Any time there is a groundswell of complaints about the cost of NBN connections — either from telcos, both the entitled and unentitled ones, and the masses — the NBN Co, no doubt under pressure from the government, reacts and offers a figleaf to cover its nakedness that has long been exposed.
For the government, those complaints equate to votes and even though one election has been won, it is better not to squander any perceived goodwill. So, there will be some soothing talk and one should not be surprised if the new Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, himself, comes out and makes some soothing noises.
There was much talk by the former head of NBN Co, Bill Morrow, about average revenue per user going up to $52 and helping the beleaguered corporation to break even. That was an illusion then, and still is. Meanwhile the NBN Co occupies itself with doing everything but its core task – there is plenty of fluff on its blog if anyone cares to look.
Labor offered us its compromise – 93% of you will get fibre to the home, but you will have to pay through the nose so that we can balance the books. The Coalition was even more expert – they gave us copper and the infamous HFC, courtesy of Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, a man reputed to be overfull with knowledge of technology, but in reality a shell full of bluster.
One little digression: this month, I was informed by NBN Co that the sacred HFC which supplies an erratic broadband service to my residence will have three service windows of 80 hours each. Yes, three days plus in each case. The total downtime during each of those windows will be 150 minutes – but the whole exercise is like Chinese drip torture, because one has to wait in a state of suspended animation and hope that the expected outage does not happen during working hours.
An Ethernet cable is the only way to use what is supplied; try wireless and you are condemned to waiting for audio and video to sync as you try to load a video.
Thank you, Malcolm. I have seen far more outages in 20 months of using the NBN on HFC than I have seen in the 20 years before that, on both DSL and dial-up. For me, at least, that is a telling statistic.
Australia is one of the richer nations on the face of the earth and it has plenty of money to build a true next-generation network with taxpayer funds – if it is interested in doing so.
When it comes to doling out tens of billions to the Americans to buy fighter planes that cannot fight, every politician from the prime minister downwards will beam and vote yes. Exactly whom we are getting ready to fight is a mystery - unless we are preparing to donate the next lot of young Australians as cannon fodder for the various wars that Washington seems to be itching to start. We have already done so on numerous occasions and the evidence of PTSD among returned soldiers is evidence of that.
There is also plenty of cash when the prime minister wants to visit a mothballed refugee centre — nearly $200 million — as an election stunt. But broadband? Something that could contribute towards learning, research, next-generation industries, the start-up sector? Perish the very thought. We ain't got time for that new-fangled jazz; give us some water from the Murray that we can sell at a premium, instead.
And lest one forget, there's those submarines. Ninety billion dollars have been paid out to some big defence firm – and in return we will get a few jobs locally. That is an idea to be supported in all corners of the land. The military-industrial complex should not be allowed to lack any creature comforts.
Where public infrastructure is concerned, the mandarins act as though they are doing the natives some kind of favour and put hand in pocket with the greatest reluctance. The fact that this money belongs to those very natives, and not to the men and women in the Canberra bubble, is conveniently forgotten.
This writer doubts he will be around to see the next act in this crazy neo-liberal drama, the stage at which good ole Aussies are told, in true Republican style, that if they want fibre to the home, then they can get it on the morrow. The only, ahem, difficulty is that they will have to pay for it themselves.
After all, there ain't no socialist government in this country. Get yer broadband, yerself, cobber.