10 September 2010
It's amazing to think that this election was largely decided by the issue of broadband - by a man who admits to not even using a computer himself. But even without personal knowledge and skills one can still be a visionary. And this is what Tony Windsor has demonstrated, describing broadband policy as a "game breaker":
"You do it right, you do it once, you do it fibre."
The full benefits of the national broadband network won't be realised by many people during their own lifetimes. It's younger people, and future generations, who will see more of the benefit. It is a nation-building project. This is why it doesn't need to show instant return on investment. But even octogenarians and nonagenarians can expect to see transformations in health and communications services in the next few years.
In fact the NBN isn't nearly as expensive as its opponents like to claim. Its cost equates to just 0.5% of GDP over eight years. The OECD has calculated that such a network could lead to GDP savings of between 0.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent - more than covering the cost.
The Coalition deserves shame and derision for the lies and ignorance it displayed with its "broadband" policy. Tony Smith clearly had no understanding of what peak and achievable speeds were, let alone which measure his risible hotpotch 12mbps wireless network was promising - "technical ignorance on a national scale", as Internode's John Lindsay described it.
The cold hard fact is that wireless is not fast as fibre optic cable, and will likely never be.
The International Telecommunications Union already has standards for fibre-optic cable to provide speeds of 100Gbps. Speeds of 640Gbps have been demonstrated in test conditions. Terabit ethernet is also already a technical possibility.
Whereas current 4G wireless standards, which are not even expected to be finalised before 2011-2013, do not provide for speeds higher than 1Gbps.
But all things said, the Coalition's "budget NBN" wasn't really a policy. It was nothing more than electioneering: a cheap shot to try and make the real NBN look expensive and unnecessary. And ultimately it proved to be a home goal.
Tony Windsor says he hasn't even got a computer on his desk: "...but I've got people in here who can." The chances are he listens to those people, and observes how they use technology. The Coalition either didn't, or didn't care.
A century ago, one didn't need a pilot's licence to realise that air travel would transform the world. Nor do you need a PhD in fibre optics to be a visionary about a future with ubiquitous, ultra-fast broadband.
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