Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Politics of the NBN

Professor Matthew Allen from Curtin University talked at "Converging on an NBN Future" on the "Selling the NBN: the politics of broadband in Australia" (it is good to see Matthew published his draft paper). He pointed out that access broadband is a very important political issue in regional Australia. He pointed out that NBN Co has elements of a commercial enterprise in its approach to selling the NBN, combined with the political sales job from the government.

Matthew points out that the benefits promoted for the NBN are very similar to those advocated for the information superhighway and the Internet more than a decade ago. He suggested that the technological elite talks about an ideal NBN of the future, rather than what is likely to be delivered. There is therefore a gap between the reality of current telecommunications and the brave new world. The public is justifiably worried about if their existing phone service will work and when they will get the level of Internet access which some inner-city residents already have.

Matthew reminded us of attempts by telecommunication companies to define what broadband was, around exclusive contact access. He pointed out that as consumers had already experienced "the Internet" and so did not want to buy a closed package of informations services controlled by the vendor. However, I suggest it is understandable that universities, vendors (and nations) want to control access to information, in order to retain control over their intellectual property, make money and protect their citizens. An example of this is how universities are dealing with on-line education in face of MOOCs.

In political terms we are yet to see the major issue of the reorganisation of government and commercial services brought about by provision of broadband. I asked Matthew about this and he said that the NBN would strengthen regional ties. He also said that governments would use broadband to reduce costs and provide services.

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