US won't copy Aussie NBN: Steve Wozniak

US won't copy Aussie NBN: Steve Wozniak

Summary: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak gave the government's National Broadband Network (NBN) project the thumbs-up during his flying visit to Australia, but lamented that it was unlikely the US will ever get similar high-speed broadband access or infrastructure.


Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak gave the government's National Broadband Network (NBN) project the thumbs-up during his flying visit to Australia, but lamented that it was unlikely the US will ever get similar high-speed broadband access or infrastructure.

Steve Wozniak

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

Speaking at the Australian Chambers Business Congress on the Gold Coast today, Wozniak told ZDNet Australia that he feels the investment in the NBN came after a cry from the people for better infrastructure.

"The attitude a couple of years ago was 'oh my gosh, Telstra is really letting us down and they're expensive and they're slow and they're not making Australia number one in the world [for broadband]'," Wozniak said.

"The Australian people felt that very high-speed broadband was a key part of the future and we'd better not get left behind," he added, saying that the outcry has given way to the need for high-speed broadband networks from both sides of Australian politics.

"I think that was a turnaround [for Australia]."

Wozniak said that while the fibre-to-the-home project was good for Australia, he didn't think that the United States would ever see a similar project.

"It'd be a great model, but I don't think it will ever happen in the US. I'm sorry, I'm really, really negative about [its] prospects," he said.

Wozniak said that he is unable to get fixed-line broadband to his house due to carrier limitations, and now uses a Long Term Evolution wireless service from his local network. While he said that there's currently no requirement to run fixed broadband to his home, he still feels the lack of fixed infrastructure is an issue for the country.

"I've spoken right up to the chairman of the [Federal Communications Commission] about these complaints," he said.

In his most recent State of the Union address, US president Barack Obama announced a vision to provide 98 per cent of homes in North America with access to high-speed wireless broadband by 2016.

"Within the next five years, we'll make it possible for businesses to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage," he said at the time.

"This isn't just about faster internet or fewer dropped calls. It's about connecting every part of America to the digital age."

Wozniak, however, feels that Obama's pledge is just another in a long line of broken presidential promises.

"Every ... president since the start of the internet ... said you've got to have broadband, we've got to get broadband to everybody! They all say it, but nothing's ever happened to bring it to me!

"I find it very frustrating."

Stay tuned to ZDNet Australia for a more in-depth feature on Steve Wozniak's Australian visit next week, in which he talks about the birth of Apple, where he thinks the company should go and his insights into the real Steve Jobs.

Topics: Apple, Broadband, Government, Government AU, Telcos, Telstra, NBN

Luke Hopewell

About Luke Hopewell

A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Geographic monopolies rule absolutely in the US telecoms market. Even fibre where available often costs USD125 per month, limiting its take-up to the well-off. Abject failure of telcos to provide broadband to a third of Australians is finally being rectified with the NBN, but no US consumer expects to see any change in the forseeable future. Australia's the best country in the world, folks.
    • "Australia's the best country in the world"

      Well assuming the NBN is completed and not trashed by the coalition baboons. Seriously this is possibly the first time that I actually feel sorry for Americans, Australia will soon have the best, most functional and future proof network when the NBN is complete. Americas lack of foresight is not surprising though, they have been sliding backwards for a few decades now... perhaps Abbott and his chums would like to move there so they can enjoy all the slow internet they can get.
      Hubert Cumberdale
      • I don't think it comes down to a lack of foresight on America's part, it's probably got more to do with the fact that they are broke.
        • Agree mwil19...

          We all know that American's are extremely patriotic, entrepreneurial and want the best for the USA.

          being so, I'm sure if they were in a better financial situation (say like Australia is) they would embrace a fibre network like ours... sans negativity, FUD and political lies...we as Aussies, who also want the best for Australia, have to endure!
          • I'm American. Our government is controlled by giant corporations, and our two party, first past the post political system renders progressives impotent. It's not that we're "broke", it's that AT&T spends more money lobbying the US government than any other corporation in the world.
          • 14 Trillion in public debt, and 53 Trillion in total debt is what I'd consider broke.
          • That's not to have a shot at the US, just to Illustrate that they have more important issues than FTTH right now, namely fixing the basics of their economy.
          • The NBN is a costly white elephant that will blowout and Australia will soon catch up with the USA in terms of debt. Funny isn't it, the US doesn't have the NBN, yet all the great internet companies, like Google, Yahoo, Ebay, Facebook, etc are developed in the USA, whereas Australians are rarely successful in commercializing new internet technologies. Wonder why? - hint it has nothing to do with the NBN.
            Joseph B
          • @ JosephB says - "Australians are rarely successful in commercializing new internet technologies. Wonder why?


            Because half of the Australian's (just like you) have no foresight and can't see the benefits of technology (such as an NBN) UNTIL someone else does it...! DER!
          • Ooh and seriously JosephB catch up to the US in terms of debt...FFS?

            So (using mwil19's numbers) you believe the NBN will cost $53 Trillion...LOL!

            We have a winner...! Funny isn't it you say. Yes you are!
          • I think you misunderstood !

            The comment was about the US success in creating the internet, then capturing its value via all the genesis of all the major dotcom companies, and how it did not require an NBN. The implication is that US gets on with the job while half the aussies (just like you) sit around waiting for da-guvment to hand them a $50b++ NBN, claiming that they will suddenly becoming entrepreneurial once it arrives, despite their abject failure to do so before hand. Basically, the US has the runs on the board, us aussies have got nothing (*). An NBN is not going to change that.

            (*) Actually we have wi-fi .. that WAS us aussies ... but, well da-guvment is ensuring that line of successful research is kept in check, lest it compete with the NBN !!!

            Oops, soory to point that out. Gee, and so many people plussed the comment. Oh well. Reality sucks sometimes.
          • asymbolico, actually that WiFi patent and a lot of the original Cellular work was done by The PMG/Telecom and the CSIRO under Labor governments, Libs cut funding. Go back to early computing we are among the leaders but Lib governments cut the funding and refused to fund a research/prototype semiconductor/I.C manufacturing facility the Uni's and CSIRO were pleading for google "CSIRAC: Australia’s first computer" . Compare with the US " 'IPad Deconstructed' Forum Makes Case for Federal Research". Our Conservatives unfortunately are true Colonial Primitives
            Abel Adamski
          • "The NBN is a costly white elephant"

            More white elephants lol...

            "that will blowout and Australia will soon catch up with the USA in terms of debt."


            "Wonder why? - hint it has nothing to do with the NBN."

            That's right it has nothing to do with the NBN, Rizz pretty much summed this one up and the problem is you have totally clueless people in power, this all started with the Howard government, to them the internet was just a fad and you know the rest of that story.
            Hubert Cumberdale
  • Good to see the woz was in oz! Also good to see he continues to blabber on about things he doesn't know much about. Both at&t (u-verse) and Verizon (FIOS) have offered fibre to the home in the US for some time now. For $69 / month I can get TV (think Foxtel) and Internet (unlimited). It is offered by public companies in a commercial manner. If I want it, I pay for it and I get it. If I don't want it, it isn't forced down my throat by the government. That is the difference between the nanny state that is Australia and the free world
    • And I assume you have taken a look at the coverage of both services, and understand a relatively small portion of USA can access these, and the coverage is confined to the most densely populated areas of the largest cities ala' Optus/Telstra HFC?

      Whilst FTTH will be forced down peoples throats in Australia when it is finished, how is it any different from copper being forced down peoples throats as is, outside of FTTH being more reliable, lower latency, faster downstream, faster upstream and potentially cheaper as you don't need to pay a extra $30 for a antique PSTN phone?
      • Hi Duideka. Yes. I lived in the US for 12 years and understand that the coverage is not even close to 100% (woz, for example, lives in a pretty obscure part of Los Gatos and I am surprised he gets water to his house!). My concern with the NBN is that it stinks of pork and is really a stimulus package in disguise, being used by the politicians to create jobs and, hence, buy votes (those ads on tv with the kids in the classroom being immersed in a shuttle launch are cringeworthy (especially given the shuttle won't even be around to see the NBN) and the doctors giving remote treatment - most doctors I know can barely use email, and you don't need fibre to have a video chat session). When government gets involved costs blow out (I have been to the NBNCo offices in Sydney with their Herman Miller chairs and sweeping views of the harbour) and decision makers are people like "filter the internet" conroy. This project will end up being 2x budget and take 2x the estimated time to deliver. The NBN is a great idea but it is in the wrong hands
        • Why is it so hard to look into the future? Why are you always looking at the current situation and try to put the future in to the same box?

          Years ago my grandma don't know how to use a phone. Then, my mom dont know how to use a internet. Now we've got a new N-Generation growing up.

          The doctor don't use the net for treatment NOW! does not mean they can't in the future. Maybe one day we will launch a shuttle a day, like plane flying in the sky. People back 50 years could only dream of flying in a plane.

          Everyone know the cost is huge! Majority wins. Whats the result? Labor won. case closed. Please move forward!
        • Well stated, It doesn't make sense to install fibre to my 87 year old mother in laws house who doesn't know how to use a computer at an enormous cost for all. A proper cost benefit analysis with a close look at alternative technologies and options was never done and therefore the government is foolish to go forward with the NBN as is.
          Joseph B
          • Do you think she will live there for the next 40 years?

            Perhaps, just perhaps and I'm going out on a limb here [sic] someone "else" will get use of it!

            Just like you did if you bought a used home and the previous owners connected...umm, water, sewerage, electricity, oh and a copper phone line"...

            Gee how about that, eh?
          • "It doesn't make sense to install fibre to my 87 year old mother in laws house who doesn't know how to use a computer"

            But she knows how to use a phone right? You do realise that the NBN is also a replacement network for the rotted out copper on which people rely on to communicate with voice traffic.

            "at an enormous cost for all."

            The sky is falling!!!

            "A proper cost benefit analysis with a close look at alternative technologies"

            You don’t know what a CBA is do you?

            "alternative technologies"

            What alternative technology can match fibre? Don’t you think it would be wise to roll out a future proof network that can keep up with everyone’s bandwidth needs?

            "therefore the government is foolish to go forward with the NBN as is."

            False. Foolish would be rolling out a substandard patchwork network based on FTTN.
            Hubert Cumberdale