[LINK] NBN white-elephant-to-be: better spend the $$$ on other things

Richard Chirgwin rchirgwin at ozemail.com.au
Thu Aug 19 13:06:18 AEST 2010

I think the argument of what one individual needs, in one place at one 
time, ignores several dimensions of the debate.

1. The infrastructure to a place isn't solely to meet the needs of 
today's householder

I would probably buy a more budget 20 Mbps plan if / when the NBN 
arrives, reasoning that I don't need a gigabit per second. But people 
are mobile; and even where I live, I can see businesses near enough to 
be in the same putative fibre serving area, who may well need more than 
my home.

Installing a differentiated network - here are households, here are 
businesses, design different networks for the two - would probably be 
more expensive than saying "here's a connection, buy whatever you choose".

And we're a very mobile population - something like 17% of families move 
each year? (no checked) - so it's impossible to judge tomorrow's 
customer based on today's occupant.

2. I heard the IPA's Oliver Hartwich on the radio a short while ago, 
putting the argument that the ISDN experience demonstrated why the NBN 
is a bad idea - because ISDN became obsolete so quickly. Instead, it 
demonstrates how easy it is to get an argument "nearly right".

ISDN wasn't the copper network; it was the attached equipment. And yes, 
it was obsoleted fairly quickly by ADSL. But note that ISDN and ADSL 
didn't obsolete the copper they ran on: either could be attached. 
Attacking it based on analogy is a quicksand.

The NBN can rightly be attacked on better grounds, such as the business 
plan question.

3. Nobody else, except perhaps for builders of project homes, builds to 
today's requirements alone. An example: the pylons of Grand Pacific 
Drive are designed to survive inundation, without maintenance, for 70 
years. Over-built? Yes: but the option would have been something that 
needed maintenance that probably wouldn't get done. The designers chose 
to over-build the pylons because re-building them after the inevitable 
"we can't afford the maintenance" would be even more expensive.

I am reminded of the notion that only rich people can really afford to 
live cheaply: if you can afford the outlay, you can buy shoes that will 
last a lifetime, instead of buying ten times as many shoes at Target 
over the same period. So regarding the NBN: if we can buy shoes that 
last a lifetime, why would we go to Target?


Ned Lukies wrote:
> On 17/08/2010, at 11:43 PM, Robin Whittle wrote:
>> Its a mistake to think all this could be done for $43B.  This sort of
>> massive expenditure would have to be at the expense of other vital
>> priorities such as health, welfare, education, renewable energy
>> research etc.  Most people having fibre is a luxury we can't afford.
>> DSL is fine for most purposes.  The only thing fibre does better is
>> support high quality video streaming.  Why spend tens of billions of
>> dollars for the benefit of couch potatoes?
> I would be happy with DSL, even happier with ADSL2. My ADSL2+ connection currently syncs at about 1900kbs, and drops out about 8 times a day (more when it is raining, where it can become unusable). Telstra have looked at the line many a time, nothing can really be done about it. No, I don't live in the middle of nowhere, I am less than 2km from the Brisbane CBD. 
> DSL is great when it works, but there are a large number of places and situations where it doesn't and from my understanding, the problem is only going to get worse as more and more people use it. The situation at my work is even worse, the lack of DSL ports has lead us to purchase a 4mb symmetrical fibre connection with 60gb of data per month. All for the measly price of $140 per day, yes per day. At that rate, ~$2000 to install fibre to the house doesn't sound like a lot. 
> Some of us need a reliable Internet connection to work. I am sick of people assuming that just because I think fibre is the way to go I must sit around downloading pr0n and warez all day. 
> Ned
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