Wednesday, 27 February 2013

NBN: A major election issue or not?

Messers Turnbull and Fletcher have to answer a simple question well before the 2012 Election or face a massive backlash in every "Country" and fringe-Metro electorate, turning this election into a referendum on the Labor NBN:
Will the Coalition commit to ensuring there is an affordable, universal Fibre-to-the-Premises network in the near- or mid-term future? 
If so, when? What timeframe will they commit to?
Within 10, 15 or 25 years?
Weasel words, evasive or generic answers, or the old chestnut "the Market Will Provide" will be taken as a non-answer, an emphatic, NEVER!

We know that Telcos almost entirely replaced their internal and overseas networks with Fibre Optic during the decade of the 1990's, because it Faster, Cheaper and Higher Quality/more Reliable, can be upgraded in place and the OpEx is infinitesimal compared to previous technologies, like wireless bearers, satellite and coax cable. All the technologies now being promoted as fit for the NBN.

But they never started upgrading the Customer Access Network from Copper to Fibre, it didn't even get into planning. The Telcos have had 20+years to show "the Market Will Provide" and the answer is a definitive: they won't!

 Baby Boomers and some of Gen-X, now mid-40's, don't care especially about the consequential question, "What about our Children's future?" because they aren't raising young kids:
If Australia doesn't keep up with Asia and the USA in Internet access speeds and pricing, especially outside the core Metro areas, won't that destroy my children's future, both during education and then finding globally competitive businesses to work for?
We know that the Electorate has a long memory from the demise, over the GST, of the Australian Democrats in the Senate, and we know from "Kevin '07" that they are concerned about the future of the Nation, can process complex issues and are willing to back those issues.

Australia won't die in a ditch tomorrow if the NBN Co full-fibre rollout is halted or limited.

Australians already sense that "The Internet changes Everything", especially breaking down geographical barriers, letting previously natural monopolies like retail, be fully exposed to global competitive markets: the rise and rise of On-line (overseas) Retailing.

We've already seen the collapse of Fairfax's print revenue, from fabled "rivers of gold" to nothing...
What next?

Changes in the competitiveness of the whole Australian Economy is of enough concern, that the Productivity Commission published a major report dedicated to explaining why since 2000, Labour Productivity grew or held, while total Productivity (MFP) slumped from a high of 2.5%/year in the 1990's to zero or negative in the next decade. If the trend continues, Australia will quickly become globally uncompetitive, with the situation compounding as we lose more jobs overseas, increasing unemployment, decreasing Income Tax revenue while increasing Centrelnk payments.

Their own 2004 report, ICT Use and Productivity: A Synthesis from Studies of Australian Firms, is referenced, but little is made of its findings: ICT use improves both Labour and total (MFP) Productivity [p64]. Elsewhere I've seen asserted that ICT, including Internet use, is the single most important factor driving productivity. This corresponds with the 1990's peak in productivity as PC's and internet connectivity were taken up by business, with Australia notably amongst the global leaders in Internet adoption. This work neatly address Nobel Laureate economist Robert Solow's 1987 observation: "You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics."

A: PC's are only truly productive when networked.

We have yet to find out if the slump is in total (MFP), not labour, productivity related to post-2000/"dot bust" underinvestment in ICT, or that Australia dropped its relative position in Internet adoption into "the rest of the pack".

The sense that ordinary people have as they integrate All Things Internet/Web into their lives and increasingly pickup smartphones & mobile devices, is: these things change the game.

Leading to the inevitable linking of worsening global competitiveness with stories of Australia falling behind in personal and business Internet availability and use.

Or, more simply, "My Kids future will depend on affordable real high-speed Internet, the kind that only Fibre provides".
Wireless is nice on the road, but there's nothing like Fibre to the Premises, be it Home or Business.

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