[This article was first published in Crikey on 27 November, but I forgot that I hadn't re-posted here.]
Evidence-based policy! National Broadband Network! Australia 2020 Summit! After 11 years of Howard’s opportunism and fear-mongering, Ruddish mantras sounded like… well, like “Fresh Thinking”.
But one year on, precisely none of the NBN has been built. The Summit produced nothing. The Cyber-Safety Plan is trialling (again) unworkable internet filters while Senator Conroy accuses everyone of being a pervert.
Tenders for the NBN only closed yesterday, and Telstra’s off-grid bid means we’re probably in for months of legal battles. Although the network is intended to cover 98% of households, David Kennedy from Ovum Research reckons it’ll take three years to reach the first 50% — that’s 2012.
Even then, the NBN will only deliver 12Mbit/second. France, Korea, Japan and perhaps others are already moving to 100Mbit/s. France Télécom reckons that over the next five years some 40% of the French population will have four companies competing to deliver fibre all the way to the home (FTTH), not the NBN’s fibre to the node (FTTN).
The OECD estimates that “Average demand of a household for bandwidth is expected to be around 50 Mbit/s downstream and 10-50 Mbit/s upstream for the period 2010-2020,” needed for the parallel consumption of HDTV, radio, videoconferencing, security — and as Crikey reader Brefney Ruhl wrote yesterday, everything connected with cloud computing.
During the Howard years, Australia dropped from the world’s third-best Internet infrastructure after the US and Finland to somewhere completely out of the top 10. Rudd’s building a below-average network, incapable of delivering even a quarter of the needed bandwidth. Or if Telstra gets its way, the bandwidth but to only 90% of the population.
When he starts building it, that is.
The Australia 2020 Summit was hardly aware the internet existed. The “governance” section of the Final Report of the Australia 2020 Summit mentioned it just twice seriously, and then only to say that, hey, it could be used, somehow. The other streams were equally clueless.
Then there’s Senator Conroy’s Rabbit-Proof Firewall. Despite wishful thinking by protect-the-children lobbyists, the government’s own research shows how deeply flawed any ISP-level filtering would be. This week The Greens announced their opposition to filters and Liberal Senator Nick Minchin labelled them “misguided and deeply unpopular”. The legislation won’t pass the Senate and, as one analysis suggests, without legislation it probably can’t be done.
But the government is continuing with more trials. Tuesday night @KevinRuddPM even tweeted “We’re waiting for tech evidence from a live trial but we’ll have more info online soon.” But the evidence already shows that filtering can never work. Asking the question again won’t give a different answer.
Sounds to me like they’re stalling. Or completely, utterly clueless.