Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Piers Akerman, $47 billion, or is it $43?, the Ruddstra network, the FTTH NBN, and the fetid ramblings of a Luddite

(Above: a little out of date, but you get the drift).

By golly, Piers Akerman, aka the fat owl of the remove, is fast out of the blocks. He's the first loon columnist to be all over the new Ruddstra proposal for the NBN, and naturally, being an arch conservative with a fierce loathing of any kind of connectivity the Ruddstra network might offer, he hates it mightily.

There's a few technical glitches in his column - for a start, he doesn't seem exactly sure how much the NBN might cost. His header reads $47 billion to be flushed down a broadband pipe dream.

Then he talks in the text about the lack of a breakdown for the $43 billion project, which seems to mislay $4 billion. Ah well, what's a bit of loose change between chums, let's just slag off the government for being rubbery with figures, while the doddery fat owl staggers around incapable of transcribing actual figures into his diatribe.

Not being certain of anything about the intertubes, the fat owl mainly relies on economist Henry Ergas, Concept Economics chairman and "adviser to a number of telcos" to slag off the Ruddster's proposal.

Let's not beat around the bush here - Ergas was a favorite of John Howard, and is a regular and reliable eel basher when it comes to Labor, and he is an advisor to that 666 beast Telstra. And I know for a fact that the payback that Labor has delivered to Sol and his minions, and the foolish chairman Donald McGauchie (who really should be considering his position) has sent ashen-faced Telstra executives racing around the build to check that the sky hasn't fallen in just yet. Sure they've put on a happy face, but who's to say gray skies are gonna clear up.

The only thing that would be surprising - in fact it would be faintly shocking - was if Ergas came out in favor of anything that Labor proposed, or anything that threatened Telstra's interests. For a time, you know, I think Telstra and its heavies thought that anything that was good for Telstra was good for Australia, and it's just beginning to dawn on them that they are truly loathed by large, influential players in the IT arena. And by customers who've seen the country held back technologically so Telstra could have the easy life by baulking its customers and milking them, all in one easy milking shed where they still maintained control of the pipes.

If nothing else, this proposal means those days are gone, and boy, don't they know it. Suddenly it's humble pie and be nice to everyone time.

That's the nifty thing about the FTTH part of the proposal, as opposed to the original out of date at the time FTTN proposal spruiked in the election campaign. It takes out Telstra's ability to wage legal war by protecting its copper network, and offers a genuine upgrade. All the talk of wireless and satellite and the other technologies the FUDsters are using to spread fear and doubt is just idle nonsense. 

If the network is designed properly, there's no reason it can't be upgraded and deliver even higher speeds in due course - the reason we're still using the pay TV cable draped outside our house (installed so long ago I can't tell you the date) to deliver broadband is because whenever it rained, Telstra's copper wire connection dropped out as reliably as clockwork - and having interminable arguments with their service centre (I use the term loosely) was like arguing with an Indian far too high on vindaloo.

There's no doubt the proposal is wreathed in issues, and these will only begin to roll out as the Ruddstra network begins its own roll out. I suspect that it won't all be built, that the total current guesstimate of funding won't be reached, that it will be pecked at and outflanked by clever people building their own networks in big population centres, and that the bush won't end up with anything grand, but more like what is already available in big country towns.

One thing's for sure. If you live in a marginal seat, put up your hand today, and not too long in the future, you could be the speed freak of the intertubes.

But it's an interesting move, and it's interesting to see how, for all his spluttering and indignation, the fat owl doesn't lay a glove on it. Guess he doesn't care that the centralized system potentially offers the government greater control of the system, and a greater chance to instal some kind of filtering system. 

Maybe he's heard that Conroy - who was so low key and absent at the launch as to be seeking a role in Hollywood as the new lead in the re-make of The Invisible Man - is a dead filter minister walking. Most of the media dutifully recorded the Ruddstra's announcement of his network, talked to the gushing, enthusiastic finance minister Lindsay Tanner, and if they wanted a third opinion headed off to Wayne Swan. Conroy mainly seemed to be around to beam, serve the tea and dish out the lamingtons.

Whatever, the fat owl flails around blindly, showing that he doesn't have a clue when he accuses the government of taking on untried technologies.

What a doofus you are fat owl. Untried technologies? Please Akerman san, go forthwith to Japan and South Korea, and have a go at the broadband there. 

He's on equally uncertain ground when he says this kind of new world technology won't have significant economic benefits - he rather proves the point by noting that in 2001 Kim Beazley promised dial-up delivery. That was when the bust was fresh in its mind, and yet it's a world away from the YouTube, twittering, 3 G-ing world we live in, just 8 years down the track. And we've only just begun to explore the possibilities.

But gushing about how fixed lines will be displaced by mobile technology, as poor old Nick Minchin has been peddling (his legs underwater paddling really hard) is just nonsense. Being able to stream hi def video to the home will irrevocably change everything about the entertainment game, but it will also change the way business deals with data and interconnectivity.

If people had no idea about broadband before it began to creep into the home, you ain't seen nothing yet. Well actually significant countries in the rest of the world have already seen it, no doubt to the surprise and consternation of the fat owl.

You know, I was a little ambivalent about the announcement of the Ruddstra network - there's a lot of ambiguities, uncertainties and potential flaws inherent in the preliminary financing and roll out plans, and it will therefore depend on the execution - and the Labor government to date hasn't shown much promise in the actual nitty gritty business of governing and administration.

But now the fat owl has declared his undying hated and scorn, I'm willing to sit back and give it a go, and see how it rolls out. How astonishing it would be, if after years of John Howard acting like a backwards looking nineteen fifties Menzies worshipper, if Australia actually stepped up to an exciting, brand new world of technology. Howard never did get it, and apparently acolytes like the fat owl don't get it either. 

Move over fat owl.

Better to take a risk than to rely on the half-baked technologically illiterate pipe dreaming of the fat owl, the ill-informed viperish ramblings of a man who makes an eighteenth century Luddite look and sound like the world's leading futurist.

Now here's a little singalong for the dudes at Telstra as they try to compete with Ruddstra:

Gray skies are gonna clear up,
Put on a happy face;
Brush off the clouds and cheer up,
Put on a happy face.
Take off the gloomy mask of tragedy,
It's not your style;
You'll look so good that you'll be glad
Ya' decide to smile!
Pick out a pleasant outlook,
Stick out that noble chin;
Wipe off that "full of doubt" look,
Slap on a happy grin!
And spread sunshine all over the place,
Just put on a happy face!
Put on a happy face
Put on a happy face
And if you're feeling cross and bitterish
Don't sit and whine
Think of banana split and licorice
And you'll feel fine
I knew a girl so glooming
She'd never laugh or sing
She wouldn't listen to me
Now she's a mean old thing
So spread sunshine all over the place
Just put on a happy face
So, put on a happy face

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