure entirely at odds with Tinslay’s? Why, step forward … James Tinslay. He is quoted today saying “the cost of installing cable to various rooms in a house would cost between $250 and $400 a port”. Why the difference from a couple of months ago? The Australian doesn’t say.

To be fair to News Ltd, it isn’t alone in peddling nonsense about the NBN. Fairfax’s Georgina Robinson and Ben Grubb managed to trump the efforts of the national broadsheet yesterday with a story now entitled ‘Minister threatens to use law to force people on NBN if states revolt‘. On Fairfax’s Tech page, it goes by the lurid headline ‘I’ll force NBN on everyone’. That, of course, is the handiwork of the sub-editors, not the journalists concerned. But Conroy, according to the story itself, would use federal law to “force people on to the NBN”.

Conroy in fact has been making clear all week that people can decline to be connected to the network, even after the copper network is removed. He told Estimates on Tuesday night: “So people can opt to say, ‘no, when the copper’s taken away, we don’t want you to put in a piece of fibre’. People will be able to make that choice. They can go purely mobile now or fixed wireless.” Conroy’s office confirmed this morning that remains the case.

Still, presumably that’s not as interesting as the image of Conroy making that midnight knock on the door to barge in to your home, drill a hole in your wall and take $400 out of your wallet. Or $3000. Or $6000. Or $10,000.


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118 thoughts on “Conroy comes knocking

  1. Angra

    Excellent piece Bernard! You are talented gentleman sir!

    As an IT person I’ve been getting so sick of the absolute nonsense talked about the NBN. I know very few people with their houses wired currently, so the vast majority will do as they do now and just have a cable coming into a port on the wall and plug their existing router into that. A fibre-to-copper connector if you want to hook up an existing LAN is around $100.

    The fact that what’s outside your house will be fibre to replace the nineteenth century copper is pretty-much irrelevant to what is inside. However what you will get is massively increased bandwidth, reliability, performance and technical longevity. (On reliability, copper is notorious for electrical interference, corrosion, grounding problems and of course lightning strikes).

    One of the biggest threats is to terrestrial transmission of TV, as this will become redundant. So that’s probably where the vested interest is in rubbishing the NBN.

  2. kakarik0

    Unfortunately the majority of people do no understand Technology. They are happy USING the internet, but they do not like going out of their comfort zone.

    I have no doubt at all The Australian banks their articles on this one simple fact. As soon as you mention a concept which is poorly understood, and add some sort of a cost to it, people panic.

    Anyone who works in IT knows the amazing benefits of the NBN, and why it is so expensive. If I tried to explain that to my grandmother for example, she’d say “HUH?”

  3. Jimmy

    It’s stock standard stuff from the Australian, say something long enough and it will becaome the truth, and even when it is proven to be false smear the author of the proof to be nothing but a labor stooge (even if they are the treasury secretary, head of defence, nobel laureate or head of the world bank) and pay for your own report showing whatever you want.
    Their other great trick is to have an anti labor headline and first 2 paragraphs and then balance it up at the end. This allows them to claim to be balanced when they know most people don’t read that far, or if they do they have made up their minds by then.

  4. David Sanderson

    An area man claimed today that an Australian senator (aka “the cable guy”) dug a hole down the length of his street.

    When approached the senator told the area man that “I want to take fibre into every house”. When the area man told the senator that he was already eating enough fibre inside and outside his house the senator reportedly stared menacingly at the area man, through big black glasses, and threatened to “Come back later and make you pay $300” if he didn’t get the fibre into his house today.

    The area man reported the incident to the police but they never turned up to investigate the matter “because”, they said, “we have better thing to do”.

  5. klewso

    Isn’t that a coincidence – in Tasmania “they’re using their existing routers” to communicate with the outside world, and up there in “The Emerald City of Oz” they’re using “their pre-existing rooters” too, for the same thing?

  6. Jimmy

    Kakariko – it is just not technology/NBN, the RSPT/MMRT, the ETS basically all mjor reforms are complicated but get boiled down into small negative stories that get repeated Ad nauseum.

  7. Angra

    Klewso – maybe we should explain for the benefit of Australians that the correct standard English pronunciation of “router” is “rooter” (as in route 66).

  8. Angra

    I should admit that I learned my lesson the hard way. Soon after arriving from England I was taking part in a discussion of networking infrastructure for a new building, and suggested that for small workgroups we should install baby routers – but due my English heritage and local ignorance pronounced this as ‘baby rooters’. I couldn’t at first understand why everyone fell apart in hysterical laughter. One wag responded ‘yes, we’ve got a few of those in Australia too!’

  9. Holden Back

    Just leave my Intertubes alone!

  10. Angra

    re: baby routers. This was an accepted technical term at the time for small 4-port routing hubs in a network.

    After the wag’s retort, someone responded ‘and most of them work for the Catholic church!”

  11. Rush Limbugh

    I literally love how BK and Crikey have been calling out the Aus for months now…and not a single F*#K is given by the Australian.

    Must have a serious readership BK-Haters gonna hate, but unfortunatly nobody cares what you think.

  12. taust

    !. The NBN will not earn a commercial rate of return (Estimates COmmittee) so will it earn enough to pay its loans and something to its equity holders?

    2, I can opt out but I will not be able to have landline access seems to be the bottom line.

    3. $100/month seems to be the price but does this include the ISP costs?

    4 What proportion pay $100/month now where this gives access to higher broadband speeds

    5We pay out of work people to move to where employment is. Would it be cheaper to pay people needing higher broadband speeds to move to wherethe broadband speeds can be provided commercially?

  13. David Sanderson

    Taust, you’ve been reading the Australian or, more likely, the Tele, for too long.

  14. David Sanderson

    The NBN is likely to severely damage the commercial viability of pay TV. Murdoch is a 25% shareholder in Foxtel. Is that a part-explanation for the hostility?

  15. Dean

    I wonder how you can call an article where you interview YOUR OWN EDITOR (and nobody else) “unbiased” reporting?

  16. Angra

    Taust – reread post 1.

    NBN is the modern equivalent of deciding to put tarmac on roads instead of having dirt tracks. I believe the benefits have enormously outweighed the costs.

  17. Stilgherrian

    On the pronunciation of the word “router”, the Macquarie Dictionary notes “(say ‘rowtuh)” for Australian English, even though it notes that “route” is “(say rooht)” with the “Chiefly US and Computers Pronunciation of route” as “(say rowt)”. I’d include the IPA characters if Crikey’s publishing system would cooperate. In my experience, “(say ‘rootuh)” would be a UK pronunciation only.

    It’s not really a matter of copying US pronunciation. I picked up the habit of “(say ‘rowtuh)” and the “(say rowt)” pronunciation of route” to avoid confusion. A route” is a path for directing traffic through the internets. “Root” is for Unix and Linux systems the master user, like “administrator” in Windows. Imagine a sentence along the lines of: “You need root access to change the route.”

  18. guytaur

    I do believe attacks like these will convince Mr Conroy to join with the Greens on News Limited.
    News Limited is doing its level best to get that Media restructure happening. When you have been campaigning against a party that helps hold the Balance of Power in Two Houses of Parliament. It would seem strategic not to piss off the Communications Minister.

  19. Angra

    Fibre is infinitely preferable to copper for a large-scale network infrastructure.

    Copper cables will need to be replaced after maybe 20 years (excluding faults, accidents and ‘acts of God’ like lightning.) Fibre will last at least double that time.

    Also if you measure cost per unit of bandwidth, fibre is massively cheaper than copper.

    Here’s a useful tutorial on the subject –


    As I said before, NBN is like putting tarmac on a dirt road, or installing centralised sewage systems. You want to stay on a dirt road? or not be connected to mains sewerage?

    Did anyone demand detailed cost-benefit-analysis for these innovations of the way to our modern lifestyle?

  20. Angra

    You say router, I say rooter, let’s call the whole thing off.

  21. mook schanker

    Thanks for the intelligent contribution Taust.

    1. Do hospitals, schools, passenger rail or roads generally have a commercial rate of return? Or a return at all for that matter…

    2. You want to opt out and also not have landline access, anything else you want? VOIP phone too crap for you? Bugger it, just go wireless and stick your fingers up to the rest of us who want NBN….

    3. What is a monthly fee if it’s not for a provider? An “administration fee”?

    4. Go read the Australian they have all the latest facts and figures.

    5. Stay off the space cakes…

  22. smithjohn

    This was an accepted technical term at the time for small 4-port routing hubs in a network.
    After the wag’s retort, someone responded ‘and most of them work for the Catholic church!”
    Solicitors London

  23. freecountry

    Bernard Keane, I don’t know about the particular cost breakdowns, but you’re blurring a number of different claims together to try to show they’re hopelessly confused.

    – The ultimate tax bill from each household, in the event that private investors decline to buy up a project for which a cost-benefit-analysis is “not applicable”;

    – The fee for actually using the service once it becomes available;

    – The auxiliary costs of buying new hardware to use the fibre connection.

    They are, of course, hopelessly confused. As are we all. As is the government. But that’s no reason to have any sort of analysis of whether this is the only way, or the most efficient way, of bringing next generation internet to Australians.

  24. Angra

    Freecountry – read the previous posts and do a bit of simple research please!

    – Copper last around 20 years at most and then needs to be replaced. Much sooner if affected by corrosion, flooding of conduits, lightning strikes or electrical interference.

    – Fibre offers massive advantages in speed, reliability, longevity and bandwidth.

    – Fibre is massively cheaper than copper per unit of bandwidth. Even more so when considering longer-term maintenance.

    As I said before, do you want a dirt track outside your house or a tarmac road?

    The “auxiliary costs of buying new hardware to use the fibre connection” are less than $100, and maybe nothing. The “fee for using the service” is likely to be the same as the fee for the existing service, of the fees you pay to use the road outside your house.

    At least do us the decency of reading what has been previously posted.

  25. klewso

    Taking another well-rooted route, anyone remember Ruta Lee?

  26. shepherdmarilyn

    Free country, the NBN is cables, it is not a provider.

    Why don’t we stay with carrier pigeons hey? That will suit the OZ and their deranged ramblings.

    And taust, what are you on about.

    The only thing that is happening is the old copper wire is being rolled up and new state of the art, long lasting and upgradeable fibre is being rolled out to replace it.

    Why in god’s name you people are so ignorant and snowed so easily is beyond my comprehension.

  27. Angra

    Klewso – maybe Young Boozer is well-routed?


  28. shepherdmarilyn

    One of the silliest things they have written is that phones can’t be used during thunderstorms, it is already recommended by the companies not to use phones during wild storms anyway so what on earth are the drivelling on about.

  29. Angra

    Sherperdmarilyn re NBN is cables – exactly. And that is why the current legislation to separate Telstra infrastructure from retail is so important. The people that build and maintain the roads shouldn’t have a monopoly on running the buses as well.

    Also, if you get a lightning strike on your copper Telstra cables it can fry all the equipment in your house, electrify you if you are on the phone and maybe start a fire and burn your house down. (I’m actually being serious about this – google it.)

    Maybe copper cables are more dangerous than insulation? So the Liberals are killing people by opposing the NBN?

  30. Jimmy

    I like it Angra – imagine today tonight running a scare campaign on Abbott & Turnball for burning down some poor pensioners house because she was stuck on copper wire rather than fibre optics.

  31. Holden Back

    Angra, Jimmy- you don’t suppose cloud-seeding could cause lighting strikes, do you?

  32. Angra

    shepherdmarilyn – I’m sure you know that copper is one of the best conductors of electricity. So in a storm it can channel the massive voltage of a lightning strike into your house. Everything connected via the mains is toast. This happens.

    People HAVE been electrified by being on the phone during a storm.

    Glass fibre cannot do this as it does not conduct electricity – only light.

    So NBN fibre = good-in-a-storm; Telstra copper = bad.

    A good argument for us in the bush where storms are common.

  33. Astro

    PLEASE explain how Gillard can go to the GG and get a decree saying their will be no NBN analysis in parliament committees?

    Are we a dictatorship now.

  34. freecountry

    Angra, ShepherdMarilyn,

    The fact that you direct your outbursts at a straw man existing only in your own imagination, rather than at what I said, underlines the need for cooler heads to analyze this plan.

    No one is suggesting that fibre be banned, or that the taxpayer not invest in advanced infrastructure including fibre, or that the current networks be frozen in place, or any other straw man you’re trying to invent.

    Malcolm Turnbull’s suggestion is that Australian internet users may be able to get the same leap in capability as they would get under NBN, for a far lower cost to the public, with more flexibility (eg including wireless).

  35. Angra

    People – run a check on people killed by electrical faults caused by copper telecoms cabling and maybe lightning strikes, and compare this to the insulation stats. I’m sure you would come to some interesting conclusions.

  36. Angra

    Freecountry is an obvious troll. My stats are not in my imagination – they can be checked any time. Malcolm is a victim of political expediency – his private comments are at odds with this orthodox statement. I believe his private views are at odds with his political masters. I wish he would stand up for himself, then we might have more respect for him.

    I am not aligned to any particular party.

  37. Jimmy

    Free Country – I am not a tech head but every expert in the field I have heard states categorically that wireless can not give them same results as the NBN, and as mobile coverage in my not so remote area is still very patchy I can see why. The NBN does not hinder wireless in fact it will more than likely enhance it. The argumennt that something else in the future will be better could be used endlessly so we need to just go with the best advice and bite the bullet.

  38. Daniel




  39. Venise Alstergren

    I’ll say one thing about News Ltd’s publications. They never allow the facts to get in the way of a good lie.

  40. twobob

    Angra can I just ask the noted technology guru Piers Akerman?

    More seriously for us country folk using the phone during a thunderstorm is a big no no.
    People might die but much more frequently the problem is an acoustic shock that merely annihilates an ear drum.

    And TAUST
    Do you really think we can pay people to move to where the broadband is? What city should we put them in and where will your food and resources and electricity come from?
    oh how stupid of me
    It will come from where it always has, ie the fridge, the supermarket, the light switch – of course.
    PS thanks for the laugh

  41. shepherdmarilyn

    Yeah Taust, the whole idea of the NBN is to get people wired in the bush so they can stay out of the cities.

  42. granorlewis

    All that you write Bernard – and most of the 41 comments above – presupposes that there is merit in the spending of $43billion of borrowed funds (that have to be repaid by those of us who do pay taxes). I have yet to see any valid argument to support that aspect of this debate. Likening this NBN to the difference between dirt roads and sealed roads is so puerile as to be silly.

    Of course we all want things to be better than they are – but at what cost to whom?

    Can’t wait for the great Mr Quigley to come clean with the financial truth about this great white elephant!

  43. Venise Alstergren

    If the Federal government is anything like the State government of Victoria’s premier John Brumby, they will choose the most expensive option. Therefore anyone wanting to field a plan which involves installing each fibre in a coating of gold, go for it.

    It’s only our money.

  44. David

    ANGRA…you got it in one. The only FREE in Freecountry, is the space between its Liberal lugs. It carries on like a pork chop and is best ignored. Like a bad smell it will go away.

  45. John Bennetts

    How about a bit of perspective?

    The cost to government of the reduction in tax scales early in Rudd’s term already exceeds $50B. It has passed unnoticed and without comment.

    The cost of the NBN, spread out through three times as long, will do likewise. I’m not saying that $43B or whatever is not a considerable amount of money; only that in the big scheme of things and when spread out over 5 or 10 years, it is not especially significant.

  46. David

    NBN business model establishes that taxpayers are paid back their investment with a modest return by year 15 of the project on the basis that privatisation is completed,” said Conroy in a statement.

    “Twelve months ago, the Government committed to investing in a $43 billion NBN. The study confirms that the company will generate sufficient earnings by the end of year 7 so that the Government’s recommended investment peaks at $26 billion.”

  47. Jimmy

    John – That is exactly why we can’t get infrastrucutre of the ground, Howard and then Rudd (after matching howards promise) gave every one about $5 per week in tax cuts and the public thought they were heroes and got accustomed to getting cuts every year, now you want to spend taxes on the type of thing they were designed for and people complain.

  48. granorlewis

    Sorry David – if you believe what Conroy “said,” then you must believe in Santa too.

    We already can see that privatisation is a sick joke, and if you think it will be completed for $26 million, or even $46 million – well Peter Pan also flew.

  49. the man on the clapham omnibus

    I’m a big advocate of the NBN, I believe it will offer a great transformation in efficiency and productivity in our country. I’m envious of countries like Sweden & South Korea who have this in place.

    I do see a point in some alternative opinion being expressed though and the type of arguments against it is something supporters should consider to counter some of the opinion mentioned:

    We should look at bang for our buck in these large infrastructure projects, and hold them to account. This could be as simple as ensuring the structure & governance of the department & NBN co is geared for success and ensure it is open and accountable:

    One only has to look at DEWHA’s recent failings to see a department that is strong on policy, but poor at implementation that almost brought down the government with a scathing Auditor general’s report of it’s conduct on major projects.

    Also, is the NBN a ‘Get a man on the Moon’ type project for the Government where cost is no object and the end goal is all that matters or is cost most important and either taking more time or less coverage/speed acceptable over 7 years? The nature of projects of this size & complexity is that they will always be challenged and encounter problems of some sort.

    Turnbull would be an ideal opposition spokesmen for this if he could focus on things like the following and not just look to ‘destroy’:

    * Would FTTN and customers paying for the ‘gold package” FTTH suffice & provide a similar benefit? Or once the trucks start rolling out is it better to do it all?
    * Is NBN Co. being run as an open and accountable operation?
    * Can we use private investment / expertise or partner with PPP more effectively in some areas? (Brisbane City?)
    * How do we prevent creating another monopoly?
    * How do we prevent it becoming an ICT / Contractor gravy train like the Transformation projects in major companies?

    Keeping on top of issues like these and having ready answers may stem a lot of the current uncertainty and criticism in the press and win more support.

  50. Observation

    I think the NBN is a great idea. You have to look back 10 years to see what we were using the internet for then compared to now. And what will we be using it for in another 10 years and beyond!
    However I hope this spending is not going to put other projects on the back burner. What are we sacrificing to fund this? What should the priorities be? Health, education, public transport??? There never seems to be enough for these things now. I know the fiber will help some of these areas become more efficient, well we hope so, but then maybe this is just the easiest one to get through the bickering and point scoring that plagues our parliament today!

  51. David

    If you read my comment again, it is the Business model that I was quoting, I doubt Mr Conroy wrote it. And…The study confirms that the company will generate sufficient earnings by the end of year 7 so that the Government’s recommended investment peaks at $26 billion.”
    You work it out , it sure aint rocket science. Im sure even the economic illiterate Abbott can understand it, mmmm maybe.
    Pity you allow your dislike of the Minister to freeze your brain.

  52. mook schanker

    I reckon A Current Affair will counter Today Tonight by showing how amoured fibre cable kills people in lightning strikes. Amoured fibre cable has wound copper sheathing to protect the fibre from thieves, dickheads and most commonly Contractors who like to know, ‘what cable is that?’ whilst cutting it with the Stanley. Armoured fibre is pretty common where it runs in co-existing cable management ducting….

    Armoured copper fibre killing people during lightning strikes, hahaaa….Don’t tell anyone about earthing/segregation though 🙂

  53. freecountry

    [every expert in the field I have heard states categorically that wireless can not give them same results as the NBN]
    Of course the capacity of a shared electromagnetic spectrum for wireless broadcasts is limited. We can keep squeezing a bit more efficiency out of it, but these increments get smaller and smaller as they approach a vanishing point of absolute capacity, and meanwhile the number of users gets bigger and bigger.

    But that’s broadcast wireless–emitting to all points on the compass at the same time. It’s a whole different story when you start using narrow beams for point-to-point links.

    See for example the microwave network that ZTE installed in Tajikistan in 2007. It includes a single point-to-point hop of 105km, carrying 7 gigabits per second. This was a solution to very rough mountainous terrain, where fibre would have been almost impossible to lay.

    Or a California University government research project called SATRN which in 2003 tested a 100 gigibit per second wireless transmission to a nearby receiver, using 40 channels of 2.5gb each.

    Australia doesn’t have terrain like Tajikistan, but it does have some extremely long single hops for NBN to cover–think Nullarbor Plain. Can a few point-to-point links cover some of those hops better and cheaper than fibre? I don’t know, but I sure would like it to be among the options for engineers to choose from.

  54. shepherdmarilyn

    Observation, we are talking about the public spending $26 billion over 8 years. During that 8 years the tax take for this country will be about $320 billion per annum so over 8 years we are talking about spending $26 billion from $2560 billion.

    That is the tiniest % of income for a rich country and will not affect spending on a single thing.

  55. mook schanker

    Man on the bus,

    Good comments, however preventing a monopoly? How is this possible and why would we want to? You have to think more like a regulated monopoly where retailers provide the free market from a supplier wholesaler, much like Victoria’s electric grid and energy retailers…That’s about as good as it gets unless competing infrastructure/technology suddenly appears on the cheap….

    PPP may be a good idea (boo hiss). If risk is appropriately managed and the Govt can pull if off the balance sheet, haha 🙂

  56. Observation

    Shepherdmarylin – Point taken. It does seem like a drop in the ocean. I will remember that when they bleat about the cost of aged care facilities, mental health or the poor water quality.

  57. freecountry

    Freight rail, commuter rail, interstate very fast rail, sustainable energy supply, a properly qualified and paid teaching profession, medical intern training … these are things we keep getting told are not affordable or not commercially feasible.

  58. davirob

    Yes but this something we all need a bit of now and again,vision,the big picture,the wow factor,something beyond the everyday,c’mon Free climb on board it’s friday for christ’s sake.

  59. davirob

    has,editing would be handy now an again also.

  60. Stilgherrian

    @freecountry: Your error here is to confuse what’s possible with long-distance point-to-point wireless links, or specific short-distance point-to-point links, with what has to happen with a local customer access network (CAN).

    If you clear out the frequencies so nothing else is happening to interfere with that one long-distance hop, then yes some interesting high-speed links are possible. Same goes for short-distance experiments when you clear out “40 channels of 2.5Gb each”.

    However with a local CAN, you’re taking about every single premises having its own link back to the base station. It means number 10 Smith St and number 12 Smith St and number 14 and… and… all of them have to have a link. And for each of them to have a point-to-point link you have to reduce the power or interleave the transmissions so they don’t interfere with each other. For every home and every business in the neighbourhood.

    And you’re stuck with the frequencies that are actually available.

    It’s called the Shannon-Hartley Theorem, and it’s the basic physics of every telecommunications link.

    It’s not good enough to do hand-waving “options for engineers to choose from”, because the engineers have already been there, decades ago.

  61. freecountry

    Oh, I want next generation broadband for the country too. Where we differ, is just where is the “wow factor” and how much does it have to cost. Another coast-to-coast public monopoly just doesn’t light my candle like it does for you.

    I still remember Bob Hawke saying “we’ve got to become the Clever Country.” I’m still waiting. “Wow factor” for me would be …

    – modern rail networks
    – teaching as a serious career option
    – universities that are for knowledge rather than export dollars
    – and communication networks that draw from the full range of available technologies (including those I referred to above), instead of some shining vision of coast-to-coast uniformity dreamed up by a control freak politician.

  62. Harvey Tarvydas

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    A ripper BK, love it, you’re becoming an excellent rogue.

    The Australian
    The treason paper (not trees-in paper) but treason paper.
    Addicted to the smell of its own foul farts it keeps farting even when it knows that its farts are very toxic to the nations heath and wellbeing.
    The Definition of National Paper Treason.
    The Oz is far too anal to use its rag in the toilet.

    The only thing that that sweet fluffy cutie Piers Akerman is an expert on is cholesterol and I (infected by that save a life wherever I can bug) feel I should tell him that the rather dumb (and lethal) majority of the medical profession whom haven’t told him that the ridiculous forced lowering (riches for that ‘industry’) of cholesterol can only get you an epidemic of Altzi (eimer’s). His expertise is incomplete and out of date.

  63. freecountry


    I already gave a non-technical acknowledgement of Shannon’s capacity theorem in that same post. Do not assume, just because I choose to speak in plain English for a general audience, that my argument will fall apart when you name a bit of second-year science.

    You’re still inventing false dichotomies. As in, “all fibre vs all wireless” or “all fibre vs all copper”. When I speak of single hop microwave links, you pretend I was proposing 10 or 20 million of them.

    As long as you can distort what any dissenter says in this way, this is a debate you can never lose. If I say, “what about allowing technology B to be included, what about technology C, according to its merits and market choices” and so on, you can pretend I was proposing to replace the entire FTTH network with a technology-B-to-the-home network.

    This intellectual dishonesty takes its lead from Kevin Rudd and Stephen Conroy. The more you go on this way, the more I want an independent assessment of the options from some non-political body. None of this “my cousin is in IT and he says …”

  64. John Bennetts

    Freecountry has confused discussion with name calling… again.

    So a point of common knowledge has been acknowledged. This is not a spear – it is a step forward.

    If only Crikey contributors would learn to grow up into civil, nonaggressive communicators! I suppose that in some cases that’s a lot to ask in the short term.

    BTW, technologies B and C, if they involve single hop microwave links, have serious limitations which also include line of sight and towers and lots of places for the technicians to visit to do their jobs – ie more driving around and less maintaining. That said, where this is a more efficient alternative to fibre, the current plan does not say that fibre will go to every home or that it will be used for every trunk route, so quite probably this particular thread is superfluous.

  65. Stilgherrian

    @freecountry: You say:

    You’re still inventing false dichotomies. As in, “all fibre vs all wireless” or “all fibre vs all copper”.

    No, actually, I’m not discussing that at all. I never mentioned it. I’m a disappointed you’re verballing me. I’m just picking up one specific point: that what might be possible in test conditions for single point-to-point wireless links isn’t particularly applicable to a general CAN for many premises. If you’re not “proposing to replace the entire FTTH network with a technology-B-to-the-home network”, then why even mention that stuff?

  66. freecountry

    And I never said point-to-point wireless was a CAN option. I mentioned the Nullarbor Plain as an example of some of the vast single-hop distances for the backhaul network to cross. It’s you who verballed me. Market forces would probably determine that fibre is best for some CAN applications and some backhaul links.

    Do I have to design a national network in its entirety before you will even entertain the possibility that Kevin Rudd did not instantaneously dream up the best network for the best price? Well, I can’t. No single human mind can, that’s the point.

    The whole basis of NBN’s expected benefits rests on the unknowability of what human creativity and market forces will do with such a capability. I agree with this.

    I’m simply applying the same principle to the deployment of the network itself. Just as you or I cannot predict its applications, neither can you or I predict the best combination of technologies and commercial arrangements that would bring the best connectivity to the most Australians. I would be gobsmacked if Kevin Rudd’s monopoly fibre-all-the-way were it, just because some techy gave him a blanket statement that “fibre is best”.

  67. Stilgherrian

    @freecountry: I’m not talking about any of those other issues. I mentioned one specific point. That you want to pin all sorts of other issues onto that just tells me your motive is to waste me time. I’ll leave you to it.

  68. freecountry

    Oh, bravo, Stilgherrian. Pretend to point out “Your error here is to confuse …” and then when I show it’s no such thing, it’s you who misunderstood, pretend I’m just trying to derail your point and waste your time.
    [It’s not good enough to do hand-waving “options for engineers to choose from”, because the engineers have already been there, decades ago.]
    Yes they have, which is why we have billions in infrastructure already in place. Imagine what more they can do when $5 or $10 billion of taxpayer subsidies can be directed to augment the market processes already in play. That much money can go a long, long way.

  69. John Bennetts

    For goodness’ sake, Freecountry, GROW UP!

    It is not all about you.

    As you go through life personalising everything, taking insult and offense where there is none, failing to read and to digest that which is before you, you bring out the worst in both yourself and those with whom you make contact.

    There are norms of behaviour which contributors to Crikey and all other on-line forums are expected to observe. These have a purpose, primarilty to enable free flow of information and analysis. Your pestilential refusal to be polite is an impediment to all and brands you as a nuisance.

    Stay on topic.
    Accept other’s opinions with good grace.
    Be patient.
    Stay positive.
    Respect others’ right to an opinion which may well differ from your own.
    Stop and think, before you let rip: “Is this going to be worth it?”

    Don’t bother to respond to this comment – I will now deselect this thread from my watch-list, entirely and only because of your contribution.

  70. freecountry

    Wow. If anyone else wishes to protest against an alternative point of view by deselecting the thread, then by all means do so. It’s a free country.

  71. davirob

    Wow the good burgers are feisty tonight.None of my damn business I know but, JB,previously you were rhapsodizing about the Mayne era,wilder etc,less moderation now you’re flogging FC for having an opinion you don’t like.FC mate you just need to get out a lot more,you come across as if you’re paying for some govt. policy out of your own wallet all by yourself.Me,I f**king perfect.

  72. Syd Walker

    It may well cost Piers Akerman $6-10K to get connected to the modern interwebs, as he is famous for his generous tipping. It’s the culture of caring that every successful News Corp journalist exemplifies in their personal and professional lives.

    When the day arrives to upgrade the Ackerman residence, be sure there’ll be fierce competion for the job. Being such an important person, Mr Ackerman will probably need his dishwasher connected (as recommended by Senator Conroy), along with extra rooters in the bidet.

  73. granorlewis

    It’s so disappointing to read the nastiness that comes out in these discussions. When the argument fails sling s–t.

    David, you were clearly quoting Conroy in your post. Then you proceed to question what I think about Conroy, before denigrating Tony Abbott’s economic credentials. You all need to remember that Conroy sold this pup to Rudd by jumping on a VIP jet, with only an envelope on the back of which he wrote the concept for his PM, who just loved it – probably because it was written on the back of an envelope.

    The report that has then since been written by an accounting firm makes all sorts of assumptions about “take-up” and such-like before saying that “if the concept can be privatised….” Well as I wrote “Peter Pan flew too.” Projections like that are not worth the paper they are written on.

    Get real you lot. This is a pipe dream. If $43 million is chicken feed as some of you claim, that would be OK if it wasn’t being borrowed. If it were coming from the same budget surpluses that that tax cuts came from, that woould be fine. BUT IT”S NOT. Like the stimulus nonsense, it is coming from borrowed funds, and we can’t even afford the interest let alone repay.

    We can revisit all this when we see Swan’s 2013 budget. Surplus he says … yeah right!!!!!

  74. mook schanker

    Funny how there’s so much criticism of the NBN with not much offer of alternative concepts with some kind of pricing. People must reckon the status quo is awesome I guess…..

  75. davirob

    @ GRANDORLEWIS,not 43 million,43 billion,so now you can scream and froth more,what a treat.Lucky it’s the weekend you can have all the time you need.Cheers.

  76. GocomSys

    Small “l” liberals are having a hard time under Tony Abbott and his cronies. They only have two options at present. Keep out of the media limelight, lie low or be prepared to tell political lies or half-truths. Sad really. Not easy for people like Hunt, Turnbull and a few others. It certainly doesn’t do their reputation any good when the tell fibs. But then, one week in politics is a long time, media spin and political amnesia in the populace is rampant. They will fight or lie another day. Well, maybe there is no need to feel too sorry for them.

  77. Xpolemic

    I’m confused about the whole ‘mandatory connection’ aspect of this thing, perhaps someone can enlighten me. Does this mean that you have to disconnect any private infrastructure, such as an Optus cable or Telstra copper? Does it also mean that wireless internet will be made illegal?

    I know that all Australian governments of every stripe hate the internet because they lose control of the propaganda medium, and anyone can point out what lying incompetent sacks of shit they are, so this NBN strikes me as an attempt by the PTB to wrest back that control so they can resume their censorship of the information available to Aussies all.

    Or am I just being paranoid? Perhaps I should kick back and wait for 10MBs of corporate infotainment and not worry myself with civil liberties or free speech.

  78. guytaur


    Do not worry. This is not the Filter. This is just replacing copper cable with fibre cable.
    No more Free Speech implications than when it was Telecom owning the whole of the copper network.

  79. freecountry

    Mook Schanker,
    [Funny how there’s so much criticism of the NBN with not much offer of alternative concepts with some kind of pricing. People must reckon the status quo is awesome I guess…..]
    Two years after he collapse of the USSR, a Russian food distribution official trying to understand market economies asked British economist Paul Seabright, “Who is in charge of the supply of bread to the population of London?”

    It was a breakthrough question for the Russian. Once he got the answer to that one–nobody was in charge–he could begin to conceive what was required. (Told in The Company of Strangers, 2010, p19)

    Efficient distribution evolves; it’s too complex for any one person to plan. The best network could be made up of the latest, most advanced optic fibre in some places, the shabbiest twisted-pair copper in others, and all sorts of surprises that no one would have anticipated.

    Market forces alone will not extend high speed broadband very far beyond the cities, and even some city areas miss out. But that’s before taxpayer subsidies are thrown in. Add a few billion here and a few billion there, without prescribing what the end product will look like, and you could end up with a network every bit as fit for purpose as NBN, perhaps better in some ways, for a fraction of the cost.

    Some ministers still like the idea of a uniform national system. It appeals to their sense of aesthetics and tidiness. But it has a way of being inefficient, rigid, and costly, and sometimes leading to unexpected problems nobody could have foreseen.

  80. Goshome

    If the NBN is so bad then why does The Australian/News Ltd have to resort to massive exaggeration in its attempts to denigrate it? The selection of stories he refers to were beyond satire.

  81. Goshome

    He = BK. Apologies.

  82. ozciompi

    “NBN is like putting tarmac on a dirt road, or installing centralised sewage systems. You want to stay on a dirt road? or not be connected to mains sewerage?”

    Analogies , sometimes, are very dangerous. Sometimes, they are just plain dopey.

  83. hchan

    Not that I believe the Australian is correct in it’s costings, the NBN will cost and that is an issue. I believe that every household is entitled to receive “what capability they have now” for free. Where I don’t use the phone during a storm (I use my mobile then), I do expect to use it during a blackout. Costs for a backup service is approx. $50 and this does not include electricity. Why should I have to pay for this? Additionally internet service providers in TAS have stated that their current costs are for the trial only and there are other expenses e.g. iPrimus states “2.Internal installation of Fibre to the Home technology is also required. You may incur installation charges additional to the set up costs stated but these will be provided to you prior to signing of your contract.” This does not indicate free to me!

  84. Bilko

    Watch insiders Cassidy interviewing the Communications minister. Cost to connect to house zero cost to connect phone to NBN same as per copper wire, cost to connect computer to NBN whatever plan YOU select via your current ISP. But don’t expect the murdoch media to confirm such facts.They are putting the Lie into Liberals who echo the same line, roll on the NBN perhaps my foxtel functions will become redundant now that would be a saving

  85. mook schanker

    Sorry freecountry you lost me. I was asking for a concept, people have bandied about wireless but what will this look like and what will it cost? Any scrutiny on this compared to an NBN and pricing? And, do we have the most efficient distribution now? Why is uniformity rigid and inherently inefficient in NBNs case? We have standards for lots of things, I dunno cars, planes, electricity supply, phone and gas. Are these things rigid and inefficient? Should we let the market forces just run on and we chip in here and there is that what you’re saying?

    Efficient distribution isn’t too complex to plan in NBNs case. I’ve worked on fibre comms design & build projects and we certainly didn’t use a hatch patch technologies such as shabby twisted pair or anything else. We did a complete cutover from various legacy systems that had been running for over 80 years. The completed integrated system was miles ahead of what was running. I can see the same for NBN really…

    Thanks for the ruski bread read and why I don’t know. We have to endure wholesalers gouging the retailers in the comms market in an economic monopoly. How does this compare to an elastic sweet loaf? And if we need to chip in, what kind of subsidy should it be as a subsidy isn’t a product of a market force? How do we account for economic benefits that don’t flow through to direct business commercial returns but to broader society? How could market forces possibly take this in?

    You know, the status quo shits me to tears when I move and have to hook up to a provider where Telstra has the exchange and chucks all old shit in the room so no other providers can rack in their stuff. Or whole suburbs hooked up with a RIM service by Telstra who wont get ADSL2+ in the near future and are stuck with wireless broadband. Is this the efficient free market? These examples are city suburbia (Melbourne) not some regional outpost. I’m sorry but the status quo seems like a monopoly basket case to me an quite a long way from an “efficient or perfect market”….

  86. mook schanker

    I have to rant about The Oz’s $3,000 NBN house connection price (or Bolts $6,000). For $100 you can hookup up a device that allows internet via the power sockets, it’s called Homeplug. Why you would run CAT all over your house in this stone age is a mystery to me…..

  87. Barry 09

    Monday’s story will be , you have to knock down your house and rebuild around the fibre cables .

  88. Harvey Tarvydas

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    Well it’s bedtime on Sunday night and I’m back to check on you guys, friends, and I have to say that the most important thing has been said when
    @ JOHN BENNETTS – Posted Friday, 22 October 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink
    Calls for perspective, just a bit?
    “How about a bit of perspective?
    The cost to government of the reduction in tax scales early in Rudd’s term already exceeds $50B. It has passed unnoticed and without comment.
    The cost of the NBN, spread out through three times as long, will do likewise. I’m not saying that $43B or whatever is not a considerable amount of money; only that in the big scheme of things and when spread out over 5 or 10 years, it is not especially significant.”

    If you don’t know the numbers and don’t have a feel for their real meaning in a whole, big picture then your outpourings are just interesting noise and babble. You/we will get a lot more than 3 Sniggers bars for $5 from the NBN outlay.

  89. freecountry

    Harvey Tarvidas,

    Yes I saw that statement, where John Bennetts appeared to take the common leftist view that tax cuts are just a form of fiscal spending, essentially like NBN or BER or similar.

    Tax cuts are not similar to spending. Not even a little bit. For an analogy: leaving water in the Murray River is not the same as taking it out, using it for town water supply, cleaning it up, and piping it back into the Murray further downstream.

  90. freecountry

    Mook Schanker,

    You’re asking for an alternate central design to NBN. Any such design would have the same inefficiencies and excess costs as NBN, because it would be centrally designed.

    A whole continent is not comparable to any of your projects. Single-command planning has an efficiency benefit on a small scale, such as a single LAN. It has an inefficiency benefit on a very large scale, because the bigger a project is, the more options and local conditions will be overlooked, and pricing models and rules lead to some decisions that seem absurd. This was demonstrated by the entire economy of the USSR.

    For any type of project, imagine a function of the likely benefits of single-command planning (Y axis) against the scale of the project (X axis). The X axis would itself be some function of population served, number of nodes, km of cable, geographical variation … you get the picture. This would be a decreasing function, because the smaller a project is the easier it is for planners to get it just right.

    Now superpose another function on the same axes, for the likely costs of planning mistakes and inefficiencies. These increase with the scale of the project, so this is an increasing function. The two functions superposed (Y values added together, one function on top of the other) would have a peak combined value somewhere along the X axis, where the costs of single-command planning equal the benefits. This is the optimum scale for planning. Call it X’

    That’s an imaginary model for finding the sweet spot. Of course it depends on lots of variables other than size — what type of project, how competent and well-managed the planning is, how much variation in local conditions, how many things are changing while the project is taking place, and so on–so it’s not possible to identify an exact sweet spot. Suffice it to say that somewhere along the X axis is a project scale, X’, at which the costs of single-command planning equal the benefits.

    The “invisible hand” of classical economics is the key to finding a better solution at scales above X’ than anyone could plan. There is no perfect solution, there are just better or worse solutions.

    Left to its own devices the “invisible hand” has not so far produced the Australia-wide connectivity that voters want, although it has done very well in some areas. But taxpayer subsidies can be directed in such a way as to make the “invisible hand” reach all corners of Australia, to whatever degree voters wish.

    All anyone could say by way of describing a better alternative to NBN is that it would contain a mixture of technologies and pricing models, with parts of it planned at various scales by various companies. Fibre would no doubt play a big part, so would wireless, and so would the thousands of km of high bandwidth media that are already in the ground. Some areas might even turn out to be best served by multiple connections of relatively low quality, using a combination of load distribution, trunking and redundancy. Beyond that, I cannot describe the optimum big picture, and neither can anyone else.

  91. mook schanker


    So you’re saying build a sweet spot sized network, then have anyone else plan and build the rest because that would be most efficient? Isn’t that where we’re at now? People are not saying NBN will be the most efficient plan & build project possible, however the benefits of the outcomes, an extremely fast standard connection for most of the population for future potential consumption is likely to outweigh an inefficiency of central planning & build.

    Decentralised planning and market forces will not build a faster network unless there is a business case for it (the status quo). As you say, subsidise where this is not the case so thus billions will be required to build parts of the network to make it faster and even then on a whole not even close to NBNs performance due to the myriad of monopolised legacy systems and performance characteristics scattered around the network. So just a generally faster of what we have now for our billions in subsidy? Why should we pay to continue monopolies? Where’s the efficiency in that? And you say the invisible hand of subsidy will be better? If this is the case you are surely an advocate of the Coalition broadband policy of dead hand subsidy and the private market?

    Did you read my post about Telstra installing equipment for their own business interest? The way it’s run now is not what is considered a true “free market” in any sense of the phrase….

  92. mook schanker

    Also, it’s a lot easier to install a complete new network of standard technology than somehow assess existing infrastructure and needs analysis. It doesn’t matter how big the network is, continent or whatever….

  93. freecountry

    Mook Shanker,
    [So you’re saying build a sweet spot sized network]
    No, businesses build networds, sometimes outsourcing all or part of it, taking into account available opportunities and their own judgement of efficiency. If the market is competitive, the national network will end up as a patchwork of interlocking, overlapping smaller networks, in which the efficient ones which meet people’s needs grow, and inferior ones die out.
    [an extremely fast standard connection for most of the population for future potential consumption is likely to outweigh an inefficiency of central planning & build]
    That’s the question I would hope the Productivity Commission will answer. And before you say “the benefits are unquantifiable,” no they are not. Even if you assign an unknown value B for the benefits, the Productivity commission would be able to study questions like …
    – Are there cheaper ways than NBN to get B ?
    – How much of B do we already have?
    – How much of B that we already have would become wasted under NBN?
    – How much of B will people actually use (especially considering how many people do not sign up for, or do not use, the highest speed available to them)
    [Did you read my post about Telstra installing equipment for their own business interest? The way it’s run now is not what is considered a true “free market” in any sense of the phrase]
    Yes, we all know about the problems with Telstra. Too much power retained from its the monopoly it had before deregulation, and a dog’s breath of a telecom market, regulated by so many patchwork provisions in the Trade Practices Act that the whole Act should be scrapped and rewritten from scratch.

    That’s a problem, but it’s not a $43 billion problem. The answer to one troublesome monopoly is not to spend the biggest sum in the history of this country creating another monopoly.

  94. Plane

    The government is it’s own worse enemy on this for the paucity of the information it keeps releasing on NBN as still no one is sure whether NBN is a puppy or the promised land.

    It’s the government’s job to inform, or at least try to inform voters and they haven’t done a good enough job.

    They didn’t do it on climate change; they haven’t made the best of starts on Murray Darling water proposals and the NBN is a continuation of their self-proclaimed “visionary” approach to issues.

  95. my say

    fair fax must of heard a different interview i am sure the Senator said it was opt out or in

    if that was the case every tasmania would have a nbn policeman at their door.

    gosh it makes you laugh sometimes

  96. mook schanker


    We have the current network left to the market and in two words you say it’s ‘dogs breath’. How do we make it competitive so it is efficient? The Optus fibre cabling was a debacle in the name of “competition”. No-one has yet offered a suggestion for this? Tear up the Act and re-write to say what?

    I’m happy for a regulated wholesale monopoly which an NBN inherently will be. I never see two train lines running together or freeways next to each other for the sake of a free market? Some markets need regulation where critical infrastructure cannot efficiently be duplicated. Alright if you’re selling bread, anyone can buy an oven and a truck ffs….

    As for the PC analysis, Crikeys already done this chat to death via Possum…

    Bored now, yawn….

  97. freecountry

    Mook Schanker, it is a legislative problem, not a $43 billion problem. Both sides of parliament just needs to get off their asses, take their eyes off the polls for long enough to read what the experts say for once. Instead of demanding the “25 words or less” version, rejecting all the main points and wasting everyone’s time.

  98. Venise Alstergren

    FREECOUNTRY: The ego-mania of politicians is astonishing. They really do believe the great Australian tragedy would be if they failed to get re-elected. Such is democracy.

    BTW: It’s arses, not asses. Asses are built like a horse, but with much longer ears. Arses evolved so we could sit on our derriers-sort of.

  99. freecountry

    Venise, I know we’re supposed to swear the way Prince Charles would; I just find the ‘r’ a little bit much. I trust my fellow Aussies to change the American phonetic ‘æ’ to ‘ɑ’ (I hope those characters print) and thus to swear most properly.

  100. Venise Alstergren

    FREECOUNTRY: To get the ae dipthong I would have to change gear. Also I’m not into animal vilification. 🙂

    WTF has the English monarchy got to do with it? An arse is an arse is an arse is an arse. Whereas an Ass is a different kettle of rose-blossoms. The word arse is precise; to call someone an animal is offensive. I’m quite serious. If someone calls out the word Ass I’m going to look over my shoulder to find it. If someone yells out arse I don’t have to look, I’ll know someone is being offensive.

  101. Matthew of Canberra

    For crying out loud. 400$ a room? Where DO these people buy their hardware?

    Assuming 100mb/s comes in one side of the house, I have a proposal: wireless.

    Yes. Wireless. The same people who tell us that wireless can wire up the country seems to THEN want us to believe we can’t even use it to connect our house. They’ve got it backwards. Wireless is very GOOD at connecting your house, less good at connecting the country.

    Here’s the trick: When the fibre finally pokes through the letterbox (or up through the s-bend, however it’s rolled out) you go out and get yourself a modem of some kind and plug those little connectors (or whatever) into it. This modem should, ideally, be equipped with wireless 802.11n – which will happily connect the rest of your house at 100Mb/s to the interweb without having to run wires anywhere. Total cost? A couple of hundred bucks.

    If you should really, really care about having that blue ethernet cable running through your walls, just do it yourself. It’s not significant power, it won’t catch fire and it’s pretty much impossible to stuff it up (Ethernet really is a no-brainer. No, seriously. Just make sure all your cables are blue, and you’re laughing). 400$ per room is absurd. Ridiculous.

    If you have particularly download hungry kids, or a big file store you’re using to keep all your TV recordings for live streaming (*ahem*), then find the nerdiest kid in the street, invest in a wireless base station or two and get him/her to set up a dedicated subnet for you. But for most people that’s just not going to be necessary.

    It’s just not that hard. Please – just give me that fiber as soon as you can.

  102. freecountry

    That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it. Matthew of Canberra says, “Please – just give me that fiber as soon as you can.” HCHAN says (yesterday at 9:16am), “I believe that every household is entitled to receive ‘what capability they have now’ for free.”

    Gimme, gimme, gimme. All these people who believe tax and debt are abstractions for someone else to worry about, and only the free lunch is real.

  103. guytaur


    Exactly. We will pay for a National Broadband in some way. Most Australians voted for paying for it through taxes to get the best available and most future proof technology available today. Most Australians voted for a monopoly at the wholesale level and true nation wide competition at the retail level.

    This is called investment. IF private does it they have to borrow at higher interest rates and make a profit to afford to pay it back. All Government has do do is break even at the wholesale level. This also means all will pay through their ISP no matter where they live in the country. Remember all business goes into debt to invest for the future. For business it is plant and equipment. For government it is infrastructure that helps the productivity of the economy.

    That enable income for services like health and transport that the private system does not do.
    We know they do not do them because we have seen the disasters of the US.
    Australians do not want to be another US. We believe in all benefiting from the economy not just the wealthy elite.

  104. Matthew of Canberra


    Do you drive on public roads?

    A simple yes or no will do. Thanks.

  105. freecountry

    Matthew of Canberra,

    Not only do I drive on public roads, I also have a strong preference for public ownership of roads. Private tollways sometimes create more problems than they solve, by pressuring governments not to build competing railways or decentralize business districts.

    Let’s be clear about something, this isn’t a government vs private thing. This is a monopoly vs competition thing. It may surprise you to know, because like most Australians you’ve never thought about it, that Australian states can and do compete with each other on national performance indicators for better, safer, more cost-effective road services. And there is even more competition between the private contractors hired by state governments for individual projects.

    This was more true in the Hawke-Keating era than it is now. In the 80s there was a great bicentennial national highway project, funded from Canberra. It included sealing Route 1 that circles the whole country. Unfortunately, under the Howard and Rudd governments this developed into a blurring of state-federal responsibility, and a push for national uniformity, which will slowly destroy all the advantages of interstate competition so young people will probably never see the federal system at its best.

    When there’s a monopoly, either public or private, there’s nothing to compare it to (overseas comparisons are not really apples to apples) so the provider can screw you nine ways to Sunday and you’ll never be able to prove it.

  106. mook schanker

    Still going on?!?

    Roads not a monopoly? Well stuff me, KPIs mean stuff all unless funding can be shifted to someone else because you’re not cost effective enough. Where from a Govt dept to? Meaningful competition my ass (yes the horse donkey thing)…

    So we have competition amongst private Contractors who respond to tender for roads ….What do you think NBN is doing? There’s a cast of thousands of private Contractors competitively responding to tenders…..the same concept as “competitive” roads isn’t it??? You should be all for NBN then…

    A dream of open competition on critical infrastructure that is generally an inherent monopoly is just that “a dream”. Just get over it and realise that we should increase competition and efficiency as much as possible in an inherent monopolised infrastructure framework….My vote goes for franchising the NBN infrastructure when done…

    And you verbalise people saying “you’ve never thought about it”. How the hell do you know?


  107. freecountry

    Mook Schanker,

    Don’t you mean, “KPIs mean stuff all if funding can be shifted …”? Such as NSW boasting of a $2.1 billion federal grant for a rail link, Gillard rewarding NSW for failing to govern, while trying to bribe the Westies with a pre-election pork barrel. (The kind of thing Bob Hawke started to fix but it’s all become a farce since then.)

    The point is, competition is not only for doing the same thing more efficiently–eg building the same road or laying the same fibre line for a lower price–but for different ways of doing things. Arterial roads vs motorways; motorways vs railways or busways; cross subsidies from one travel mode to another; transit vs better urban planning or freer property markets, so people don’t have to travel so far, etc.

    For broadband, that includes alternatives to fibre (including, yes, wireless) as well as different kinds of fibre media (it’s not all the same), network topology, and network devices, as well as alternatives to fibre where appropriate.

    Example: Brisbane City Council is going to get its own fibre optic network, without waiting for NBN, and at a much lower cost because they’re using sewers for conduits. The network will be privately owned by i3, which is putting up all the capital and taking all the risk.

  108. susan elfert

    Why pay a dog and bark yourself? Labor commands a majority on the floor of the House and that’s it.
    MPs and Senators have access to all the advice they need to make reasonable decisions on our behalf, and that’s why most of them are there. Let them get on with it I say, not least to ensure that we can connect more easily with our brothers in the bush and develop a clearer view of how best to manage the serious problems we need to face together.

  109. freecountry

    Susan Elfert, I hope you’re not one of those also crying out for sustainable power supply or better transport networks. A bit of prudence and we could have had it all.

  110. Meski

    You’d wonder what kind of FUD The Australian would generate if the Coalition was against wireless, and for fibre. There’s lots more studies been done on the effects of microwave radiation ( wifi / cellular) on people that they could pull out and print.

    @FC: as someone said, using the sewer infrastructure for laying fibre isn’t risk free. Unblocking and relining pipes could damage fibre quite badly.

  111. freecountry

    Meski, who’s against fibre? Turnbull is simply calling for a level playing field where nothing is ruled out, not fibre or wireless or anything else.

    Telstra and Optus already have Hybrid Fibre Coaxial cable passing 30 per cent of Australian homes, delivering an average 75Mbps (asymmetric) for customers. The original NBN plan was for 12Mbps full duplex, which people thought was good value for $43 billion; NBNCo revised this to 100 in response to Telstra’s and Optus’ HFC capacity upgrades in the last 12 months. These billions of dollars worth of networking will be simply written off.

    100Mbps is a lot of bandwidth.
    [Ericsson North America’s director of deep fibre access, Fred Terhaar, laid out a “use case” anticipating what a household consuming 120–130 Mbps by 2020 would be doing with all its bandwidth. The residents could be simultaneously using cloud-based 3D gaming (20–40 Mbps), a high-definition video conference (18 Mbps), three high-definition TV channels including one video course lecture (total 45 Mbps), home security (10 Mbps) and “other equipment” (24 mbps). Noting that telcos all around the world are falling short of their targets for homes passed by fibre, he said, “I don’t think the business case for FTTH is a slam dunk.”]

  112. Meski

    @FC: Well, Abbott threatened to tear it out, that sounds like he’s against it. Turnbull, who wants a CBA on it, seems to be saying that he won’t endorse it if it comes out in favour of fibre.

    Asymmetric broadband is not particularly satisfactory for many internet applications in use today, lets see, Skype with a webcam, where there’s video going in both directions? bitTorrent (there *are* many legal uses for it, including s/w manufacturer’s rolling out large clients to lots of people. Activision, for instance, do this, but it doesn’t work as well as it should when it is throttled by asymmetric connections) Asymmetric broadband is likely to be far more limiting in the future.

    IMO, 100Mbps isn’t that much. I’d opt for 1Gbps.

  113. mook schanker


    No my original statement was fine. Federal grants via IA or other programs isn’t the “norm” of roads projects where state funded capital roads are 99% of the roads you go on. Ignore this fact and blab about the 1% jesus, not really selling your point here….Nice to see you flip flop on Govt depts being so “competitive” on one hand and a basket case in the other. Which way should we go in the name of competition? Where is this damn holy grail…..

    Now you turn the conversation from competition on “projects” to competition of scenarios in the realm of transport economics. What has this to do with your point of competition? Competition in conceptual designs, erm I think the Govt has this job in the bag with private industry help if they don’t have expertise. They don’t leave a real lot to “market” forces. Thanks for the insight on scenario analysis and if you’re a bit clever integrating it with urban planning, but hey I don’t think about these things….And what is the point about competition though, as most transport projects are inherently monopolies. F*ck I said that word again, doh……..

  114. mook schanker

    HFC bandwidth “theory” of 100mbps is wrong. What’s the upload capability of HFC? sweet f*ck all, umm 2 or 5 mbps?….

    And HFC to 30% of homes in theory is not comparable to an estimated 93% FTTH…oh but wait we should subsidise private monopolies to do the other 70% which has no HFC cable, should be about 70% of the cost of an NBN to run the cable except we will have pathetic upload speeds…..Or do we leave 70% out in the cold, or better still just give them a free wireless dongle….

  115. freecountry

    Meski, are you sure he threatened to tear it out? I know Abbott said he wanted to “tear down” the NBN plan. Kevin Rudd said that Abbott would tear up the actual infrastructure once built. Rudd’s pretty good at putting words in people’s mouths. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I’ll be interested to know if it is.

    To physically tear it up would be just as stupid as wasting the billions in network infrastructure we already have, which is why Turnbull has denied the Coalition would tear anything out of the ground.

    Asymmetric broadband is simply a market choice; if converted to symmetric, some optimisation is lost but the capacity is bit little below half the asymmetric capacity. People or businesses who really need to upload 100Mbps (i.e. running five simultaneous video conferences in high definition) can do so by trunking extra lines.

    What Turnbull said about a CBA was:
    [”Well, look, I would not as a matter of principle give a blank cheque to anyone, even the Productivity Commission. But if the Productivity Commission were to report on the NBN as they should, and if they were to give it a big tick from a cost-benefit point of view, it would be incredibly persuasive. I think it would obviously change a lot of people’s perceptions. It would have a huge impact but nobody in their right mind gives a blank cheque to anyone, even someone as a well resourced as Gary Banks and the Productivity Commission.”]

  116. freecountry

    And Meski, is 100Mbps already not enough, you say you now want 1Gbps full duplex? Oh dear, NBN is not even rolled out yet, the $43 billion not even spent, and you’re already bored of 100Mbps. This is not a good sign.

  117. Meski

    It’s been tested at 1Gbps, which is more than can be said for HFC or gawd help us, wireless.

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