What is the NBN good for?

What is the NBN good for?

Summary: Despite Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's assurances to the contrary, in my crystal ball I'm seeing a broadband price rise coming to millions of Australians once the National Broadband Network has been built.

TOPICS: NBN, Broadband

commentary Despite Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's assurances to the contrary, in my crystal ball I'm seeing a broadband price rise coming to millions of Australians once the National Broadband Network has been built.

In that case, someone will have to come up with something to do with those speeds which is beyond what we do now, or I think Australians are going to laugh at ISPs and say, "Tell them they're dreaming".

The consumer price to access the network is going to be set in the negotiations Conroy holds with the bidders his expert panel recommends at the end of their eight-week deliberation in February. It could be as low as $15 per month, a figure Axia has touted for metro areas. But it could be as high as $85 per month.

But what do I do with it?
(Credit: And a stacky thingee, gthills, CC2.0)

All I can say is that if you're going to charge me 85 buckeroos for internet access, I want to see something pretty damn good. Something new, something that changes my life and improves the economy while it's at it. So what services are you going to provide, oh great network builder, that are going to make me cough up the dough?

As far as I'm concerned, I haven't seen any compelling uses yet that would make me step up from my normal $35 a month. Anyone have an idea? Don't say gaming. I know the latency on World of Warcraft is important, but this is $4.7 billion of taxpayers' money at stake. Would your conscience live with using it so you can have more fun casting spells or axing enemies?

YouTube doesn't excite me either. Or media. Although that is getting warmer. I'm not even going to take the standard answers such as health or education. If we just wanted a network to give hospitals and schools, it could be a lot smaller and cover a lot less area.

I'm waiting for you to say something useful. Bueller. Anyone?

An ACMA report released this week puts banking as Australia's "favourite" online activity alongside paying bills and shopping.

So I'm thinking bandwidth-hungry banking applications. Anyone help me out here? What about bill paying. Can't say I'm getting excited yet. Or a 3D online shopping mall. That will have to use a decent whack of speed don't you think? Although even as a woman I can't say I find the idea particularly scintillating.

So you've drawn a blank have you? Unsurprising. According to Ovum research director David Kennedy, the services could take up to 10 to 20 years to come online. That's a long time for a network builder to wait for demand to rise for high capacity usage.

Kennedy says it's like building a highway: you do it and hope the traffic comes. But IBRS advisor Guy Cranswick thinks it's like a six-lane highway to Alice Springs. That would be pretty stupid, not an investment I'd want in on.

As far as I'm concerned, I haven't seen any compelling uses yet that would make me step up from my normal $35 a month.

Gartner analyst Robin Simpson thinks anyone who believes people won't want to sign up to faster speeds is insane, because once you get a taste of them you can't go back. All well and good. But at the moment, despite ADSL2+ being quite widespread in metro areas, most users are sitting on 512Kbps, according to acting assistant secretary for the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy Simon Cobcroft speaking last month. 512Kbps!

Australians might be fast adopters, but we're all penny pinching bastards. The current economic environment won't make it any better. And if you think I'm being pessimistic, look at a study which Charles Sturt University did recently.

The university surveyed over 600 households and found that less than 20 per cent of households currently using broadband saw a benefit in the NBN. Those without the high-speed internet service also only gave the NBN lukewarm approval, with only 17 per cent believing it would help them.

Broadband wasn't important in the budget stakes, the report found, with 66 per cent saying it wasn't a priority. Only 16 per cent of households surveyed intended on connecting to broadband in the next year, while just 10 per cent wanted to upgrade.

This might end up being a moot point if Conroy gets his negotiation hat on straight, because we may be looking at equivalent prices to what we have now for better speeds. I'll believe it when I see it though — fast to 98 per cent of the population is expensive. When they ask me for more cash, my first question is going to be "What's in it for me?" If they say "fast internet", I'll laugh at them and say "you're dreaming".

If you have a good idea of what can be done on the NBN with faster speeds which would make me want to pay double my money on broadband payment, pitch it. A reminder: gaming doesn't cut it.

Topics: NBN, Broadband

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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
  • open your eyes

    Can i ask Suzanne, what internet your currently doing your banking on??

    I live 50km out of melbourne, in frankston and my dialup doesnt even run at full, it takes for ever to load even zdnet.com. i am unable to get anything but dialup!

    There isnt much difference from your adsl2+ connection maybe, but think of all the ppl unable to even get 512 adsl1, its almost 2009 and the NBN could be the greatest single step for the future this country has seen in a while...
  • chris - you're dreamin'

    I also live about 50 km from the centre of town (Perth) and can only get dial-up at about 30kbps.

    I doubt the NBN will make any difference to that, though: if it's not profitable to plonk an ADSL rim in my neck of the woods, I'm sure they're not going to roll out fibre without a bloody good fight about it first.

    But even if they did, Suzanne's point still stands. What will it cost? If I have to pay $80/month for it, I'll probably not use it anyway! (As the only wireless broadband available where I live, I could pay that much for NextG right now if I wanted, but frankly it's not worth $90/month for a measly 5Gb!
  • re: open your eyes

    No, no, no... It is al about me!

    Anyway, the services are already here.

    IPTV, VideoOnDemand,video conferencing. You name it.

    The NGN with a competitive provider (ie Not Telstra) will be cheaper to maintain and therefore cheaper for the customer.
  • ABC 7, 9, 10

    There all starting to crank out the online TV shows... scrap your foxtel or what ever and stream what ever TV series you like direct from aust or america for a few dollars? and hopefully the NBN wont double it, but okay, Free TV, choose what episodes you want, when you want, in HD to :)....

    lol I'm sure I'll think of something else later, but for now, I want bigger DL, not faster speed
  • Stick to what you know best.

    Don't you hate it when people who don't use technology decide to write about it for a living. Just because Suzanne doesn't use faster speeds we should all say no to NBN. Just because suzanne doesnt game, we shouldn't either - although studies show that over 50% of adults enjoy console gaming.
    Just because Suzanne doesn't use online applications we shouldn't have to either. Despite more talk of the personal computer becoming an online experience with applications like photo/video-editing becoming online platforms similar to gmail calendar instead of outlook.
    Faster internet would allow us to shop online. How many online retailers do we have compared to the USA? one major reason fo this our internet is not adequate - speedwise or download limit wise.

    But that's ok ladies and gentlemen. We don't need these-since Suzanne doesnt either. Or maybe we should go ahead with the NBN and keep suzanne in the kitchen to clean the dishes. Not blogging about technology.
  • Who knows best?

    The main problem with the current fibre proposal is that a likely scenario is that the winning bidder will be a company that hasn't got their heart in it. The other problem is that proposed speeds are not equal to what ADSL2+ is providing.

    You'd be right if you were to say that the fibre network will eventually have a bigger reach than the current ADSL2+ network. However this shouldn't be the only consideration when going to the tremendous expense of outmoding it with fibre.

    I think the Commonwealth Government should scrap the whole idea, go back to the drawing board, assemble a new statutory authority to design, build and operate at wholesale level a true national fibre to the home telecommunications network and then manage the construction, commissioning and interconnection work themselves. Retailers would then be the current ISPs and maybe a handful of new ones who can then offer telephony and Internet over the one single taxpayer-owned network.

    We could have the best national communications network in the world if we wanted to. The trouble is that the people who have the capacity and authority to ensure it is delivered just don't want it badly enough and instead they echo all the usual stories about cost and the size of the landmass.
  • NBN

    Mel, I agree wholeheartedly. Or is that wholesalerly? Start again have a wholesale only company in charge (government or private). And, as has been mooted on this site before, look at the option of personal ownership of each residence's line, which would also help fund the project.

    My ADSL2 is pretty fast, but many of my rural friends are stuck with paired gain rubbish and cannot even get good dialup. Perhaps they should start in the bush - that'll be the day!
  • I got Another 1!!!

    Online BackUp solutions... I have myself a Gigabyte of photos and videos that should my house catch fire and melt the hard drives would all be gone, there are online storage but at 256K upload, icky! and photo sharing on facebook, 256K = Icky!

    lol, joe shall go now and put his brain back to work on this conundrum of does every1 in austrlia really need faster than 512K internet... lol, this blog entry does seem a bit out of place on what would be a tech blog... we all love our internets!
  • !! Telecommuting!

    All these call centre jobs could be sent home if every1 had access to base level broadband! lol, though im not gonna say thats very likely, NBN or no NBN, lol, im just giving another reason why faster internet would be good :)

    come on ppl help me out with ideas here! think like Ghost in the Shell kind of world :D
  • Looking forward

    What can high speed internet do for you? It wasn't all that long ago where not everyone had dial up and no banks had internet banking. What changed? Speed and security. So what would happen if we double that? Tripled? More?
    Suzanne is writing myopically about what people do now, not what people tomorrow, perhaps her children (or grandchildren) will be doing. She has not taken into consideration "cloud computing" where documents are shared via the internet or online storage and data retrieval (I know my current hard drive capacity is over 1TB). Businesses thrive on data, whether it is a spreadsheet being developed by professionals around the globe at the same time or media entertainment. A high speed network is the first step to building a new platform.
    There are so many more applications that can be run if we have the means (infrastructure) to run it. Some are current things that we can improve on, yet some are things that haven't even been implemented yet. Based on Suzanne's logic, we'd still all be playing Pong on the Atari console. I mean, what else could I be doing on a video game console?
    Price, however, is an obstacle, but one that will eventually be overcome. Thank goodness that our current infrastructure allows us to access the internet so we have a choice other than the NBN. If the price is too high, then take-up will not be able to sustain the proposed business model. Economics dictates that price is determined by supply and demand. If the demand is low, then prices will fall.
    What's in it for me? How about what's in it for us (including the next generation)?
  • More research before writing articles

    Just about everything I want to say was covered in other comments. However somethings which suzanne has mentioned don't fit. For starters, World of Warcraft pings are governed by the fact that the servers are in the USA which is 10 000km away and even in firbe it takes 200ms for light to travel that far. So a NBN here in AU will do nothing for pings in WoW.

    Now any game which a lot of Australians play, of course should be considered as a reason for a better internet connection. It doesnt matter that its just a game, it matters that many people are spending time playing it. Its their taxpayer dollars.

    This whole situation really reminds me of the traffic issues in brisbane. Bascialy the NBN will take years to get setup and running smoothly. The internet has only basicaly been around for 12years give or take a few for most. This is about a investment for the future, not about tomorrow and if we need it tomorrow. Its about what speed / bandwidth will we need avaliable in 2010, 2011, 2012 and beyond. And at our current uptake we need a new network that is much faster, allows many more people access.

    I have no idea why anyone would think that just because they dont need another gateway bridge (brisbane) today, that we shouldnt start building it.

    Their studies supporting both sides, but there really doesnt need to be a debate about this. Its all pros and no cons. Its most likely that the internet will actually be cheaper after the NBN iis finished than it is now. And who pays $35 for internet. The average is well over $50.

    Theres only one reason for more bandwidth and faster speeds. And that has been mentioned, Triple Play. TV, Phone and Internet all on the same connection with more choice and content from around the world. Half of the current bandwidth in AU is used downloading TV shows from BT.....

    Suzanne, you are diffinately not GenX or even GenY which is who the NBN needs to be built for.
  • Unprivatise Telstra?

    Government owned telecommunications network. Services provided to outflung areas. Prices put back into infrastructure, staff and services, not profit.

    This is what it used to be, however, people complained of poor service and apparently more competition would be good for prices.

    I agree that such important infrastructure (like water, road and rail) should have government at the base, but really can't see it happening.
  • HERE'S 1...Joe!

    I could bypass another Telstra monopoly. Foxtel! if I had faster FTTH.

    I already have ADSL2+ running at better than 17Mbps, but that's not good enough to provide me with HD TV, due to the speed restriction and the Pacific cable lag. There are ways to overcome both those problems. Technology is a wonderful thing, but we wouldn't get it if Telstra had the total control of my BB.

    There is a chance we'd get HDTV and many other good things, which the marketing guys always seem to be able to provide, once the delivery capabilities exist. I could list many more great things I could use a high speed FTTH cable service besides all my banking, online purchasing, DVD on demand to my 50" HD plasma screen, major OS software downloads safe from security incursions, to keep another monopoly in business,..and the list goes on & on.

    We won't get it with a FTTN NBN, unfortunately, not unless some way is found to avoid using the OLD OLD copper wires to the home!!

    We will do as we have done,..historically,..waited years, before we get to that stage of development. WHY?

    Because Telstra and big business has delayed every new development we have ever had presented to us. Digital TV is but one example! High Def TV is another.

    I am being ripped of by Telstra who charge like wounded bulls for the privilege of watching Foxtel via SATELLITE! in metropolitan Melbourne, which is weighed down by mind numbing advertisements. If I wanted Ads, I'd watch Free to Air TV, not pay Telstra for them.

    Country people are far worse off. My son has just moved to country Victoria, just south of the NSW border and even though he called Telstra (he had no other choice!!) and ordered Foxtel and ADSL, a month before he moved. When he moved in last week, guess what...NO FOXTEL. The Telstra Rep didn't tell him it wasn't available not even by Satellite!!

    God how backward can we be? All thanks to Telstra and the monopoly it was handed by the previous government, who didn't have a clue what it was all about!

    They call it the Lucky country...Sorry it's nothing of the sort.
  • OOPS..I meant Suzzane of course.

    Sorry Joe.
  • Suzanne's ignorance is showing

    I wont repaeat all the things that others have listed here about what you can do with it Suzanne. But I will suggest you get the hell out of IT journalism as you clearly have no idea about technology or the cultures of the various groups of people that use it.
  • The gist of Suzanne's blog entry is...

    ...'Because I have no use for it, why should I pay for it?'

    Hey - let's apply that same logic to the police, to fire services, and for the more fortunate amongst us, medical services. Or prisons. Or counselling services. Or border safety. Or the coast guard. Or the army/navy/airforce.

    I mean - come on - *I* don't use it, so why should I pay for it?

  • What I would use fast internet for

    I already know what I would use it for. To use it properly It must be as fast uploading as it is down loading. It must be at least 100mbs.

    My kids would then be able to connect to my hard drive as if it was part of their own computer. They then would be able stream photos, music, movies as if they were at home. We would be able chat at the same time over our voip phones or chat programmes.

    We would also use media centre software such as MythTV. My kids would be able to use my computer to watch or record TV from anywhere on the planet. For example I could be in Darwin, log on to my computer in Melbourne and watch the seven oclock news. Or record the MotoGP. Or log into my sons computer to watch a show he recorded for me.

    It is really like having a home network that is Australia wide.