Build it and they will come to buy it back again.

Build it and they will come to buy it back again.


There is much huff and puff about the construction of the NBN in Australia. Like most things “Hi-tech” explanations of its benefits are complicated and convoluted. Technologists like myself project a fifties impression of the space-age “Buck Rodgers” futuristic world we envisaged 2013 would be. Technology may have moved on since the fifties but some people cannot. I can feel your eyes glaze over as you read this on your smartphone or tablet, which was the stuff of a fertile imagination just 10 years ago.

The politicisation of technology, like education and medicine, stifles visionary benefits. Get a great idea, share it with a politician and when they eventually understand the vision after assessing the political capital, they will promptly legislate it into oblivion. The hallmark of politicising  great ideas is the term “Cost Benefit Analysis”. Rest assured that if this term is uttered by a politician or apparatchik in any context, politicisation is in play. Such thinking ultimately leads to accountants being the gatekeepers of the greater good. I would hazard to guess that the necessity of similar nation building infrastructure such as; roads, rail, water, electricity, post and communications initially did not rely on the rigours of cost benefit based entirely upon profit until they were politicised. Like hospitals or telephone exchanges the social benefits far outweigh monetary profit in the reality of justification. The end game to politicising technology is commercialisation where the monetary interests of capitalism seek to steer the political process perpetually to the right. Unfortunately, the NBN does not enjoy the bipartisan support a visionary nation building project deserves. Most of the criticism of the NBN is steeped in political advantage, economic obsession, Luddite mentality and an envy of visionary policy.

The benefits of the NBN are tangible and immediate, however they are also futuristic. The NBN can today deliver:

  • Significant benefits in medical diagnostics
  • Significant improvements in distance education
  • Decentralisation of industry especially in the service sector
  • Decentralisation and regionalisation of business hubs.
  • Benefits to agriculture, land and water management
  • Remote diagnostics and teleconferencing
  • Significant improvements in 4G mobile mobile telecommunications coverage
  • Convergence of service delivery of audio and visual mediums
  • Cheap infrastructure for businesses competing in the digital economy
  • Significant social benefits from inclusive digital communities
  • An egalitarian approach to technology access and information exchange
  • The eradication of the tyranny of distance
  • Large productivity benefits for business and households

The NBN like any network is scalable and will expand to accommodate new technology platforms as they evolve. This depends largely on the premise of designing it right first time. Getting the foundations sound to avoid expensive upgrades is essential. Incorporating cheaper ephemeral technologies that forgo functionality to cut costs is false economy. Twice as many circuits with twice as many points of failure mean greater maintenance costs and lower grade of service. Fibre to the house is currently the best technology available and anyone that tells you differently is misinformed.

Heinz V. Bergen wrote “Information is the seed for an idea, and only grows when it’s watered”. The dissemination, proliferation and control of information is very profitable, just ask Rupert Murdoch.  I have talked about the benefits that the NBN can deliver now and its ability to cater for the future, but the big question is who is to gain or lose from its inception?

Cast your minds back a few years ago to our publically owned NBN Mk1, namely Telstra. Politicisation of Telstra coupled with short term vision of immediacy saw this essential public asset privatised for no net gain to the Australian public. We were spun the yarn that deregulation of the telecommunications market and privatisation of Telstra would promote “market forces” to deliver Australians cheaper prices, better service with greater choice though increased competition. The greatest lie was that Australians could invest in the infrastructure they already owned. The share price has not performed well and Telstra has been strangled by the pressure to return a profit to shareholders at the expense of its own expansion. The unregulated telecommunications market in Australia is a basket case that has delivered little of the benefits promised to Australian consumers. The financially viable imperative of “market forces and competition” was a myth.  The free market has simply not delivered the dividends to either the consumer or shareholder.

Telstra as a privitised entity has moved to convergent service delivery and offer subscription television via its “Foxtel” product, a joint venture with Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited that owns Fox. James Packers PBL has acquired half of News Ltd.’s 50%. The deal is essentially a content provision synergy for the delivery of subscription pay TV services.

The NBN will open the market to new players as it will wholesale bandwidth in an open market. This means that new or existing players can provide data, web, audio, video, news, information, telephony, services, and entertainment via subscription using the NBN infrastructure. Traditional terrestrial television and radio services can be delivered digitally over cable in addition to digital versions of the traditional newspaper without the expense of printing. A good example would be a subscriber may receive a bundled news service on a free cheap tablet or smartphone on sign up. Companies like Vodaphone are excited by the prospect of the NBN as it will mean cheaper infrastructure costs in delivering  greater coverage for 4G mobile and services to less profitable country areas.

I am sure that Rupert is looking at NBN co and drooling over its capacity to deliver all of his services. I will draw a long bow here, with no more than a strategic hunch based on News Ltd.’s quest for word domination in media markets across the globe. The current negativity in Murdoch press toward the Gillard government and NBN co sees a win-win situation for Murdoch.

If the coalition wins government and Abbott plans to sell off NBN co, Rupert will be there with a big open check book. If News Ltd. owns this cash cow he will have no need Telstra. Telstra however, will still need to buy content from Fox to deliver subscription TV.

If the Gillard government is returned, Telstra already offers services over the NBN including content from Fox via Foxtel. This is whilst Telstra’s own copper network (remember the one that Australian taxpayers used to own) is due to be phased out and purchased by NBN co on behalf of the Australian taxpayers. NBN co will ultimately be sold due to pressure from the media to not build another public monopoly. This is despite “market forces” unwillingness to do so.  Enter Rupert’s check book.  What’s wrong with this picture?

Australians taxpayers got around 35.6 billion dollars for Telstra and will pay around 8 billion to buy Telstra’s copper network. By the time the NBN reaches phase 3 Australians have a net gain of Zero. It would seem the political ideology of “privatisation does it better” has seen us go from one of the most advanced telecommunications economies in the world to fifteen years behind the game. We are back to to ground hog day thanks to the sale of the goose that laid the golden egg. I am confident the Gillard government will be returned to finish this crucial infrastructure, essential to ensure Australia’s future prosperity.  My question is why would we sell NBN co and let someone else enjoy the prosperity of vision? Will we buy it back again in another 15 years from Rupert?



About Ricky Pann

I am Ricky J Pannowitz I'm a Media Artist, Composer, Writer, Photographer and aspiring Director. I make stuff. A media analyst with a strong grounding in IT. A sensitive, romantic tragic who writes poetry with a love of gastronomy and fine alcoholic beverages. I love peoples stories. Started a Tradie now got letters, so what...
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27 Responses to Build it and they will come to buy it back again.

  1. paul says:

    Excellent article Ricky

  2. Jo Lowry says:

    It cannot be an open market when the same case would exist as it does now with Telstra an company owning the lines and being a retail marketer too this would exist if the NBN was sold to private comany (Murdock ect.)

    • There is a marked difference. Telstra is a retail company that sells products, owns an ISP (bigpond) and wholesales bandwidth to other service providers. NBN co is only a Bandwidth provider that wholesales to service providers. NBN co does not own an ISP hence you need to connect though an approved Service provider or Telco As far as I know there are no plans for it to provide any services whatsoever (at least that I can find) I take your point on board as valid ( I’m stating this for those who do not know what NBN co actually does) but are you willing to project that this could not happen? With three degrees of separation anything is possible and highly probable. News Ltd are sometimes a law unto themselves, they dont call Rupert the king maker for nothing. When Aussat was sold they sweetened the deal with deregulation and a Telco license for Optus, who promptly started suing Telstra for wholesale price fixing of its own network to get a better margin!!!! When Telstra was sold they legislatively overlooked the separation of its cables, exchanges, retail ect… ect Most of the telecommunications law is done on the run 5-10 years behind the technology. Like I said anything is possible. Politicisation in play

    • andyrob says:

      No, NBN is just a wholesale provider. We will pay for our services through RSP’s such as Telstra, iinet etc

      • andyrob says:

        correction, “if it was sold”, yes that could be a problem. That is why it should always stay predominately Government owned, at least 60%.

  3. Ian says:

    As a psychologist, I’m hoping that I might be able to provide a service to remote communities once the satellites are up. But I need to be able to see facial expressions and body language clearly and immediately. This should be possible with the NBN. I don’t think it is at the moment.

    • Obviously it depends on the location of both you and the patient. Fiber is way faster and more reliable than satellite up-links.The faster the bandwidth the better quality the real time video. Facial recognition via standard video conferencing or using facial recognition software that measures variations in expression is available now. As I stated in the article as sites roll out,the application of the technology is only limited by the imagination. Thanks for the comment Ian.

  4. Truth Seeker says:

    Ricky, I have been making a similar argument for some time, and agree whole heartedly with your assertions. 😀

    We cannot allow Abbott to do to the NBN what Howard did to OUR Telstra. 👿

    Cheers 😀

  5. Great article. Need to get this out to a wider audience. Tragic if Coalition destroy this opportunity.

  6. andyrob says:

    Great piece Ricky.

    I do fear that in no time, you will have you know who posting mistruths and garbage and just won’t attempt to see the bigger picture, which in my view, is that this is infrastructure for the future, not 5-10 years (or 3 years in the LNP case) but for the next 50 – 100 years. It will be suitable for my children and theirs.

    I await the NOISE!

  7. andyrob says:

    Ricky, instead of electrical cable, can you put a picture of that glorious green cable in the banner?? 😉

  8. Thanks for a great article Ricky.

  9. vfmarky says:

    Ricky – this is a well timed piece. It cuts through the fog of misrepresentation.
    I’ve shared it because I think this sort of opinion should be out there.
    I’m a serious believer in the whole NBN concept – there’s not been a comms infrastructure of this order in this country since, well, since the telegraph and telephone. And as that was copper, it’s well time for an upgrade.
    The whole Howard/Telstra thing was a con-job of the highest order and I can’t for a moment think people will be sucked in again. Can they… 🙂

  10. Fed up says:

    ………………………….he federal opposition has warned the builder of Labor’s $37.4 billion national broadband network (NBN) to consider a possible change of government this year before signing any contracts.

    The advice given to the government-owned NBN Co was made in the dissenting report of coalition MPs attached to a joint parliamentary committee’s latest review of the network rollout, released on Thursday.

    Communication Minister Stephen Conroy says it demonstrates the coalition’s plans to demolish the project if it wins government at the September 14 federal election.

    The MPs said NBN Co should be aware ‘of the need to alter contracts’ if the government changed, and suggested any deals have the necessary flexibility written into the terms of agreement.

    ‘If this is not possible, then the likely costs of changing and lengthening contract terms need to be weighed against perceived benefits,’ opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said on behalf of coalition MPs in the report.

    Senator Conroy said only Labor had a plan to build the high speed NBN to homes and businesses.

    ‘The coalition will leave Australia with the broadband equivalent of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with only one lane,’ he said in a statement.

    NBN Co plans to rollout optic fibre cable capable of delivering broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits per second to 93 per cent of Australian homes, schools and businesses by June 2021.

    The remainder will access broadband through complementary fixed wireless and satellite technologies.

    The coalition’s plan involves rolling out fibre to the street corner and using existing fixed copper lines to link to premises, which would be cheaper and faster to build, although download speeds would be slower.

    Meanwhile, joint committee chair Rob Oakeshott said the latest six month NBN review was the most difficult of the four produced so far and blamed the upcoming election for polarising the views of MPs.

    ‘In my view, this is an early warning sign that the topic of higher speed broadband technology is likely to feature strongly in political debate throughout 2013, an election year,’ he said in the report.

    The committee did recommend the government support NBN Co in considering whether to allow private telcos to ‘piggyback’ off its wireless towers and satellites to boost mobile phone services in regional and remote Australia.

    Coalition MPs also want NBN Co to give the committee a monthly progress report on the rollout, no more than 10 days after the end of each month.

  11. Geoffrey P says:

    Liberal/National coalition will destroy Australia wide Broadband setting Australia back decades along with Education delivery, Health delivery, Industry growth, many other nations have already built this infrastructure and many others are going to, realising how important it is, France is another one.
    It must have been Liberal/National coalition ancestors who protested against the railways in Australia in the early 19th century and later that new fangled thing called an automobile, Luddites are very dangerous for all Australians.

  12. paul says:

    This is just some of the benefits of the NBN
    Wonder what the naysayes have to say about all the innovation that the NBN will bring.

    CSIRO focuses research around broadband everywhere

  13. andyrob says:

    Nice piece. Interesting sumary by Renai.

    Of course, it could be that I’m looking at this the wrong way, and that Turnbull is (as some people have suggested to me privately over the past few weeks) giving a Coalition Government an ‘out’ to avoid canning the NBN project, if enough analysis shows that the project is the right way to go ahead after all.

  14. Guys please accept my apologies for not updating quickly, I’m in and out of doctors at the moment pending my heart surgery and the WP app on my phone is flaky….Ricky

    Great article andy…
    This is a great article.

  15. Chris says:

    It would be good if some more in the MSM (even if there’s no hope for the Murdochcrassy) could get the facts that you guys in the independent media. Then we might hope for these facts get out roo the masses as well. Thanks Ricky, Miglo, Sortius and your kind for the great work and providing balance too reporting.

    • Thank you so much Chris for supporting us. Its a great source of frustration to me that the detractors are claiming bias because they put up a piss poor technical argument
      Nick Ross’s article is a good example.
      thanks Ricky

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