For years, as a technology journalist I would bleat about Australia being a bandwidth backwater and how we needed fibre-to-the-home for our digital economy to stay competitive with the rest of the world.
Yet now it’s actually happening, I’m finding myself basically saying: “meh”.
Let’s face it ADSL+2 is pretty damn fast. Next G wireless is even pretty bloody good. I don’t feel myself wishing for faster broadband all that often.
I do, however, find myself wishing for more of it. I use ALOT more high bandwidth internet services. I don’t even use Bittorrent and I was shaped on my 25Gb plan last month. That’s the biggest problem we have in Australia. It’s not speed, its download limits. Because when you’re worried about being shaped or having to pay exhorbitant excess useage fees, you don’t use the Internet to its fullest. You don’t just automatically click that video link, you wonder if its worth sucking up another 50Mb of your cap. You start to freak out that your kids have been sitting at the computer for a worrying amount of time watching YouTube.
Will Fibre-to-the-home mean unlimited broadband finally in Australia? I’m not sure. Correct me if I’m wrong but the reason we’re stuck with download limits is primarily because of the high cost of international carriage, getting data from Australia and through the undersea cables to overseas destinations. The fibre-to-the-home plan isn’t going to solve that bottleneck. So what’s the point if I can stream video to my home at 100Mbps if I’m still counting bits because of download limits.
That aside, my other reason for the ‘meh’ attitude is I’m yet to be convinced that as a country we will really leverage all of this bandwidth. As some of the industry groups have promoted, the announcement needs to be accompanied by a broader strategy for generating a return on investment by what is enabled and how it is leveraged. Is a big fat network enough to kickstart a thriving digital industry capable of exporting services and products. No. Can a big fat network lead to its use to power far more effective e-government. Yes. Will it? Probably not.
Yes, the national broadband network will enable some pretty cool digital entertainment services – most of which we’ll simply repackage from the US. But I’m struggling to get excited because I can’t see how else my nation or my own lifestyle is really going to be enhanced. So like I said, meh.
BTW, was quite surprised at the amount of international coverage the announcement got including Australia Launches Broadband Network Plan, Australia to build $31 billion fiberoptic broadband network, Australia to build $30 bln broadband network and Australia to build $31 billion broadband network.