Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tony Abbott's Garma Festival Speech

That Tony Abbott was going to spend his first week as Prime Minister on country in East Arnhem land is one of the great "claims" that endures fro the election campaign.

His actual Garma Festival Speech did not say this. At about 20:27 in the YouTube clip of the speech he says he will as PM spend one week a year on country, and the context of the subsequent statement is clear that this reference to "first week" was not "first week as PM" but "first of my annual weeks."

 In researching this I found this article which talks about the extent to which the promise was originally reported. It is astonishing the extent to which the story was allowed to run given how clearly it can be constructed that Mr Abbott did not mean his first week.

This isn't a failure of Mr Abbott it is a failure of those around him.

The AFR begs the question

The AFR opinion pages (behind paywall) have two comments that refer to the changing shape of the Australian economy.

The editorial The future must let go of the past talks at length about the need to accept the changing nature of our industry, and not to try to retain existing industries.

Unfortunately the editorial is devoid of any commentary on what the future looks like, only that the past must be let go.

On the facing page the heading of the opinion piece How to pick the industries that suit us best initially ofers hope.  It doesn't however, tell us what those industries are, but it has a far more informed policy prescription than anything else.

The writer, Bill Carmichael, helpfully reminds us of the difference between what economists call productive efficiency and allocative efficiency. In management babble this is the difference between doing things right and doing the right things.

Carmichael points out that the real advances in our economy in the 80s and 90s came not from productive efficiency but from allocative efficiency. It is also instructive to note that in the 90s competition policy was embraced by all Australian business sectors, offering by criticising each other. Everyone complained about how lack of competition in banking, transport, energy and telecommunications was restricting their ability to perform. Today that same business community only talks about productive efficiency and in particular wages and employment costs.

He notes that the industries that are closing have realised that no level of improvement in their productivity would have made them competitive.

He concludes that "Unless policymakers acknowledge the dominant contribution improved allocative efficiency has made to the performance of the economy, they risk creating a large and growing constituency for unproductive reform." 

Against which I would note that the slowing of Australian productivity improvement coincided with the creation of the Productivity Commission.

Somewhere in this whole discussion one would hope that the importance of high speed broadband infrastructure might feature.  But that seems to be beyond the AFR.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Contrasting views in The Australian

Two items in The Australian IT worthy of comment.

The first is a reported claim by John Cioffi that fibre-to-the-home is slower than VDSL because it is a shared infrastructure and hence gets "clogged" when everyone is using it. This is firstly an incorrect description of how GPON works as I understand it. The fibre is split optically and the amount of committed AVC sold is less than the sum of the capacity of the fibre.  NBN Co sells a guaranteed AVC rate.

That doesn't mean that the experience reported might not occur of getting a slower speed once a service is converted to FttH, because there is an element of shared capacity called the CVC that connects a FAN to a POI.  That is contended, but in the NBN Co model RSPs make their own decision about what contention they want.

But as iiNet and NBN Co have reported a consequence of providing bigger pipes is that consumers use it more. If an RSP was to migrate its customers from DSL to FTTH but use its previous contention ratios it is entirely possible that light users would see a slowing down.  But as I said that is in the control of the RSP. 

This of course isn't the case with HFC where the connection provider (assume NBN Co) can't guarantee the access speed of the AVC.  And HFC will be 30% of the Coalition Broadband Network.

Cioffi also reportedly claims neighbours can spy on each other's traffic with the "right equipment." As the data is encrypted it is more than equipment you need, it is the ability to crack the encryption.  If Cioffi can do that he is in the wrong business.  I understand it uses Advanced Encryption Standard, which is what the NSA approves for US Government. It is unknown (as I understand it) if this is one of the encryption standards "cracked" by the NSA.

So the story can be put in the bucket of reporting of unsubstantiated claims - just like the ABC and asylum seeker burns.  But don't tell The Australian that!

The other story was about how game developers Secret Labs' in Tasmania were able to use the NBN to grow their business. Secret Labs wrote about theie experience on their own website. Their own more detailed comment is;

Realistically, we don't care what technology the remaining NBN rollout is delivered by, but we don't believe that the plan currently suggested by the coalition government can deliver an NBN that will truly serve Australia, and offer the same opportunities and capabilities to Australia, the way that FTTP has changed our business in the few short weeks we've been connected. Disturbingly, the majority of the published material from the current government regarding their NBN plans does not mention upload speed at all – upload is the most transformative aspect of FTTP for us.

This is probably reflective of most of Australia. People don't really care what the technology is, but they are concerned if the replacement can't at least provide the 100 Mbps down and 40 Mbps up.