This Charming Man…?

March 19, 2010

The Tragedy of the NBN

Filed under: nbn — ihaventgotastitchtowear @ 2:25 pm

For a $43billion project the National Broadband Network is a frustrating beast. And on so many levels. Let’s start with the first release sites. I can really only speak about Melbourne so I will. Brunswick. Yes really, Brunswick.

Let us not pretend that Brunswick is a centre of inner-city poverty. Friends of mine, have had to move from the area because of gentrification. I suppose you can still get a two bedroom house for just sub $1,000,000. Mind you if you spend that sort of money I suppose you should be able to get 100Mbps connectivity, I’m thinking with a mortgage like that you’d not get out much.

But there is a point here. There are areas of Melbourne with chronic poverty, under-achievement, and social disengagement; areas where broadband take-up is really low. What the NBN needs to deliver right out of the traps is how connectivity can benefit people who currently don’t have the infrastructure or the cash to pay for it. Believe me I like Lygon Street as much as anyone (and I actually live in Brunswick’s twin of St Kilda), but the good middle classes of Brunswick are not going to return the sort of social, economic or cultural changes that the NBN desperately needs to do to be seen as a viable business case. Today’s Age has this piece which completely misses the point of the NBN and plays into the why Brunswick argument. The NBN needs to get the message out that the project isn’t about quicker downloads from Youtube and faster World of Warcraft play, it’s about the democratising goods and services, health, education and information. It’s about tele-health, open content, collaboration, empowerment. It’s about equal health opportunities, connecting learners, aspiration rising; all up making a real difference to those who deserve the opportunity to make their lives richer.

And then we have the cost. There is no point in having 100Mbps with a 3Gb download. Seriously. Really. Do these people know how much 3Gb is? 5 movies from iTunes? 15 hours of Youtube? But how much video or dare to say it consumer telepresence? It really is like giving someone a Porche when we’ve run out of oil. Pointless. Also, I’m not sure I’ll be paying $150 for speed and a half decent package of bytes, either.

This project is seriously threatened by the inability of the NBN and the Government to raise aspirations of the people paying for it (us), to give a coherent vision of the future of what the technology can do. The real business cases are not being sold. At this is an open goal to those in parliament who don’t like it, can’t see the point, and want to shut it down.

I’d like to see more press on how the NBN is changing peoples lives, and a little less about the parliamentary point scoring on this.

The NBN is a great idea. It will radically change people’s lives. Can the NBN get a new PR agency please?



  1. Right on the money, Dave. The NBN can transform lives as long as the charging model enables it, (ie people can afford to use it) and we build stuff that takes advantage of it. While Brunswick may not be the ideal location to promote the NBN rollout, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. What we need to focus on now is great ideas that will use the NBN as it rolls out to transform education delivery, re-engage the disengaged, support participatory democracy, provide people in remote and regional Australia will comparable services (of many kinds) to those available to those in the city etc etc.

    Comment by Jen Millea — March 19, 2010 @ 2:32 pm | Reply

    • Absolutely – while I’m not a fan of means-testing, I wonder if it’s being considered? Or just the UK put 50c on the phone bill to subsidise connectivity.

      Comment by ihaventgotastitchtowear — March 19, 2010 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

  2. Hear hear in regard to your Brunswick argument – offering slightly improved connectivity to hipsters, students and rich professionals with RRR stickers on their European cars (plus the occasional remnant Turkish or Greek pensioner) isn’t going to make any kind of point to anyone.

    And yes, it makes sense put the broadband pilot where you can demonstrate a tangible benefit – such as Moe, a low socio-economic area where we’ve been working – and where nobody seems to be able to get a decent web connection.

    Could it be perhaps that Brunswick is in the band of recently marginal Labour inner-city seats, and the Feds are getting wind of just how ticked off people are with the State Govt, and Labour in general…particularly considering the spectre of Evil Conroy, whose proposed internet filter is turning us into the laughing stock of the developed world?

    Comment by stefan — March 19, 2010 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  3. We’ll need a 100Mbps to achieve an equivalent 5mpbs with the amazingly paranoid filter…

    Comment by ihaventgotastitchtowear — March 19, 2010 @ 3:16 pm | Reply

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