back to article Reg to Australia: Here's your chance to find NBN answers

The Register is tired of Australia's broadband debate. As we explained yesterday, we're sick of the tribalism, parochialism and politicking. We think Australia should be tired too, and want to do something about it. Our something is an attempt to crowdfund an independent study into three big NBN questions that have gone …

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Anonymous Coward

Commendable

I shall gladly make a modest contribution towards something that should have been done years ago by the government. Before spending billions, that is.

I have no doubt that Wayne Swan will be eager to chuck in a few quid. /s

Alternatively, you may find it easier to qualify for an Arts grant. You don't mind wearing funny costumes and expressing your results in the form of interpretive dance, do you?

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Sucking the marrow from the NBN

Nice.

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Damn Straight

And a follow up study for the UK rural areas?

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Happy

Shirt

Happily gave a bit to further a Reg project, but it's too bad there weren't rewards (tee-shirt...) for those not interested or impacted by the NBN project.

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Anonymous Coward

What's your planned outcome ?

Assume that you get your 250K and conduct your study. What next ? Do you guys have a seat at the table ?

Let's assume for the sake of argument, the study backs FTTP. Do you think the Liberal party will look at this and say 'Gee I guess we were wrong, we'll do FTTP'. Similarly, should the study back FTTN do you think the supporters of FTTP will meekly role over and say 'Gee, I guess we were wrong, we'll now support FTTN'.

Put it another way. When was the last time an independent study on anything closed down debate and rallied everyone to a common position ?

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: What's your planned outcome ?

The outcome is simple: get the study into the debate. Distribute it widely. Make sure all media that report NBN-related matters get the study, understand its key points and use it to further their work.

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Bronze badge

Re: What's your planned outcome ?

Any form of informed debate on *any* Australian political issue will be welcome. Most of what passes for debate here is simply politicians slinging slogans around. If this one works, maybe Simon can turn his attention to the refugee "debate", the republican "debate", etc, etc..

Oh, and if we're up for a bit of interpretative dance, I'm happy to meet in the National Rose Garden at OPH. :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What's your planned outcome ?

Good luck.

Honestly tho'. If you really want to influence the direction of the NBN and you have 250K, don't waste it on yet more paper. Spend it lobbying Malcom Turnbull.

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Debate ?

Since when did "debate" have anything to do with outcomes in Australian political life? The "debate" should have ended years ago and workers in a dying motor vehicle industry should be deployed doing something useful.

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Urh
Flame

Re: What's your planned outcome ?

"Any form of informed debate on *any* Australian political issue will be welcome."

The thing is, the NBN really isn't a political issue at all, it's the closest thing you can get to a pure engineering problem in public discourse. The fact that such an important infrastructure project is being debated (and put at serious risk) by a bunch of technologically ignorant fuckwits simply re-affirms my belief that we are entering an age where politicians are becoming increasingly obsolete and are actually becoming an impediment (rather than an enabler) of human progress.

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Anonymous Coward

Not thought out, not listening

I'm sorry, but just plain no.

Even after comments yesterday, you are ploughing ahead with what appears to be an ill thought out waste of money.

Specifically:

* A market research firm will only turn out short term, poorly researched, justification for your original point of view. They just aren't up to this kind of future focused study (and it seems neither are you, given your starting premiss, even after the comments). It's the kind of thing useless CEOs commission to justify the course of action they are already set on. They charge accordingly.

* What are you going to do with it? Nobody will take any notice, except if you come out with something one of the political parties agrees with; when they will champion it, and the other rubbish. Still doesn't change anything.

* Are you really looking for crowdfunding, or is this a stalking horse for a bung? There's no way that individuals are going to stump up that kind of cash; but a business or political player might pay for something that gives them what they want from an 'independent' source. Is that what you are up to?

Don't waste the time or money. Instead work out how abbott can be pushed into true NBN support, and how benefits can be realised quickly. Focus on creating the pull such that it can't be screwed up by the politicians. With your readership and competencies, that's much more likely to achieve something.

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Re: Not thought out, not listening

Maybe you're wrong? Given the failures of NBN Co and politicians this far maybe something independent needs to happen. Currently there are two dud options on the table driven by politics rather than national desire or need.

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Bronze badge

Nope, not me.

For one thing, that first question is short-sighted.

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>what broadband does Australia need?

Australia needs moderately priced, widespread broadband in the speed range of 25-50mbit.

>what's the best technology to deliver the broadband Australia needs.

What ever fits the bill, a mix of technologies to suite the local area. FTTH/N for dense deployments, wireless for rural and sat for others.

>What will be the entrepreneurial response to universal broadband.

About fuck all in this country, anyone serious runs their equipment in a data center and they are expensive.

Pricing out a basic 1/4 rack in Melbourne came to about $35,000 over two years, not to bad, but that wasn't even guaranteed 100mbit. Gigabit and a couple of TB a month? Bend over

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Paris Hilton

I'm divided

On one hand I applaud the initiative but on the other hand I agree with a number of points outlined by other posters about what to do with the completed study (although not to the extremities that they have posted).

I too would also agree that some of the questions need to be shaped better, that first one IMHO should read more:

"What broadband infrastructure does Australia need for the next 20-30 years" as this, as I understand it, is the main premise of the NBN and I don't believe there has been a solid answer to this question by anyone.

The remaining two questions can be shaped after this one.

Anyway a good idea but I am not too sure about the execution nor the potential use post completion. (need to have a clearly defined strategy for use post completion perhaps?)

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The Answers to NBN Questions

1. What do we REALLY NEED?

We need reliable, affordable and secure digital communications. The speed of communications is less important.

2. What's the BEST TECHNOLOGY to build with?

Fibre optic cable to the home and business premises is the best long term investment. Fibre should be installed in green-fields sites, such as new housing, where there was nothing installed before. It is not worth installing new hybrid fibre/copper networks. But the existing hybrid fibre/copper pay TV networks should continue to be used up to the end of their economic life. Similarly relatively new copper should be kept, but the oldest replaced. Also use of wireless should be considered alongside cable.

In other words, the Government's NBN plan should be slowed down and some money saved, but the opposition's plan to install new hybrid networks should not be implemented. Both government and opposition plans envisage using wireless for much of the network and this should proceed as planned.

* What happens AFTER we build the NBN?

The fibre will be usable for decades, perhaps hundreds of years, with the electronics upgraded every few decades to increase the speed. There is less scope for speeding up hybrid fibre/copper systems and they should be replaced with fibre eventually. Wireless system will gradually encroach on the market for cable systems, but there will still be a place for cable for high speed, security and reliability.

But the really interesting question is what do we do with all this bandwidth? Apart from ultra-high quality TV, there is no foreseeable "need" for the speed at present. Applications such as education, tele-working and tele-health work fine on current broadband.

What we need to do now is worry about the security and reliability of the NBN: Will it be secure against cyber-warfare? Will it work in floods, cyclones and brushfires?

Also we need to worry about skilling up the Australian workforce to use broadband technology. We don't want to invest in all this expensive technology and just use it to watch telly.

More at: http://blog.tomw.net.au/search/label/NBN

ps: Can I have the $250,000 consultancy fee now? ;-)

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Re: The Answers to NBN Questions

You list affordable in the first answer and then go on to contradict yourself in the other answers. I've donated 100 bucks to this and I hate the NBN. Hopefully the questions cover the areas of interest to myself... I think there will be a little to learn from this report.

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Headmaster

Re: The Answers to NBN Questions

I'd question your statement about current technology being sufficient for education. I'm a technologist in vocational education and we can implement significant changes to the way we deliver workplace-based training once a critical mass have access to broadband capable of streaming in HD. The average ADSL line doesn't allow us to accurately assess plumbers, nurses and hairdressers without them prerecording their work and then uploading it to our servers. Until a significant number of clients have such a connection, it is not economically viable for us to change our delivery models.

I suspect that medical treatment will benefit in a similar way.

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Im happy to put up $100au (and have). Will make sure I put forward some good logic to those that do the study. If this kind of thing can gain traction im sure there will be good benefit for the NBN debate, and something those of us who want it can reference in our discussions. No doubt for the register will also benifit for organising it, and that is fair.

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Also what we need should be better defined. We dont need the internet at all, but it sure has benefits to the economy and quality of life. Perhaps what can we use, or what we need to compete with europe/asia and the usa in the cloud based services market.

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WTF?

First define the purpose

The first step should be to define the purpose of the NBN.

If you listen go Gillard and Swan it is about eHealth, eLearning, etc. These programs require 100Mbps or faster to really work well, yet the NBNCo Corporate Plan clearly predicts that 50% of fibre connections will be 12Mbps (ignoring the fixed wireless and satellite which are also 12Mbps). Either Gillard and Swan don't believe in the programs they are promoting or don't understand what NBNCo are delivering under their instructions.

Personally, I think that eHealth and eLearning can deliver significant benefits, particularly to the disadvantaged and housebound, but we need to then deliver fast speeds at reasonable prices. Essentially ditch the speed tiers, charge a minimal access fee and charge for the data.

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Urh
FAIL

Too bad this study will be completely useless...

....At least when it comes to helping voters make up their mind, because there's no way that this study will be completed before the election. If this crowdfunding campaign had been initiated when the election was announced, I'd be right behind it. As it stands, it's too little, too late. When you consider the sheer arrogance and intransigence of their leadership, I very much doubt that a future Coalition government would listen to an independent study (that they didn't fund) which says that FTTN is a crock of shit.

Under Howard we had the World's Biggest Luddite(tm) at the helm of telecommunications policy. Expect more technologically misinformed blunders under Abbott.

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Yes for an independent review.

I pledged $100 last night.

I don't think the answers to these questions will make any difference at all politically.

But I pledged for 2 reasons:

1) We need to have sensible debate and research on this coming from a non-political source.

2) If the crowd funding project reaches at least the minimum target it will highlight that this is an important topic for many Australians - so much so that they are willing to pay money to get the real facts.

I hope they expand enough on the 2nd question to include cost comparison.

My personal answers would go like this:

----- What do we REALLY NEED? ----

No we don't need it. Communities live perfectly fine without internet. Some do without electricity as well.

Although we don't NEED a fibre NBN - if we WANT to be competitive and perhaps even a leader in technology, education, research (etc)... Then we really SHOULD have a fibre network. I would also use future profits to continue expanding this network as much as possible.

Having a reliable and fast communication technology will allow a generation of inspiration and experimentation to dream up ideas that cannot current exist.

Do we need it? No. Should we do it. Yes.

----- What's the BEST TECHNOLOGY to build with? -----

Near 100% Fibre – With a mix of other supporting technologies.

----- What happens AFTER we build the NBN? -----

We become a pirate country – we change our flag to Skull and Bones...

Ok – seriously, this is imaginary land – did anyone realise all the potential uses of oil when first discovered? First as a fuel – now it’s is almost every product we own/Use if one form or the other.

Some ideas:

Virtual HD 3D stores with real shopping assistance to answer your questions and help you pick out clothes.

Virtual home previews. A store could create an application for either your phone (connected to your local fibre supported wireless network) or computer with camera that allows you to view your home, whilst showing their virtual products in your home.

Home Office

TeleHealth

Online Band. I am in a band – getting together is often a hassle, but each of us has the ability to connect our instruments to our computers (I have an electronic drumkit). A online band would be fantastic.

But you need low latency, fast speed and a reliable connection. Currently I have neither. My line drops out in rain (or even threat of rain). It is slow – and has dropped in speed continually over the years.

It may one day be possible to sing virtually a long side your favourite rock star while they perform live and play next to your favourite drummer/guitarist etc while they play live.

3D HD Education – Not just great for science. All education will benefit – but education that uses 3D objects/experiments will benefit the most. Science, Architecture, Engineering, Drama, Music etc...

Interactive 3D gatherings. (It will not be long before ideas like Google Glass and other (currently available headsets) improve to allow you to meet up with friends and family in a 3D environment).

4k TV sets are already out and dropping in price rapidly, the next generation (8k) is already planned. Without Fibre you will not be able to take advantage of these resolutions for normal tv/streaming content.

Virtual 3D stores will soon go hand in hand with increasingly popular 3D printers. You will soon be able to explore a shop virtually, find an object you want to buy – and it downloads and prints for you.

Always online - Interactive HD 3D entertainment is the future – you already have the latest XBOX forcing your box to connect once a day. For the technologically advanced society – having a permanent online connection will be an expected feature of the home.

I would expect that if anyone living in a home of the future would go crazy if they came to my place and tried to use my copper based ‘broadband’ that drops out often and dies for extended periods during any kind of rain.

IP phones are not just future – they are now. One of the main problems with IP phones in unreliability – wireless drops in and out and gets congested. Home internet is not yet reliable. Fibre will not only make your home internet very reliable it will improve the overall wireless network as well (wireless towers and mobile phone towers all use fibre connections currently). IP based telephony is very cheap. It now just needs to also be reliable.

Anyway – enough of my(and others) ideas... Go think some up some yourself. 

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Happy

Show The Money Pick Winners

25% of people in my unit use a hard line connection. This is unlikely to alter. VDSL is fine for a small country town and the NBN Coy has been wasting cash where there is two cables Optus and the BigT installed in a street and in our case to the wall of our units.

There are DSL holes in the system but fixing issues which does not exist is the NBNs main failing.

Money is being splashed around like water and an opportunity wasted. Fibre to a small town then via VDSL will be wonderful for anyone living in the bush. The copper there is thicker and the air generally dry so the wire is in good shape.

The mantra of perfection now will never happen as there is no money left in the cookie jar. Conroy has no idea of the status of NBN but keeps reading out reports rather like Saddam Hussian PR person did in the ME war.

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Megaphone

I'm a supporter.

Will high speed internet really be a future equaliser of health, education and employment? How 'high speed' will it need to be to achieve that?

I hope that as a supporter I can ensure the study takes wider socio-economic issues into account rather than purely technical telecommunication issues. eg: how would wide access to high-speed internet in country towns affect those towns and also the 'big cities', particularly in regard to : employment, health, mental health, quality of life, housing affordability etc.

eg: if my nieces and nephews don't need to live in Sydney, can they move to and raise their families in Coonabarabran without 'missing out' on jobs or having a 'second class life'. If so it creates less pressure for housing in Sydney and a more vibrant and diverse Australia.

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