Monday, July 06, 2009

Minchin off target again

Senator Minchin’s only contribution to discussion on the national broadband network seems to be about why not to do it. In the Parliament he has complained about the cost, today in the SMH he is trying to mount fear and loathing over an aerial deployment.

However, the premise of his criticism is misplaced. The NBN fibre does not need to be additional to the two HFC networks. Instead it can and should replace them both. The technology likely to be deployed (passive optical networking) can provide an additional light wavelength to replace the two HFC networks that today basically carry exactly the same programming (especially since the conclusion of the Telstra/Optus content sharing deals). Unfortunately we haven't seen much discussion of this as the Implementation Study inches forward.

It is perhaps noteworthy that the coalition's political concession to public complaints about the aerial deployment, that is removing the planning exemption, coincided with when those networks stopped their further expansion. I could talk at length about how the campaign against overhead cabling was orchestrated by Telstra as a means to try to stall the Optus deployment, and that when it failed they instead resorted to following Optus up and dow streets "like a kid following an ice-cream truck" (thanks Jon Stretch for that line).

As an all optical cable (unlike the copper coax) it can be hung at the same level as electricity wires. This reduces the risk from contact with items travelling beneath the wires. The aerial component is often only the last run of the network and is only affected by the most local of actions disrupting the powerlines.

The NBN has the possibility of improving the visual amenity in local areas. But it can do a lot more besides. We would be better served by Senator Minchin holding the Government to account on how they run the Implementation Study and how the Government will get outcomes like replacing both HFC networks than his continual negativity about the only plan in Australia to provide the infrastructure we need for the 21st century.

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