Friday, October 22, 2010

NBN Is The Future

While it has been reported that just 262 homes in Tasmania have chosen to take up connection to the new National Broadband Network, with claims that this represents just one in ten of those who have the opportunity, that does not mean that the roll out is a failure. The opposition has labelled it as “farcical” and described the roll out rate as “appallingly low”, but that is really a very short-sighted view of the facts. It is also unclear just how many people are prepared to sign up for the full 100 mbps connection speed at $100 a month, as opposed to the cheaper options at $30 or $60 a month for lower speeds. But again, early adoption rates are not necessarily a fair indicator of the long term viability of the network.

Any new technology will take time to permeate the community when it is introduced. When colour televisions were introduced in 1975 not every household rushed out and bought one right away. There would have been a brief period when more people still had black and white sets, but over time the balance changed. Right now we are going through the process of introducing digital television, and while the sets are becoming much more commonplace now, it was only a few years ago that networks were broadcasting digital channels with very few people actually watching them. The internet itself was at first a novelty, and now it is for many people a necessity. To say that an early take up rate of one in ten represents a failure is just nonsensical.

The other concern, about the price, is also a complete red herring. Once again, take a look at all the previous examples of the introduction of new technology. Colour TV’s became less expensive as they became more widespread. Ditto digital TV sets. And only just a few years ago some people were bleating that no-one would ever pay for broadband because it was so much more expensive than dial up. Really? ADSL is now cheaper than dial up used to be. All the while bandwith and speeds have been increasing so that customers are now getting much more for much less. The only problem is that the spine of our telecommunications network is a copper wire system which has been with us for a century and simply will not be capable of doing the job for much longer.

That’s why a fibre optic network IS the future, regardless of whether there is any additional complementary wireless network, or even other technologies we have not yet imagined.

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