Tuesday, 07 February 2017 05:01

Laurie Patton to depart Internet Australia Featured

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EXCLUSIVE: Internet Australia chief executive Laurie Patton is moving on after more than two years at the helm of the advocacy and lobby group representing Internet users.

Patton has told iTWire that he’s been poached by an as-yet unnamed group to join them and that the new role will allow him to "use my skills in advocacy and communications to help a wider range of organisations".

In a twist, Patton’s announcement comes after he was voted onto the board of IA on Monday and, despite his impending departure, he will chair a new IA marketing committee and continue to provide advice to IA on government relations.

Patton told iTWire that he’s taken on the unpaid advisory role as he is keen to help IA “maintain its primary advocacy for a 21st century broadband network".

His decision to depart IA comes hard on the heels of lawyer Anne Hurley’s appointment as Internet Australia’s new chair.

Just last week Patton came out in defence of Hurley after what he alleged was an unprovoked “hatchet job” on her by telecoms industry newsletter Communications Day over a report that she had backed away from IA’s advocacy of a full-fibre network for the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Hurley, a lawyer and  former chief executive of industry peak lobby group the Communications Alliance, is known to be as passionate as Patton about the potential role of the Internet as a vehicle for “economic and social development”.

IA, previously known in industry circles as ISOC-AU, was established back in 1996 when the Internet was still in its infancy, and is a chapter of the globally-based Internet Society which Patton says is billed as the “largest network of people and organisations focused on ensuring that the Internet continues to evolve as a platform for innovation, collaboration, economic development and social progress”.

“However, ISOC-AU was largely seen as a club for 'geeks' until immediate past chair George Fong and his board saw a bigger role for the organisation.”

Apart from drawing attention to what Patton has consistently described as Australia’s "inferior broadband network" — the NBN — IA under Patton has been prominent in its opposition to Internet site-blocking and the Abbott Government's "fundamentally flawed" data retention scheme.

And, just last week Patton appeared at public hearings held by the Productivity Commission, arguing for an expansion of the telco Universal Service Obligation (USO) to ensure wide access to broadband data across the country.

“While maintaining that Australia would have been better served had we continued with the original full-fibre NBN, for the past year IA has been advocating a preference for fibre to the driveway, or fibre to the distribution point (FTTdp) as it is technically known,” Patton says.

And, according to Patton, it is inevitable that sooner or later the government will have to instruct the company building the National Broadband Network, NBN CO, to abandon the use of fibre to the node (FttN) technology.

“Every week that goes by and they continue with FttN they are wasting our money on infrastructure that IA’s technical experts maintain has a shelf life of only 10 to 15 years, or less.

“What’s more, right now we need to be building an upgradable NBN that can provide the sort of Internet speeds that people might not need yet, but will want sooner than they realise,” Patton concluded.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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