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Transparency Required For $37 Billion Aussie Broadband Deal 62

destinyland writes "Freedom of Information Laws have been successfully extended to Australia's $37.5 billion broadband internet project — a 100 mbps fiber network covering 94% of the Australian population. The massive National Broadband Network had originally been classified as exempt from Australia's Freedom of Information laws, which Australia's goverment argued would impose 'a competitive disadvantage' on its operating company. The Opposition and Green parties pointed out that freedom of information was essential, since the NBN Company would be operating as an internet monopoly."
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Transparency Required For $37 Billion Aussie Broadband Deal

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  • ...they will manage to stuff up at some stage. I have no doubts that this will exceed the $37.5 billion allocated. Seriously, when was the last an Australian government (state or federal) has managed to maintain their promises on costs of any project.
    • by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

      Our government is also very pro-censorship. Nothing good can come of this monopoly.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      The cost of implementation will be driven by how rapidly it is down and where the initial infrastructure is implemented are focused.

      Focusing on high revenue areas in the early stages will return income into the development and help pay for it.

      So the cost will largely be driven by take up of the service, now as the incumbent telco is scrapping it's copper, take up is guaranteed.

      Benefit of fibre optic services is it will continue to provide high bandwidth communications in the even of major failures in

  • by sg_oneill ( 159032 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @03:11AM (#35309904)

    Bah. The opposition have been running a ridiculous scare campaign to try and convince people that its a terrible idea and instead the government should be rolling out 4G wireless as the new "next generation" broadband.

    Never mind that 4G is slower than the current ADSL2+ network.

    And the bit about a monopoly is ridiculous. The current copper network is owned as a monopoly by Telstra who are proving to be deeply anti-competitive compared to when it was government owned . If your going to do a monopoly, let the govt run it so that it wont have an anti-competitive profit motive. Then let the commercials offer alternatives. This is the current plan.

    The conservatives would block their own assholes if they believed labor had invented them.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What is worse is, five to ten years down the line, the Liberals (the current opposition) are going to sell off the NBN so they can give tax breaks to the wealthy and then when they lose the next election, complain that Labor can't even keep their budget balanced (even though it was the Liberals who sold off a profitable or at least in the black government holdings and spent all the profits)...

    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @03:32AM (#35309952)
      What the government fails to realise is that this only becomes a monopoly when privatised. Most government run utilities are in essence a monopoly and as long as the liberal government doesn't in the future turn around and privatise the national broadband network it won't be a monopoly but a utility.
      • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @04:42AM (#35310162)

        What the government fails to realise is that this only becomes a monopoly when privatised. Most government run utilities are in essence a monopoly and as long as the liberal government doesn't in the future turn around and privatise the national broadband network it won't be a monopoly but a utility.

        Its been in the NBN plan from the start that NBNco would be privatised a number of years after completion to recoup the costs (pay off the govt bonds being used to build it). It's about the only part of the NBN plan I disagree with.

        OP is right, this is a scare campaign run by Abbott and Turnbull (why did Peter quit, I always like the idea of saying that Abbott and Costello ran the country). They know the NBN is popular and have no reasonable alternative.

        • Government/Opposition supporters.

          The original Fan Boy War.

          • by mjwx ( 966435 )

            Government/Opposition supporters.

            The original Fan Boy War.

            For the record, I voted Green/Independent.

            Not that I disagree with you, you raise a good point, the most tragic Apple fanboy could not raise the level of hell as an angry life long Liberal/Labor supporter.

            In a 2 party system I have to pick which party I hate the least, but in Oz I can at least pick an third party/individual that will occasionally slap the major party and say "dont do that again".

        • Can somebody please explain the pros of privatising? To me, it is like selling your apple tree that you've protected all of your life to the first bystander who happens to have a lot of apples: you always loose.
          • No, you pretty much get the idea.

          • by s73v3r ( 963317 )

            You get a short term boost in revenue. That's about it. Also, some ideologically pure sense of government not interfering with business. But as far as useful things go, nothing.

          • Summarised best by a coworker of mine, it's a way of the government selling you something that you already bought. :-)
      • What the government fails to realise is that this only becomes a monopoly when privatised. Most government run utilities are in essence a monopoly and as long as the liberal government doesn't in the future turn around and privatise the national broadband network it won't be a monopoly but a utility.

        • The government is planning to privatize NBNCo; one of the main arguments its proponents bring up is that it will make so much money that the taxpayer will profit (we'll see)
        • "Most government run utilities are in essence a monopoly" followed by "as long as it doesn't get privatized it won't be a monopoly but a utility" doesn't make much sense.
        • Whether you class a utility as a monopoly, your definitions for either or those terms, doesn't really matter: In Australia and elsewhere utilities are getting split up,
        • Didn't work so well for Australia's airports though did it? And we are only getting away from Telstra being a monopoly by a Telstra specific legislation, which surely is the antithesis of capitalism?
        • we have loads of decent choices now, after years of suffering which started with the privatisation, after years of telstra the now private entity dedicated to shareholder returns rather than service getting belted repeatedly by the ACCC. Before the privatisation I had 10mbit cable fully unlimited. I didn't need choice. It was only post privatisation when the 3gb cap (first in the world mind you) was introduced as the only option with the lovely cent/mb over charge, it was only then that we in general craved
      • Most government run utilities are in essence a monopoly and as long as the liberal government doesn't in the future turn around and privatise the national broadband network it won't be a monopoly but a utility.

        Utilities are, by definition, services that are best provided by monopolies.

      • by ytaews ( 1837554 )
        It's still a monopoly, but I would rather have a monopoly that is accountable to its customers (through elections) as opposed to its shareholders.
    • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      Their arguments may be ridiculous, but transparency is still a good thing. Such a high budget makes it very credible that some people will try to divert some percents in their pockets. Security through obscurity doesn't work, neither does honesty through secrecy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It was the greens that negotiated this.,greens-win-foi-concession-on-nbn-co.aspx []

    • Still, don't you think it's suspicious that they tried to exempt such a huge spending project from FOI? I get real uneasy when projects start breaking from basic principles of good governance. Even if I like the reason for the project's being, that's no excuse for breaking from a fundamentally important principle.

  • by c0lo ( 1497653 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @03:17AM (#35309922)
    ...without transparency, how are the lasers going to shine over the optical fiber?
    • ...without transparency, how are the lasers going to shine over the optical fiber?

      We could try replacing the photons with electrons and the optical fiber with non-transparent copper wire.

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @03:41AM (#35309976)
    One the one side transparency should be part of every major infrastructure project. It provides a way to judge the government on how well it's doing spending money rather than squandering it on red tape and poorly worded contracts. Knowing this government it will cost more than the $37bn they projected.

    On the other hand the whole quest for transparency is coming from the opposition as they are desperately looking for any excuse to try and sink this project. Their vision of the future is some magical wireless that apparently will break the laws of physics or something and will provide this speed to all Australians without infrastructure costs. Oh and rather than a government funded project they will achieve this simply handing billions to Telstra our biggest government funded monopoly, and also the ISP with the poorest pricing models in the country. This is also disappointing as the opposition communications minister is the only one really qualified for the title, but he also seems to be in magical wireless land.

    If the opposition manage to sink this project as a result of somehow convincing the greens and independents that it is not worthwhile as a result of this information, I'm going to be pissed.
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Knowing this government it will cost more than the $37bn they projected.

      based on...

      Bad media reports of the insulation fiasco. Hate to break it to you mate but those were overblown.

      The NBN is slated to cost the government less then 25 Bn (over 13 Bn is from private sources) now that they've got access to Telstra's pits and ducts. That was the real cost of the NBN, not the glass, not the routers but the fact they had to dig up almost every street in the country to get it in there. With the Telstra d

      • Yeah, when people die due to shoddy due diligence on the behalf of the government, it's just so meh these days.

        • That's a little disingenuous mate; when most people mention the insulation program, they are simply repeating the Liberal line that the whole thing was a fiasco. Which it wasn't. Some dodgy operators spoiled it for everyone (and perhaps the government could have taken a little more care vetting operators somehow), but overall the program was a success.

          When you talk to just about anyone in Australia, and they immediately bring up one of the following, you may as well just walk away (or face the urge to thr

      • based on...

        ... Government.

        Actually scratch that. Just call it a major project. The problem with most of these large projects is the engineering costs are a race to the bottom. Even without the government red tape you'll end up with the contractor either going bankrupt or over budget.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      i suppose you don't mind if the NBN ends up costing $94 billion, reaches only 80% of metropolitan areas, and results in consumers paying roughly $20/month more for 8mbps connections (not unlimited mind you).

      one of the things that has been hidden is what the effective cost will be.
      sure it 'sounds' like it'll be cheap once everyone has 100mbps connections.
      but considering all the content people actually want will be coming from the USA, prepare to pay a premium on international costs.
      in addition with what info

  • Being at home above the equator, I'm confused by the article []'s reference to "material relating to confidential commercial information". Supposedly, such information could and should be protected from disclosure.

    But why does the government need to have trade secrets along with the usual military and diplomatic embargo on information? Dictators and their cronies might think it's okay to run a government for profit, but my understanding of democratic government is that, at best, it shouldn't lose money ("bala

    • by williamhb ( 758070 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @04:52AM (#35310192) Journal

      But why does the government need to have trade secrets along with the usual military and diplomatic embargo on information?

      Because it's an investment that they are determined is a good idea, but it's very hard to prove there will be enough of an economic return. Open up the accounts and they'll get assaulted from all sides -- the Liberal party complaining about the debt burden, the Telcos complaining about unfair competition, etc etc. Realistically, the NBN is being funded in the hope that having a western English-speaking country with almost universal fast broadband access, companies will choose to deploy here first, found the company here, and turn technology from a big net import to a big net export as things deployed here first get re-exported around the world. As a technologist, I think it's a good bet, but it is one that is darned hard to prove in a business case -- expose it and the polticial flak from taking a punt with $40bn will sink the project and condemn Australia to continue importing most of its technology. At the moment, even most things that are invented here are incorporated in the US because that's the market the founders want to build a business in -- 10 times the size of Australia and with comparable infrastructure. So even if we invent it, it usually still ends up as a foreign company selling technology to Australia, and a balance of trade problem, as the US-incorporated company does the bulk of its hiring in the US. We need to change that, and making it attractive to found the next generation of technology companies here -- making Australia the first market a founding start-up will target, and consequently where they will incorporate -- is a good way to start.

      In short, my opinion is that it's a great bet because even if worst comes to worst, you still end up with a useful utility. But if the bet pays off, you get both a useful utility and growth and diversification in the economy. But you'd never get that past an opposition politician or a businessman with a vested interest in it failing.

  • by johnjones ( 14274 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @04:11AM (#35310048) Homepage Journal


    they are trying to derail the NBN and trust me this is the ONLY way australia is not going to be a backwater in 5 year (more than it is now)

    they are nuts first they claim that wireless is speedier than fibre
    (what do they think forms the uplinks from the base stations....)

    then they claim its not value for money
    (frankly the amount of bandwidth in australia is worth 100 billion but they wont see that as they dont depend on the internet for anything since right now it's so slow)

    if you want to know what a society can do with lots of bandwidth go to sweden

    australia needs something like NBN FAST and the politicians should stop playing games !!!!


    John Jones

    • Actually someone should point the house on the hill to redtube in high definition. THEN they will understand why we need the speed.
    • by OzTech ( 524154 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @07:02AM (#35310670)

      With respect. You are a numb-but, otherwise known as a "muppet".

      If you haven't realised or woken up to the fact that the NBN is really a smoke-screen thrown up the the Grubber-mint as a back-door way to totally control Internet access within our country, I suggest that you scour the fine pages on Slashdot and just take a quick look at what has occured recently in other counties where the Grubbermint has had absolutely no control over the pipe leading into their fine land to inform the general population.

      In case you are to think to understand, the NBN is Labors back-door mechanisim to control the flow of information in and out of this place because they didn't get it past the general population when they used the old American trick of Motherhood and Apple-Pie when wrapped into the blanket of kiddie-porn and terrorism the way the Yanks seem to continually do.

      Make no bones about it. The NBN has nothing to do with access. It is about "control" at any and all costs. With a Grubbermint as the Naitional ISP and ultimately controlling the pipes, what more or less would.could you expect?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    > since the NBN Company would be operating as an internet monopoly

    This is the single worst possible way to provide I service.

    The Oz Government is both stupid and evil.

    I say evil because I bet the fact that the money all comes from tax so this is a State owned company will play no small part in the Australian Governments deep packet inspection monitoring. If they tried to impose that on a private commerical company, they'd be fought tooth and nail, because of the costs and because it discourages customer

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The issue isn't with the NBN being awesome and cool, it's about ROI, and the fact that their is none. Having 1GBps network to the middle of nowhere isn't going to do any good. If it was commercially viable, a private company would have already done it, and the labor party has already been buying votes by promising regional towns first roll out of the NBN, where there is absolutly no ROI or economies of scale.

    I would support the NBN if it only applied to major population centers only, ie, capital cities.

  • The project will likely take 5 or more years to complete.
    I remember having 4mbps/512kbps ADSL line 5 years ago and there is no way i would call that "usable" today.

    I've had 150mbps/100mbps cable for a year now, this seems fine at the moment but in 5 years? considering how technology keeps on advancing and using up more-and-more bandwidth i really doubt there will be that many users for 100mbps net in 5 years.

    In my opinion they should take the money, invest it in backbone networks and let local telco's compe

    • Thing is, you're one of the VERY lucky ones. I would kill for your speeds. I live 3 km from the CBD of Canberra and the fastest speed I can obtain, via any means, is ~6Mbit (downstream). Relatives of mine in Brisbane are in a similar situation: they live in a central, relatively affluent suburb, but due to their distance from the exchange get poor speeds. 6Mbit is by no means 'terrible' - it's fine for gaming and everyday usage. But more will be needed in the very near future (and I'd love faster upload spe

      • I want someone to come along and kill the bandwidth caps in this country... The 'unlimited' we have now is pure B.S. marketing that ends up getting shaped like a 300 baud modem. I just came back from a 2-week trip to Korea where I downloaded 850 gigs in that short time.
        • Thing is, Korea is a country where most content people demand is hosted domestically. ISPs can reach a much larger percentage of the demanded hosts without crossing to transit or peering networks. Australia OTOH is a very unusual beast in the world of provisioning internet: it's English-speaking, but far from where most English speaking content is hosted (North America, and to a lesser extent the UK). Something like 90% of traffic is international. Few other countries on earth have that pattern of demand (N

    • 100 mbps was WAY too slow even for the early years of the Internet! In the late nineties most of the people getting online had at least a 56 kbps modem, that is 560,000 times faster than 100 mbps.

      Now, 100 Mbps, that's a different story. Most people have internet access in the vicinities of 10 Mbps, so most people would consider 100 Mbps very fast now, but I agree that our perception will likely be very different in just a few years..

  • completely at odds with every other facet of an increasingly authoritarian Austrailian government. I've been meaning to look into why the land down under has taken this sudden lurch to the hard right; does it all go back to the Bali bombing? Then again, why should I assume Austrailia would be free of the same, hate-mongering, ignorant contagion that is afflicting the US.

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson