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

David Goldstein wavey_one at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 19 16:59:46 AEST 2010

Hi Robin,

The problem is it is likely Australia cannot afford not to invest in the 
proposed NBN. By limiting ourselves to your proposal will mean we fall behind 
almost every other developed country and many developing countries. Business 
will suffer as will individuals.

I've used these quotes elsewhere, but they are pertinent here and are from 
interesting articles:

"Geoff Huston, chief scientist at APNIC, said the Coalition's plan to fall back 
on technologies such as wireless would end up running into capacity constraints 
due to a lack of spectrum and make broadband prohibitively expensive ...for most 

"The lack of clarity in the opposition's broadband policy has led some industry 
experts to argue that mobile towers could increase by the thousands, to the tune 
of one every 500m in metro areas, to ensure the promise of the Coalition's 
min...imum 12Mbps internet service is met."

As for government's ability to deliver on time and on budget, well, it's easy to 
find projects where this doesn't happen. Of course the ones that are on time and 
on budget are not very interesting news. And government is much better placed at 
delivering such projects than the private sector. No doubt there are studies 
that will have shown what the true state of play would be.
So do I think the project can be delivered on time? Maybe. Do I think it can be 
delivered on budget? Probably. Do I think we have a choice? No.

----- Original Message ----
> From: Robin Whittle <rw at firstpr.com.au>
> To: link at anu.edu.au
> Cc: David Goldstein <wavey_one at yahoo.com>
> Sent: Thu, 19 August, 2010 3:50:28 PM
> Subject: Re: [LINK] NBN white-elephant-to-be: better spend the $$$ on other 
> Hi David,
> I didn't say that 100Mbps etc. was purely for couch potatoes.
> Obviously such speeds, upstream and downstream, will be valuable for
> some businesses and people at home, especially those working at home.
> If I thought the NBN could deliver its promises for $43B, then I
> wouldn't be so opposed to it.  $2k per person for comprehensively
> connecting all homes, offices, factories etc. seems like a pretty good
> deal.
> However, firstly I don't think the NBN deliver its promise at that
> price.  Secondly, even if it could, I am not sure that such a large
> amount of money should be spent on this goal of faster than DSL speeds
> for most of the country, when there are other urgent priorities with
> higher rates of return, financially, socially and environmentally.  As
> I mentioned, preventive health, health in general, education and
> development of massive solar thermal power stations all seem to me
> more important than giving most people faster than DSL speeds.
> Its not too hard to give everyone permanent Internet access - via DSL,
> HFC or 3G.  3G has speed and volume limitations, but it can still be
> used for getting to most of the population, since 3G does or will
> cover most places where people live, work and travel.  Internode
> offers 3G mobile for $15 a month, with 500MB of data.  This is with
> the Optus 3G network.  Telstra's NextG network has much greater
> coverage, and their prices are higher.  Still, 3G can give effectively
> permanent (untimed) Internet access for most of the population today,
> without much additional expenditure.  It can't do video speeds for all
> those people, but it can put them all on the Net, without tying up
> their phone lines or being depending on the DSL suitability of their
> phone line.
> Nor did I say the government should not be investing in broadband.
> However, $43B is way too much, I think.  Also, there's no way it can
> be done for this price.
> The costs of laying fibre in streets are enormous.
> There's an article in today's Age about cost blow-outs for the
> Victorian government building low-key railway stations, on existing
> lines, in flat paddock-like settings.  4 years ago, they were
> estimated to cost $20M - now the cost is $55M.
> Do you really think the NBN will be built, on time, on budget?  If so,
> please give some estimates of how much directional boring needs to be
> done, at what prices.  This is mainly in the street, but also getting
> new fibre cables into homes if their existing conduit isn't suitable.
> Even stringing cables from power poles, and doing drop wires to the
> homes involves a huge amount of work.  Fibre is not exactly dirt cheap
> either, and we need a lot of it.
> Also, the costs of labour-intensive fibre pulling and splicing on this
> massive scale.  Fibre splicing and testing of the splice is done with
> an extremely expensive fusion splicer, which welds the silica fibres
> together with an electric arc, while they are held in precise
> alignment so the core (10 microns or so) is lined up.  Before this is
> stripping and cleaving of the hair-thin fibres.  After this, and
> testing, is handling the fibre joins and tucking them away safely.
> This is extraordinarily fiddly stuff, which needs to be done with
> great skill, outdoors, all over Australia.
> Then there is the opto-electronic gear, most of which will come from
> overseas.
> It would be great to have the NBN.  But I can't see how it can be done
> for any cost we could actually afford, or that we would want to spend,
> given our other priorities.
>   - Robin


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