TV host blasts PM over NBN

When he was Prime Minister, Tony Abbott may have crowned then Communication Minister, Malcolm Turnbull “the man who virtually invented the internet”, but outspoken television host Waleed Aly has taken aim at Mr Turnbull’s “age of innovation” claim amid reports that the NBN rollout is floundering.

Papers leaked last week reveal that the Government’s rollout of the NBN is indeed in trouble, despite assurances by Communications Minister Mitch Fifield last month that such reports were unfounded. Issues over the fibre to node part of the Coalition’s alternative plan to that implemented by the then Labor government have caused the program to be delayed by as much as 87 days in certain areas. 

On last night’s Channel Ten current affairs program, The Project, Logie-nominated host Waleed Aly, in his regular segment, ‘Something We Should Talk About’, said the delays were not trivial and were indeed a concern, “This is worrying because while we were never told we would have the fastest internet under the Coalition, we were promised it would be delivered much earlier than under Labor.” Interviewed for the segment was former director of the University of Queensland’s computer centre, Alan Coulter, who said, “If we’re going to be the innovation nation, we shouldn’t go for the cheap and error-prone solution.” 

Labor’s original plan was to deliver a fibre to the premises NBN by 2021, at a cost of $45 billion. The Coalition, when in opposition, modelled that it would actually cost $85 billion and put forward its own plan when it won the 2013 Federal Election. The slower fibre to node NBN delivery opted for by the Government was to be quicker and cheaper to rollout and  scheduled for completion in 2019. However, the costs have already blown out to $56 billion and it is currently scheduled to be finished by 2020, although further delays may affect this date.

Noting the increase in data usage by Australians, Waleed Aly went on to say, “The problem here is, despite the latest figures showing the amount of data downloaded by Australians increased by 40 per cent from June 2014 to June 2015, the Abbott-slash-Turnbull government has never demonstrated that they value the need for high-speed internet.” 

Stating that the Snowy Mountains scheme and the Sydney Harbour Bridge were built with the future in mind, Aly continued to lambast Mr Turbull’s “age of innovation” claim. “But now, as we enter Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘age of innovation’ and we’re told the NBN is the most important infrastructure project of the 21st century, we’re expected to rely on a decaying copper network that experts say is already past its use-by date, instead of investing in fibre which the same experts say could service our internet needs for the next 100 years.”

And his final dig? “So if you’re watching this right now on the internet, and you had to wait for even a second for this video to buffer, you know who to blame,” he said. “Tony Abbott… and the guy who he says invented the internet.”

Watch last night’s episode at Tenplay.com.au

Read more at SMH.com.au 

Opinion: Are we lagging behind?

Slow internet – sure it’s annoying but is it really worth getting hot under the collar about? Should it be an issue that shapes the election debate? You bet it is.

The NBN rollout has been going on for so long that many people simply accept that they will get it at some point in time and that it may make their internet quicker – it may not. But in today’s digital world, that simply isn’t good enough.

A fast and stable internet infrastructure will be the cornerstone of delivering health and aged care support over the coming decades and may indeed, be the only way in which we can support an ageing population. Delivering health services such as virtual consultations with GPs for those in remote areas or who can’t visit the surgery, managing vital statistics such as blood pressure and insulin levels in patients and monitoring the frail and less mobile for falls can all be done remotely, efficiently and more cheaply if we have the right infrastructure in place.

To be able to entice new business to come to Australia is also reliant on an internet service much improved from the one we have now. With the demise of the resources and manufacturing industries, we must also look to secure the future commitment and investment from multinationals already operating in Australia, a country where costs are high compared to our Asian counterparts. And it is these emerging Asian nations that will have the faster and more reliable internet systems. On a recent visit to Vietnam, I was blown away by how quick and readily available free wifi was – something I don’t think Vietnamese visitors would ever say about Australia.

In fact, Australia is actually going backwards when it comes to the speed of our internet. According to rankings released by content delivery network provider Akamai, Australia has dropped from 30th to 60th in the last three years. Singapore, a country with which Australia will compete for investment over the coming years, has internet 100 times faster than we do. 

It’s not really about being able to download movies and watch television over the internet, although that is fast becoming the norm. Delivering the NBN has become, in the eyes of the Government, something it must do to save face, but it does it without any real conviction. If Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull does indeed believe in innovation, he needs to raise the profile and priority of delivering a fast and efficient NBN and do it quickly.

Do you have access to the NBN? Do you think a fast and stable internet connection is vital for future innovation in health care, aged care and business? Or is all the fuss about the NBN unjustified? Do you think we should revert to the original fibre to premises rather than the node NBN?

Related articles:
NBN under strategic review
NBN cost blow out
How the NBN helps your health at home

Written by Debbie McTaggart

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