An Australian IT industry body has questioned the critical infrastructure of the National Broadband Network (NBN), refuting claims that demand for high-speed broadband is low.
The Information Technology Professionals Association (ITPA) - an 8,000-strong organisation representing the interests of the local industry - has struck out against the claims, branding NBN messaging as “alarmingly inconsistent”.
The refute comes in response to Bill Morrow, CEO of the company behind the rollout of the NBN, claiming that there is little, or no, demand for gigabit-per-second broadband speeds in Australia, a suggestion he defended despite strong industry criticism.
“We have roughly a million-and-a-half homes that can have the technology to give a gigabit-per-second service capability today,” Morrow reportedly said during nbn’s half-yearly financial results presentation on 9 February. “We have a product that we can offer the retailers should they want to sell it.
“The reality is that a couple of the retailers have signed up for a trial... looking at what a gigabit per second service might look like. But they have chosen not to offer that to the consumers.
“And you'd need to talk to them as to why, but I will presume it's because there isn't that big of a demand out there for them to actually develop a product to sell to those end users.”
With the comments swiftly picked up on by the local media, the ITPA has added its opinions to the mix, questioning the idea that no-one in Australia would be interested in speeds of 1Gbps even if it were available and free, with “no retail 1Gbps speed plans on offer from the retailers”.
“This stupendously ignorant and arrogant set of statements was then further contradicted by his suggestion that NBN doesn’t promote 1Gbps services because it's more important to get 25/50Mbps to everyone because this is what ‘the bulk of customers are opting for’,” ITPA President, Robert Hudson, said.
Hudson said a recent survey of ITPA members found that 96 per cent of respondents indicated they would be willing to pay more money for faster internet speeds (nominally over 100Mbps).
“Sure, they are digitally literate IT workers with a need for speed but they are also the people that are most likely to be aware of the potential for economic benefit that comes from the combination of digital technology and high speed broadband,” Hudson added.
According to Hudson, if the NBN delivered near-universal 1Gbps connectivity across Australia and it drove even a “tiny increase” to the country’s US$1.56 trillion GDP, the investment in building a truly national network would “pay for itself very quickly in tax revenue rises and economic growth”.
“Reduced costs of medical services would pay for it alone not to mention that the ensuing better health outcomes would reduce the volume of services required,” Hudson explained.
“Education is another key issue and represents another major benefactor from digital speed.
“We should be building the best, most reliable and future-proof national broadband network possible to give Australian public and private organisations the opportunity take advantage of efficiencies and improvements in service delivery and global competitiveness afforded by the digital revolution.”
Furthermore, Hudson said that if the Sydney Harbour Bridge was designed and built using the same processes as the NBN, it would be made of a random mix of wood, stone and steel pieces, and would vary in width from one end to the other.
“Thankfully John Bradfield recognised that the Harbour Bridge needed to serve Sydney for years to come, and we still use it successfully 85 years later,” he explained.
“Large portions of the NBN will be lucky to last a tenth of that before being completely worthless.
“Surely Australian taxpayers are not paying billions upon billions of dollars to build a network that cannot meet demand and that is ultimately constrained (in terms of internet speeds) by an ageing copper infrastructure that will be fraught with breakdowns in 10 years’ time?”