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Thursday, 19 May 2011 13:02

NBN aims to solve 'Tyranny of Distance' with tyranny of debt!

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When it comes to Governments, one never knows how far away tyranny will follow, with Australia's NBN promising to solve the country 'tyranny of distance' problem with a tyranny of debt.

Several long years after former PM Kevin Rudd thumped an ancient Dell computer and promised a laptop for every child, which did not eventuate to plan, and several long years after Kevin Rudd promised the construction of a National Broadband Network, trials on the mainland have finally begun.

Although I personally think that building any kind of NBN should happen in rural and regional areas first, using a mixture of wired and wireless technologies, given most metro areas are already well served by broadband, the current NBN trial in Armidale is an obvious 'thank you' to so-called independent MP, Tony Windsor, whose vote (along with Rob Oakshott's) was instrumental in keeping Australia's Labor Government in power.

Thus, Armidale, which everyone knows has only 7 actual customers at the moment, is one of the mainland trial sites, with the rest of the NBN network still up to a decade away before being available to 'all Australians'.

Of course, it won't be available to 'all Australians', because the planned fibre network won't reach every single household or premise in Australia, because it's both too expensive, too far away for the furthest regions thus necessitating wireless or satellite broadband options, but politicians do like their spin. The Federal Government says it will reach 93% of Australians, but who really knows?

Sadly, the spin is wearing thin, and with every passing day, Australians are losing their faith in big government programs that will solve all our problems, primarily because the current government's attempts at rolling out big projects have mostly ended in abject failure.

Thus, the Federal Opposition's justified doubt that the Federal Government's $36B NBN will stay at $36 billion, with the opposition suggesting that $50B is a far more likely figure. Some have even estimated a potential $100B cost.

Australia's 'tyranny of distance' problem is being solved by a worse tyranny - that of debt, which will take generations to repay and which will see the current Government remembered in an even worse light than the Whitlam and Rudd governments that, over the years, preceded the current one.

Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, I hope that all of your promises not only ring true, but turn out the way you say it, for your legacy will help determine Australia's economic future.

We've heard all your arguments for the biggest infrastructure program of all time, but it's a shame that so many people simply don't believe you, or at least, don't believe you anymore.

The Federal Opposition's approach of a patchwork network that takes advantage of existing broadband strengths is simply a common sense policy, although as we all know, common sense is sadly not that common.

So, all 7 NBN-connected Armidale residents - I hope the NBN experience is even better than promised, and I hope more of your neighbours are able to connect up soon.

I just hope the country isn't going to a debt-laden hell in a hand basket because of it.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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