Many IT-savvy Australians and industry experts think the policy is terrible, but the Coalition’s broadband strategy could be a successful play for the mainstream vote.
In speaking with the ISP industry, ARN found most were critical of the Coalition’s plan and supportive of the Government’s National Broadband Network.
“[The Coalition] hasn’t given it the sort of thought or in-depth consideration that we would have expected,” iiNet chief regulatory officer, Steve Dalby, said. “It’s likely to be outstripped by demand in a short space of time.”
Industry bodies that represent technology companies around Australia were worried about the policy and gave it a thumbs down.
“The general consensus is that it was a bit short of the mark,” Australian Computer Society CEO, Bruce Lakin, said. “I’d personally leave the Coalition in a failing grade…it doesn’t seem to be technically elegant or offer the platform to move with the evolution of technology.”
The mood from commenters on ARN was no better, with many blasting the Coalition and its plan as inferior.
“What a total waste of $6billion!” singo79 said. “This plan it outdated on paper, it was outdated back in 2006 when they thought the plan up and it will be a decade behind if it was ever to get rolled out.
“We have already outgrown 12Mbps and it is an absolute insult to be told by a lacklustre Liberal Party that it is state of the art.”
But the simple fact is the Coalition never planned on winning over the IT industry or tech-savvy Australians. Instead, the target audience is everyday Australians who want faster Internet without spending huge sums of cash.
Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, was slammed by many Net-dwellers for coming out on the 7:30 Report and rebutting host Kerry O’Brien’s questions with the comment, "I’m no Bill Gates here, and I don’t claim to be any kind of tech-head in all of this”, when failing to answer questions.
The majority of Australia will identify with these comments. With illegal immigration, the environment, the mining tax and now high-speed rail on the agenda, a leader that delegates because he doesn’t know what “peak speed” Internet rates are is not going to become a pariah.
Abbott’s use of these terms is also important because most Australians don’t see themselves as ‘tech-heads’ and consider Bill Gates to be little more than a wealthy nerd that makes Windows. By citing those two points, he has connected with plenty of everyday voters.
The fact of the matter is that sacrificing the NBN and spending its money in other portfolios was always the main game.
During the well-rehearsed ICT Policy debate in Canberra, it was clear that Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, was playing for the audience. He made technical jokes that the IT executives laughed at and demanded answers on hot-button topics like “spectrum availability”.
In contrast, Shadow Communications Minister, Tony Smith, made simpler statements assuring Australia that his plan would offer faster Internet than they currently experience for a fraction of a price.
Or as he put it at the press conference, “It’s proportional, sensible and responsible.”
As soon as the cameras turned off and the networking began, Conroy and Ludlam stayed to talk with the industry as Smith made a swift ‘exit-left’ before the tough conversations could come.
But the Coalition’s strategy isn’t that one-dimensional. It has put several billion dollars into getting faster Internet and offered 60-70,000km of back-haul fibre along with fixed wireless and satellite services and the result is that most in the industry see it as a positive step in the right direction with plenty of technical limitations.
In this situation it is ironically Conroy’s excess of intelligence that has stifled his ability to fight back. The Minister came out swinging and demanded to know what spectrum the new wireless broadband would be provided in.
He also challenged the ability of hybrid fibre-coaxial systems to support 100Mbps burst speeds for a series of users connected on a single network while claiming LTE download speeds could not be sustained with user loads when moving further away from mobile phone towers.
All of these are excellent points and none of them will translate well in mainstream publications or on television news programs.
The bottom line is the Coalition’s offer in the final stretch is a solution it acknowledges is worse than Conroy’s. But it’s better than what most Australians have right now and it will cost them far less money.