Preliminary comments on BSEG report
Sun, 5 Mar 1995 23:30:28 +1000
I wrote Date: Wed, 1 Mar 1995 05:41:51 GMT:
>Here are some preliminary comments after a quick reading of the summary and
>recommendations of the "NETWORKING AUSTRALIA'S FUTURE", the final report
>of the Broadband Services Expert Group into new communications services
>launched in Sydney 11:00am Wednesday 1 March 1995 by the Prime Minister.
>...available on the Internet (http://www.dca.gov.au/intro.htm)...
This is to provide further comments on the recommendations, to thank the
networking community for its assistance in preparing the ACS submission and
to urge you to new efforts.
In 1993 Roger Clarke, Chair of the ACS Economic, Legal and Social Implications
Committee, asked me to co-author a paper on the implications of the
Information Superhighway for Australia. This paper became the ACS submission
to the various government and parliamentary enquiries on the Information
Superhighway (including the BSEG). It also formed the basis of the ACS's
draft InfoBahn policy.
In undertaking this project we tried to avoid the problems which occurred with
the process for the Research Data Networks Co-operative Research Centre.
Both the consultation process carried out by Government, and the result of
the RDN-CRC process were unsatisfactory.
We tried to involve the IT networking community, by circulating drafts for
comment on the Internet. This worked very well; with academic, government
and commercial IT people, ordinary community members, the IT press and
political IT advisors being involved. By the time the ACS submission was
complete, its content represented a rough consensus of the IT community and
had already largely been incorporated in the thinking of the various
Government enquiries and agencies.
The ACS and the networking community became closely involved with and assisted
the processes of the various enquires. As an example the ACS distributed the
initial BSEG discussion paper and call for submissions on the Internet for
the BSEG. Other organisations and individuals assisted with distributing
various items of information.
In the absence of any central Government co-ordinating agency or process, the
Internet and its forums (particularly Tony Barry's LINK mailing list at
ANU), provided the central clearing house for ideas and news. The results of
these discussions were incorporated by the participants in recommendations
and reports, to their various organisations. That process has perhaps been
more effective and served Australia better, than a conventional consultative
process would have.
I would like to thank all of those, who contributed to the discussion of
theses issues via the Internet. The BSEG final report incorporates most of
the recommendations of the ACS's submission and addresses most of the issues.
However this is not the end of the process. The BSEG report is a set of
recommendations to Government. Governments have less enthusiasm for
implementing recommendations when it comes to spending money, giving up
power to other bodies, or when the election is over. Also Governments can
The next stage in the process is to assist the Australian community with
putting the best of the recommendations of the BSEG into practice (and
improving the not so good recommendations). This will involve more direct
lobbying of the current Government and opposition. It will also involve the
members of the networking community in demonstrating that the vision of a
networked nation, can be implemented for the benefit of the whole community.
COMMENTS ON BSEG FINAL REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS
* LINKS TO SCHOOLS AND OTHER COMMUNITY GROUPS
As recommended by the ACS.
Will need to do a bit of work on the details of funding. The report appears to
assume two distinct networks with different architectures: a short term
narrow bandwidth Internet one and a longer term Broadband one. It is like
that there will be one network, using an amalgum of networking technologies
* NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR BROADBAND NETWORKING IN EDUCATION
As recommended by the ACS.
- TAFEs: This is a bit of a forgotten sector for IT investment. As an example
the ACS Canberra Branch has made representations to the ACT Government for
the provision of an adequate Internet connection to the Canberra Institute
of Technology (previously ACT TAFE).
- Community organisations: Many of these groups are ready now with proposals
for providing training to the community. If someone in the Government has
there chequebook handy, the ACS has proposals on hand from the Rozelle
Neighbourhood Centre (fax: 02 8108532) and National Shelter (fax 06 2571814)
for setting up community based network projects.
- Libraries and telecentres: It may be appropriate to set up a national
telecentres program, modelled on the Department of Primary Industries and
Energy "Rural Telecentres" program.
* INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT PLANS
The report recommends cable network operators implement industry development
plans. It is not clear why this requirement should be limited to one
delivery technology (cable). There is the possibility that cable could be
superseded by broadband wireless "microcell" technology in the next few
* EXTENSION OF NETWORKS
The report recommends that telecommunications carriers and broadband network
operators report network strategies to government. This appears to envisage
a new class of telecommunications company ("Broadband carrier") and
regulation of them. This does not appear to fit with the move to
simplification of the regulatory environment.
* SERVICES AND APPLICATIONS
As recommended by the ACS.
* LOCAL CONTENT
The report recommends 10% Australian content for Broadband entertainment and
information services. This would appear to envisage the creation of another
class of regulated organisation and regulation of currently unregulated
activities. The report assumes that the industry will be dominated by a few
large commercial for-profit organisations, which can be regulated. The BSEG
appears to have forgotten the lesson of the Internet and assumes that
Government will discover some way to impose restrictions on information
received directly from overseas.
* GOVERNMENT USE OF NETWORKS
The BSEG did not adopt the ACS recommendation for Government information to be
made freely available on the public data network. The proposal for a fund,
to encourage agency projects would appear to be a less certain way to ensure
that Australian citizens have a right to free access to publicly owned
* OPEN ACCESS TO NETWORKS
As recommended by ACS.
Part of ACS recommendation adopted:
Apart from privacy, other civil rights in cyberspace, such as of assembly and
freedom of speech, were not addressed in the BSEG recommendations.
* CONDITIONAL ACCESS SYSTEM
Not recommended by ACS:
The report recommends applying the existing censorship system to commercially
available material on networks. However it is difficult to envisage how this
would work. In its submission on the regulation of Bulletin Boards, the ACS
warned of the difficulty of regulation and possible infringing civil
liberties. This is a difficult area and the ACS will be putting forward
detailed recommendations from its joint "Freedom in Cyberspace" task force
with Electronic Frontiers Australia.
* NATIONAL INFORMATION SERVICES COUNCIL
As recommended by ACS. Do we get a seat on it? :-)
* MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL INFORMATION SERVICES
As recommended by ACS:
There are already effective bodies operating at a lower working level, which
provide a suitable model (Commonwealth/State Internet Working Party an the
Commonwealth Internet Reference Group). These groups have already provided a
co-ordinated, consistent "whole-of-government" Internet service for
Australia, which compares well with the work of other nations.
* BROADBAND STANDARDS ADVISORY GROUP
As recommended by ACS:
The ACS's Technical Board, which has various technical committees and
representation on Standards Australian and international bodies, may be able
* RESEARCH INTO CONSUMER NEEDS
The report proposes research by a government agency, such as the Bureau of
Transport and Communications Economics. This research might be better done
through non-government research bodies, which have experience and expertise
in this field. This might be undertaken by a "virtual" organisation
operating over the Internet. The research work on academic electronic
publishing, being coordinated by the AVCC, may serve as a model.
NEXT STEP: AFTER THE FINAL REPORT
CO-ORDINATION: There is still no central co-ordinating Government agency or
process for InfoBahn issues in Australia. Responsibility is distributed
between various agencies at the federal level, primarily: Prime Minister &
Cabinet; Department of Communications and Arts; Department of Employment
Education and Training; and Department of Industry, Science and Technology.
The agencies have set up various InfoBahn related units (such as the new DOCA
Information Networks Taskforce). Unfortunately these bodies are still
learning to use the technology to communicate and are less able to
co-ordinate with each other, than the established informal newtorking
In the absence of a Government focus, the Internet will continue to act as the
central clearing house for ideas. In addition the ACS and other bodies will
be running conferences and seminars, at which the issues can be discussed
(and provide a rare opportunity for some of us to meet face to face).
THE WORLD IS WATCHING: Australia is a significant player in the InfoBahn
field, due primarily to the quality and energy of its IT research community.
We have the facilities and the "talent" to promote Australia's capabilities,
in the world of culture and commerce. There are a handful of Australian
individuals and projects which are known internationally, via the Internet.
These can be nurtured and emulated.
Unfortunately our Government representatives and companies, have been slow to
learn the new skills needed for this. Hopefully Australia's lack of input to
the recent G7 InfoBahn meeting, will be an isolated incident.
BSEG Final Report: http://www.dca.gov.au/toc.htm
ACS submission: ftp://archie.au/ACS/ACS-policy-networking-abstract-draft.txt
ACS/EFA Task force on "Freedom in Cyberspace": e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
ACS Multimedia InfoBahn Conference: http://acslink.net.au/~tomw/conf95br.html
14th World Computer Congress: http://acslink.net.au/~tomw/ifip96br.html
Tom Worthington Ph: +61 6 2474830 Pager: +61 6 2856209
Director of the Community Affairs Board Fax: +61 6 2496419
Australian Computer Society Inc.
G.P.O. Box 446, Canberra A.C.T. 2601, Australia
E-mail: email@example.com Home page: http://www.acslink.net.au/~tomw/
ABOUT THE ACS: The Australian Computer Society is the professional
association in Australia for those in the computing and information
technology fields. Established in 1966, the ACS has over 15,000 members and
on a per capita basis is one of the largest computer societies in the world.
Activities are announced in the Usenet newsgroup "aus.org.acs". Information
is available via e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org.