Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Canadian expert tells Australia to Cancel Broadband tenders

Greetings from the "Symposium of Sustainability of the Internet and ICT" in Melbourne. Bill St. Arnaud from Canarie opened the event on Tuesday, by video link from Canada. He strongly asserted that VDSL was an energy inefficient interim technology and that the Australian Government should not invest in it.

Tenders for the National Broadband Network (NBN) close today, so I asked Bill if he was talking in generalities: was he really saying the Australian Government's current NBN process should be abandoned? He said "yes".

Bill, and some of the people at the ARC Centre for Ultra-Broadband Information Networks, where the symposium is being held, believe that fibre to the home is feasible, even in rural areas and a better long term investment than ADSL. I am not sure if this is affordable at present, but it might not be a good idea to roll out large amount of ADSL in Australia right now.

I therefore suggest that Australian Government cancel the current tender process for broadband. They should reformulate the process to take into account energy use and greenhouse gas emissions issues. At the same time they might take the opportunity to divide the project into several smaller, more targeted projects. The government could target priority areas, such as broadband for schools and priority rural users, for early adoption. The issue of higher speed broadband for urban areas, which are already serviced by ADSL, could be left until it is clear fibre to the home is affordable, or other technology options are available.

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