Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Australia set for three more years of buffering thanks to Brexit

Australia set for three more years of buffering thanks to Brexit

And so, it all seems to be over, at least as far as the NBN is concerned. A tsunami called Brexit has more or less ensured that Malcolm Turnbull will continue as Australia's prime minister after 2 July. And with him, of course, comes that mongrel multi-technology mix NBN.

If Turnbull made no mention of the NBN at the Liberals' campaign launch — held on 25 June so that the party would only have to pay for one week of campaigning out of its own pocket  it is because it will bring him no votes.

Instead, he had the volatility in the UK to bolster him; it is something of a truism that in times of uncertainty people will not vote for a change of government. John Howard benefitted from this back in 2001 when the twin events of Tampa and 9/11 combined to give him the advantage in that year's election.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has, of course, pushed his party's NBN policy as a means of differentiating itself from the Coalition. But how many votes will it buy? In pure technical terms, it is the better option but who is really bothered?

Replacing copper with fibre after the NBN build is done, or, as the head of Internet Australia, Laurie Patton, has suggested, even before the build is over, is highly unlikely.

Patton posted a response in the iTWire forums saying: "Even before the NBN has been completed the market will force a major rebuild, to replace copper with fibre, at great expense."

If we are expecting the market to force a rebuild, I fear we are waiting for Godot. Companies will only undertake investment in areas where profit is guaranteed and that is precisely why such a country-wide network has to be built with public money.

Had it been left to Telstra, the NBN would already be done and dusted in areas where profits were guaranteed; areas where no money could be made would not be built.

There is no money in the government kitty and other issues will overtake the NBN until it becomes like an unwanted child.

One electorate where the issue is biting is New England where Tony Windsor is attempting to make a comeback by unseating Barnaby "25Mbps" Joyce. The issue is such a hot potato there, that Mike Quigley, the first chief of NBN Co, is now assisting Windsor who made his preference clear when he said: "Do it once, do it right, do it with fibre."

In many ways, the NBN is like the British referendum on leaving the European Union. A great many people, who would like to have the fastest possible broadband if told of the very real benefits of the technology, will end up voting for a party that is stuck in a 100Mbps rut. The reason: they do not know the upside of gigabit connections and the government isn't planning to educate them.

The day after the vote to leave the EU, there were people trying to find out what the EU was, while others searched for sites that would explain the implications of the leave vote. Something like people who wake up in the morning and regret having indulged themselves the previous night and done something really stupid.

There is no morning after pill to nullify an election verdict. Three years of a Coalition government will ensure one thing as far as the NBN goes: buffering.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.