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Wednesday, 25 March 2020 12:00

This is no time to talk of upgrading the NBN to fibre

This is no time to talk of upgrading the NBN to fibre Image by Shaurya Singh from Pixabay

There was a time when it made sense to suggest to the Federal Government ways and means of upgrading the national broadband network to an all-fibre one. But that time is not now, not when the country is battling hard to keep the outbreak of a disease under control, not when the financial aid and plans that deliver it to individuals out of work should be immediate.

Laurie Patton's call to the government to employ suitably qualified people to upgrade the NBN's fibre-to-the-node connections is, to put it bluntly, mere showboating. How does he expect a government that is literally having to plug holes in dikes every single day to plan out such a massive undertaking and then implement it in time so that these unemployed folk can benefit financially before they die of hunger due to a lack of cash?

As I pointed out yesterday, whenever there is a crisis and media visibility is high, many people try to jump on the bandwagon with ideas that only be described as ludicrous - and that, only if one is being charitable - in order to get their mugs in print (or online).

This is clearly one such case. In the past, Patton's campaign for all-fibre has come at moments when it made sense. This clearly is not one of those moments. Patton is a current vice-president of Telsoc and a past president of Internet Australia.

Any action that needs to benefit people who are out of work as a result of the coronavirus outbreak should be one that can be implemented immediately. People who are quaking in fear as they stand in Centrelink queues hoping to get some cash in hand cannot be expected to wait months for income. They need money fast - like yesterday.

On one point, Patton is correct: after the coronavirus outbreak settles down and life returns to something approximating normalcy, it is entirely possible that the number of people working from home will increase. Employers will be only too happy to save on electricity, equipment and IT support if they can. And whatever problems are faced by NBN users now as they work from their homes will also be around in the longer term.

But one needs to realise that of the 12 million connections that will be ultimately made on the NBN, nearly half will be FttN. To convert that number to full fibre needs a well thought-out plan - else we will see another disaster like that which has already eventuated.

Of all people, Patton should be aware of this, given that he has been part of the NBN debate for a long time. That he has chosen to ventilate what can only be described as a silly idea is regrettable. The next time he makes a statement, people will tend to take him less seriously.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.



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