Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Slow NBN will put the brakes on business

Slow NBN will put the brakes on business

Back in the early 1990s, Linux kernel developer Vojtěch Pavlík and his long-time friend Martin Mareš, both resident in the old Czechoslovakia, developed a web search engine for Central and Eastern Europe.

The search engine was based on graph theory with a page-ranking algorithm that based the order of the list on how interconnected a page is with the rest of the web. Sound familiar?

When I interviewed Pavlík two years ago he told me that the only reason why the project did not go from strength to strength was because his country had no decent Internet infrastructure.

"It (the search engine) worked very well for a number of years, but the Internet in our part of world wasn't yet developed enough to make it grow fast enough..." were his words.

I cite this example to illustrate the fact that the opportunities that fast broadband can offer are unknown. It all depends on the imagination.

But one can't dream when those dreams are interrupted by a broken stream, a stream of data that stutters while being downloaded, a stream that burps like someone who has too many beers at the local pub (Barnaby "25Mbps" Joyce should understand that last analogy).

Given the immense possibilities, it is just staggering that an educated man like Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull cannot realise the extent to which fast Internet can shape the businesses of the future.

We have gone well beyond the stage when quick downloads or uploads are meant just for entertainment. Now if entertainment is factored in, it is streaming video companies like Netflix, Stan and Presto, who want enough bandwidth all over the nation in order that their businesses can grow.

What exactly is it that handicaps Turnbull from changing course on the NBN and putting all those who are still unconnected on a full fibre diet? I don't think Turnbull believes in the multi-technology mix that is his party's policy any more than he believes in its policy on same-gender marriage.

Why does the nation have to be held hostage to last year's technology because of Luddites in the Liberal and National ranks? These are folk who say they are pro-business. Yet businesses large and small who disagree on most things are united on one fact: fast broadband can only be a enabler.

If truth be told, I am tired of trying to point out the bleeding obvious: if you have a Porsche, you can drive it at 60kmph when needed. But if you have a Toyota Prius you can't hit 200kmph. Why is the Coalition forcing everyone to limit themselves to the lower end of the spectrum, especially when making changes after the job is done is going to cost an arm and a leg?

On the morning after Brexit, many people awoke and wondered what the hell they had done by voting to leave the European Union. It is good to remind ourselves that the saddest words in human history have always been, "It could have been different."


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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.