Yesterday the federal government announced that it’ll give Optus $1 billion to provide wireless broadband to the bush. Good on ’em. Sorting out broadband Internet access was an election promise back in 1995, so it’s only taken 11+ years!
Just think about that. In 1995, a cutting-edge PC was an Intel 486 DX66 with 64MB of RAM and a 2x CD drive. The year’s big software release was Windows 95 — the very first version of Windows with Internet connectivity built-in.
Senator Coonan rejects the claim that the Government has been left behind. “You can’t really say that,” she says, “when you look at the Government’s record in rolling out broadband.”
Can’t you, Senator?
So how come back in 1995, Australia was third in the world in terms of Internet bandwidth and computing power per head of population, while today after a decade of Howard at the helm we don’t even make the top 10?
[Update 22 June 2007: I’m amazed no-one picked up the most obvious mistake in this post. The Optus/Elders plan may be costed at $2 billion but only half of that comes from the taxpayers. I’ve edited the post to fix the mistake.]
10 Replies to “Investigating broadband takes 11 years!”
Crikey has asked me to write an article based on this blog post, to be published in tomorrow’s edition. I know what I’ll be doing tonight — apart from configuring a computer to be installed at a client’s premises tomorrow.
Why was this not the lead article in The OZ when Howard and his crew announced his hopelessly inadequate scheme to modernize broadband? Maybe the OZ is biased? Howard and Coonan are out of their depth and need to vacate the cow patch.
The issue is surely what we are doing WITH bandwidth, rather than whether we’re first or third or thirty third in the broadband stakes, in traditional measures of teledensity (lines installed, call time per capita, residential calls pa) or in “computing power per head of population”.
The ITU and OECD both publish detailed statistics (vigorously criticised and defended) on teledensity and shipments of personal computers (“computing power”). Readers often infer that shipment = use = productive use rather than a $2,500 executive paperweight.
Sundry businesses and academic institutions offer international “e-readiness”, “most-wired”, “e-competitive” and “cyber-capable” rankings … pick a name, pick the figures, ignore questions about the quality of the source data and its interpretation
We shouldn’t be surprised at the backward techno brians in charge.
After all it was the Great leader Menzies who told the CSIRO to stop working on computing in the 50’s, and cosentrate on cloud seeding to make rain.
@GuyMax: The Australian biased? Heaven forbid!
@Tobias: You’re quite right, it certainly makes a big difference to our economy and the health of our nation generally whether that 12Mb of bandwidth is used to watch yet another Hollywood movie or, say, collaborate on a 3D model for a new manufacturing process.
However I think the core issue is still there. Australia was up there with the digital elite a decade ago, and since then other nations have overtaken us. I think that’s an embarrassment.
A couple of percentage points either way probably doesn’t matter. But it’s the trend and the underlying attitude to policy that we should be worried about — and the minor fact that this was all promised as a priority more than a decade ago.
@John Ward: Whatever happened to the cloud seeding, I wonder?
I find it hard to believe that a computer in 1995 had 64MB of RAM. My 486 had 8MB RAM which was good at the time considering that RAM cost about $90 per MB in 1995.
@Matt: You’re quite right. In 1995 I was working on multimedia projects (read: CD-ROM) which had to meet the Multimedia PC Level 2 (MPC2) standard, which was a minimum 25MHz processor, 4MB of RAM and 16-bit audio. I was lucky enough to be given a PC with 64MB RAM to develop on — the “cutting edge” PC I referred to. Wow, have times changed!
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