Broadband in New Matilda

Ian McAuley misrepresents my views in New Matilda when he writes: 

Melbourne Business School Professor Joshua Gans has been quick to condemn the proposal on the basis that Australia does not have the population density of countries like Korea, where a geographically concentrated population has helped that country become the world leader in broadband capacity. But one could equally argue that it’s because of our distances between population centres, and our need to take population pressure off major centres (where existing broadband services are concentrated) that we need to expand our coverage.

No, I said it would be much more expensive for us to have a wired solution rather than a combination of wireless and wired to do the broadband job. He then goes on:

He also said that many people are satisfied with their present services. (Perhaps he has not struggled with the primitive 7 kb dialup connections which are still the lot of many Australian farmers.) It’s easy to satisfy people if they are unaware of wider possibilities. East Germans, for example, were very happy with their notoriously unreliable Trabant motor vehicles, until the Wall fell and they were exposed to Volkswagens and Audis. There are times when nations sensibly invest in infrastructure ahead of, rather than in response to, demand; the Eisenhower Government’s Interstate Highway program is a case in point.

No, I said that many people are satisfied with basic broadband. No one is arguing that all households need basic broadband rather than dialup (although a million households still choose to pay for dialup at the same price as available broadband). The current government is investing in that.

The Labor proposal is about high speed broadband. And politically it appears they are on the money as people like McAuley seems to continually confuse basic and high speed solutions.

3 thoughts on “Broadband in New Matilda”

  1. There is a lot of confusion out there, and it doesn’t help when journalists are imprecise in framing the debate.

    On the other hand, this is ultimately a symptom of the very ignorance McAuley is talking about. People won’t bother to learn the distinction between ‘basic’ and ‘true’ broadband until they find out they can’t access some new service because their connection is too slow. When that happens, they’ll demand to know why the infrastructure wasn’t put in place years ago.

    This is one situation where consumer knowledge will follow – not create – demand. The only way for an Australian government (of whichever persuasion) to avoid looking stupid five years from now is to anticipate that demand, and to start addressing it now.


  2. Joshua,

    I will amend the blog post I made to point to your comments.

    However, I would like to see pressure placed on the government and telstra to

    a) decide what outcomes they want to achieve
    b) work together to make a plan to achieve that
    c) tell the public about that plan

    cheers, Ben


  3. BTW

    Those arguing the case for less speed would do well to consider the indirect effects rather than just the direct ones.

    I would like people such as Geraldine to pull out guests who can express these, as Behind the News seems able to do.


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