Friday, August 05, 2011

Kiama and the NBN

I had the great pleasure of driving down to Kiama last week for the NBN launch there (the thing about the NBN for politicians is its like school building programs - an endless series of openings).

It gave me a good hook for my iTnews column, in which I demonstrate that Turnbull is using the same strategy against the NBN that his leader uses against putting a price on carbon.

Meanwhile I had a letter published in the AFR this week - in response to an editorial trumpeting the idea that structural separation really solved everything without reflecting on the fact that it was only the NBN policy that achieved that (submitted text below).

I couldn't work into either article the other famous thing about Kiama - which was Alastair Mackerass' beach house. As Master of the Lower School (and Maths and Latin teacher to Form 1A - aka Year 7) at Sydney Grammar School he would invite groups of the Form 1 boys to spend a week of the summer holidays with him there. I certainly enjoyed my week.

I can only presume that Malcolm Turnbull had this opportunity. I don't know if the other big NBN protagonist - Paul Fletcher - did, only because I don't know if Mackerras kept it up after becoming headmaster.

I tried hard to work it in. To have had the opportunity you had to be bright - but they now act so dumb. Perhaps it is the fact that they both went on to be participants in the school debating team - a skill where you learn to argue any proposition convincingly, no matter how much you disbelieve what you are saying.

Meanwhile the other memorable part of the launch was the "big red button". When depressed all that technically happened is a video started that showed a map being "lit up".

Anyone got any better ideas on what should happen? To go back to the road and bridges analogies from the column - how would de Groot upstage the button pushing?

AFR Letter

Your editorial today (NBN already looking costly for consumers AFR 1 Aug) asserts that the marketplace benefits being achieved through the NBN could have been achieved through the structural separation of Telstra.

You fail to mention that no Minister prior to Senator Conroy was interested in doing so. The Member for Bradfield in his book Wired Brown Land makes it clear that the coalition recognised that they had an option to separate Telstra before starting privatisation, but that his then boss, Senator Alston, elected not to do so.

Senator Alston subsequently commenced an inquiry into structural separation, which was subsequently abandoned when then Shadow Communications Minister Lindsay Tanner published a report indicating it could not be done.

Senator Conroy and Lindsay Tanner together then developed the plan for the NBN, one benefit of which was to be structural separation. NBN Mark 1 did not reach a satisfactory outcome in part because Telstra refused to make a full submission unless the requirement for separation was taken out of the policy.

To assert there is an alternative to something requires the alternative to be achievable. No one has ever devised an alternative strategy to secure the structural separation of Telstra.

Finally, so far all retail prices announced for the NBN have been the same as current copper based prices. What is also announced though are new services not previously available to the consumer market, and at prices ten times less than comparable business services.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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