Our choice: Fate or Future

Whether Australia is a cork on the water, floating around dependent on economic tides and political wave action is the single most important question facing the nation today.

Electric Broadband Postcard New stamp

Our two-speed economy is not working.

We must find alternatives to manufacturing cars that motorists do not want, ships that never get off the drawing board, making appliances and gizmos that are made better and cheaper in low-cost labour economies… and the “Fly-In/Fly-Out” mentality that tells us digging up dirt is the only way to national prosperity.

One thing that cannot be brokered, dismantled or diluted is our ability to think: our native “smarts”.

We have very good educational standards, high literacy skills and a skilled, adaptable workforce. Yet our main economic preoccupation is digging holes in the ground and flogging off the dirt to nations willing to add value to it, where we are not. Mining has caused our economy to become “two-speed” – one part of it is booming and the other is declining.

We seem to have applied little thought to the following question: “What do we do to bring our economy fully up to speed?”

Mining sucks skills and resources from other segments of our industry. It forces our dollar higher and makes exporting manufactured goods un-competitive with the rest of the world.

We need to find a way of reconciling the undoubted good fortune that we have stumbled upon by being located above some of the world’s greatest mineral riches, and the desperate plight of our old standby industries struggling to make a quid where our goods and services are simply too expensive for other nations to purchase.

We need to find a future, not just settle for a fate based on doing what we have always done, even after it becomes unrewarding and un-competitive.

Abbott & Costello (Turnbull)

With these thoughts in mind I turned to the ABC web site to read an article by Kevin Morgan, on the NBN v. the Coalition’s #Fraudband copper rehash.

Morgan, who styles himself as a “commentator” on telecommunications policy and regulation, disappointed me. Greatly.

As I read through the column my eyes opened wider with shock that someone so supposedly well-informed could come up with the relentlessly negative commentary that he had presented.

It almost sounded as if he was personally offended by the NBN.

For example, what a stupid thing to write:

It’s now demonstrable that the Government’s all-fibre NBN, with its nominal price tag of $37.4 billion, cannot be built within either its promised budget or timeframe. In the first 10 weeks of this year, NBN Co, the company charged with the fibre rollout, passed only an additional 28 households a day. At that rate it would take 1,200 years to build the NBN.

And from a supposed “expert” too. A slow start is extrapolated out to the run of the project and becomes “1,200 years”. Does Morgan sincerely believe the NBN will take 1,200 years to build? I doubt it. It’s such an idiotic, misguided thing to write that it leads his readers to question his sincerity and his motives for writing it. And this too:

Indeed, it seems the only issue in play is the differing speeds promised by the Labor Government’s fibre to every home policy (FTTH) and those offered under the Coalition’s fibre to the node (FTTN) proposal…

What rock do they drag these people from under? And why is the ABC publishing such arrant nonsense?

OF COURSE, when it comes to the internet and telecommunications in general, speed is everything, absolutely everything.

Speed is fundamental to the very nature of any telecommunications system. Speed defines telecommunications.

It’s not 100mbps v. 25mbps we need to consider. It’s the almost limitless potential speed of FTTP (Fibre To the Premises) v. the Brick Wall that FTTN (Fibre To The Node) is going to run into in a few short years.

Abbott And Turnbull Space Guns

You don’t have to rebuild the NBN to get the mega and giga speeds our country is going to need in the very near future. There’s no need to roll out new cable or dig new ditches nationwide to upgrade the NBN.

You simply upgrade the switching equipment at the exchange, as better and faster technology becomes available. That way great leaps in technology can be applied efficiently to data distribution centres, and rolled out through existing infrastructure painlessly, without having to literally start again from the ground up.

After the upgrade, the new speeds and data flows roll out through the already built and commissioned pipeline, built at 2013 prices, not the inflated prices of some future decade.

The pipeline stays in the ground ready for gigabits per second any time the switch gear catches up.

To upgrade FTTN you have to pull out all the old, power-hungry cabinets – 60,000 of them – and build what Labor is building now anyway, with all the added up front extra costs to FTTN that building it right first via the NBN time avoids. By the time he’s half-way through his article, Morgan has characterized the NBN as a…

train wreck that the Coalition has been obliged to frame their policy {around}. …

… thats right, a “train wreck”. Total destruction, complete disarray, mass deaths and suffering. A train wreck. What a spirit of adventure Kevin Morgan has! He can only see the past:

The reality is FTTN is by far and away the most commonly used technology to take fibre close to the consumer.

So if it was alright yesterday… then it must be alright for tomorrow.

fRAUDBAND tRUCK

Australia is a country that relies for its economic success on digging holes in the ground.

But it cannot rely forever on selling dirt to other, more enterprising economies, nor should it.

Morgan’s thesis (if you can call it that) is effectively that we should just continue doing what we have always done, that we should, by implication, continue to rely on mining, and when that peters out, we’ll have to find something else to do.

Gee what would that be?

This whole attitude that we must always accept second-best, that we don’t “do” high tech, that we should never set ourselves up for anything in the future, that we should only go by what other countries are doing (and do no more) is a death knell for Australia’s competitiveness in the not so distant future.

We are already running a “two-speed” economy. Exporters and manufacturers can’t compete with the dollar being so high. We will continue to run two-speed if we don’t get off our political arses and stop justifying outdated junk copper technology, worth not much more than its scrap value, by labelling ourselves as not good enough for the best.

This is when even this “best” is almost not enough to surmount the hurdles our economy needs to become competitive in the world, in more ways than just digging holes in the ground.

We need to become a one-speed, NOT two-speed economy.

The NBN will do that, or at least will help, but the cultural and technological cringers in the Coalition and in their fans like Henry Morgan will doom us to always being one step behind, while the rest of the world gets on with coping with the 21st century.

The question we must all ask ourselves is do we want a fate, or do we want a future?

To deliberately pick a second best option in telecommunications, like #Fraudband, when the best is underway and being built as the NBN, is vandalism of the highest order against the Australian people and the economy.

As Nick Ross of the ABC put it so tellingly, it’s like evaluating the viability of Sydney Harbour Bridge simply in terms of how much profit collecting tolls will generate.

It’s not about tolls, contracts, internet plans, a few dollars here and there spent laying cable (I know its billions, but judged against potential returns – real returns – it’s peanuts), or whether we could better spend the money paying for subsidized nannies, funding well-off retirees who use superannuation as a tax dodge or propping up expensive, exclusive private schools that sustain networks not of intelligence or enterprise, but of mates who throw easy business opportunities to each other.

Point Piper Fraudband Node 2

It’s about looking forward to a way where we can bust the future of Australia right open and become not only a lucky country, but a leading nation in this competitive world, relying on intelligence and not the dumb luck that’s got us by so far.

We’re going to lose our car industry soon, with all the economic death and destruction for the manufacturing sector that loss will entail. What fools we will look like if, faced with having to re-skill our country, we need to rely on the technology of the early 1900s, as Morgan advocates, not just to talk to each other, but to talk to and participate in the future world.

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2,081 thoughts on “Our choice: Fate or Future

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