Academic conferences are pretty dull in many respects. Lots of discussions of research and a few ideas. The conference that I am currently at is not academic and so when someone like Sol Trujillo (Telstra CEO) stands up to speak, there is alot of business marketing. The cultural shift is tough for me to sit through but I have almost made it; although not without a good amount of eye rolling.
In this speech, Telstra have moved to play the environmental card. It is a simple message: we need broadband because it will allow people to stop travelling internationally and locally and that will save on emissions. And not just that but the ability to manage electricity using devices more efficiently when you are not around (switching off air conditioning, etc saving some potentially large amounts of energy); something that might be done over a broadband network. And, of course, who is the only company that can save the environment in this way? Telstra, of course.
The first step — broadband can reduce travel — is something that might be true. Indeed, part of me hopes it is. But if that is the case that means that we have entrusted this aspect of our environmental future in one company, Telstra. I have said before that broadband is too important to be entrusted to one decision-maker. If there are environmental aspects to this, then that vision is particularly worrying. The environment is too important to be entrusted in one company. Indeed, the case for competitive broadband and diversity is only enhanced when one considers the potential environmental gains.
That said, it is good to see a company as large as Telstra at least being publicly committed to its own environmental impact and management. It makes good business sense but it also sets a solid example.
[Update: Only 4 hours after this post come the Internet traditional news on this one. They have a picture but didn’t reflect on the environmental stuff as much.]