Opinion: The faster the better

Just get on with supplying fast broadband and stop the posturing, politicians and know-it-alls alike

Sometimes it’s hard to believe we live in a intelligent and aware society.

Over the past 18 months I’ve watched as the National Broadband Network (NBN) has been tossed around with, at times, little regard for what it really represents by both sides of the polical fence.

It has become the proverbial political football. How sad.

Before we get started I’ll state my politics so there’s no accusations of my having a political agenda with this piece. Frankly, both major parties are sad and sorry cases, right now, neither deserving of my support. I wish one was. Politics at both Federal and State levels is about as low as it can go.

The NBN is a desperately needed in Australia. I don’t care which party puts it up, implements it, rolls it out.

Labor happened to get in first. That said, the Liberal party deserves a walloping over how it has handled its opposition to the NBN. Yes, it should hold the Government accountable for any slowness in the roll-out, budget over spend, deviation from the orginal plan, and so on. But inanely opposing it for the sake of opposing it ranks of little vision or understanding.

Opposition telecoms spokesperson and chief NBN-basher, Malcolm Turnbull, has yet to come up with a sophisticated option and I would suggest any attempt to stop the NBN dead in its tracks with the rollout well underway should the Liberal party come to power at the next election would rank with the all-time most stupid political acts.

This is all so simple. It isn’t about politics, it’s about Australia and it’s position in the world. It’s about standard of living, economics, and competing on the world stage. Australia needs a world-class broadband network if it is going to compete successfully. Right now, it has a fairly ordinary broadband system.

You think not. Let’s look at some facts.

State of the Internet

According to the world recognised State of The Internet, fourth quarter, 2011 report, from Akamai Technologies, the top three countries in the Asia-Pacific region for average connection speed in Megabits per second (Mbps) were South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong. South Korea remained a clear first, with an average connection speed of 17.5 Mbps leading both Japan and Hong Kong (both 9.1 Mbps) by over 8 Mbps. Australia came in a distant fourth with an average connection speed of 4.9 Mbps, just ahead of Singapore (4.6).

On the world stage it’s even worse - Australia doesn’t rate near the top 10 countries - South Korea 17.5 Mbps, Japan 9.1, Hong Kong 9.1, Netherlands 8.2, Latvia 7.8, Switzerland 7.3, Ireland 6.8, Czech Republic 6.7, Romania 6.4, Belgium 6.1. The US manages 13th with 5.8 Mbps. Canada isn’t far behind far behind at 5.6 Mbps, the UK is even with Australia and a host of European countries beat both.

Competition So you get the picture. Australia is not competing on the world stage. Even worse it isn’t on the same page in Asia-Pac. In a mobility-obsessed and driven business world a fast broadband network is not only essential it’s mandatory.

On a personal level, I recently moved to Manly. To get a decent basic broadband connection I had to change ISPs because it turns out only one really services the suburb.

That is wrong, as well. Unfortunately, Manly is not scheduled for NBN connection until beyond 2015.

And before you say I live in a tech bubble, believe me I don’t. Yes, I’m the editorial director of a tech-related mag, yes I’m a bit of an Apple fiend, but as much of my spare time as possible is spent outdoors – fishing, preferably in places where’s the no tech, no mobile coverage and no people.

But at work - both at home and in the office - I use the Internet a lot - and I mean, a lot. The faster the better. And I’m not alone in that. Education, e-Health, big business, finance, IT and a zillion other sectors are also going to benefit. Time equals money.

So please stop the political hairspray, stop the inane posturing – on both sides. Turnbull and co may be bad, but Conroy’s press releases have to be read to believed – every step is accompanied by rhetoric about the NBN and/or a demonstration of the benefits of the NBN. The hyperbole is as awful as it is repetitive and boring. Just give Australia a decent broadband network, please. We need it.