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

Birch, Jim Jim.Birch at dhhs.tas.gov.au
Fri Aug 20 17:48:42 AEST 2010

Robin Whittle wrote:

> I am replying to David Goldstein, Jim Birch and Jan Whitaker

Not replying really.  You are just repeating the original assertions and
chucking a few more incidental narrative points to bump your argument.

1.  You have not explained why your "hunch" on the cost on a
multi-billion dollar project should be taken seriously at all, let alone
why it can reasonably be expected to beat the structured approach of the
NBN, apart from your claim that they have a reason to cheat.

Reality check: If the NBN said they were proceeding (or not) on a hunch
about the cost they'd be sacked.  This absolutely beats me.  This is
akin to journalists claiming they know more about global warming that
thousands of trained peer-reviewed scientists, or taxi drivers who claim
to know how to run the economy because they talk to a lot of people.
Pure hubris.  (Can be Good Fun if not taken seriously.)

2.  You have just repeated your claim that having to splice spicing
optical cables is a renders the NBN unachievable or represents some kind
of serious challenge.  It's just not.  It is standard reliable
technology that is used worldwide all the time.  Personally, I wouldn't
pretend for a minute that I could cost the NBN but I am certain that the
cost of fibre spicing kits isn't going to pop up and whack their budget
because they failed to heed the warnings of Robin Whittle on Link.  Do
you really think they are that incompetent? 

3.  Other incidental details like whether the cables should be coiled in
pits should really be left to experts to assess.    (That is, unless
your proposing that the cable industry is collectively incompetent,
which would be a problem for the NBN.)  These are the kind of decisions
that cable planners and installers make every day.  The techniques and
trade-offs they use are interesting to some of us, including me, but
they just aren't make or break issues for the NBN.  The cost analysis
will take these things into account.

4. "What I wrote so far is cursory, but it is more substantial than
anything you have so far written or referred to."  Perhaps it is more
substantial than what we wrote, but we aren't claiming to have a better
estimate that the NBN's. You are.  Your analysis is completely cursory
at the standard required for a multibillion dollar project, get it?
Just imagine what people would say if the NBN's estimate included quotes
like "I recall the cost of boring past a single home was about $1000".  

Combining a few anecdotes and assertions into a narrative is journalism,
yes, possibly interesting, and maybe, unfortunately, modern political
discourse, but it's just not a realistic basis for estimating the cost
of major projects.  AFAICS you have said nothing substantive in that
regard; you have just reported a feeling you have that they are wrong,
apparently based on what appears to be largely irrelevant anecdotal
evidence like the price of fibre splicing kits.

5. As for your repeated claim that other projects are preferable, well,
perhaps.  The future is awaiting creative solutions, just show us some
solid costed proposals.  And get people interested in them.  The NBN
isn't really ruling anything out; in fact a successful NBN can
facilitate other big projects.  It seems to me that governments have
become way too timid in this area.

6. Whatever. 

I won't say any more on this; if you can't acknowledge this fundamental
problem with your position, so be it.

- Jim


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