NBN versus Corona

It is 2010 and then shadow communications minister Malcom Turnbull is talking about the growing NBN. It was 10 years ago and the internet wasn’t very fast, ADSL was the average, you’d get speeds anywhere from 1.5 Mbps to 15 Mbps if you were living right next to the DSLAM. Netflix was only just starting to migrate from DVDs to streaming media and Youtube was doing mostly 480p or “SD” video.

“For most, if not all applications, much lower speeds are perfectly [fine],” he said. “If you could deliver nationwide 12Mbps at relatively modest cost compared to the NBN, what is the additional utility/value of going from 12 [Mpbs] to 100 [Mbps].”
“People in the industry will tell you that they cannot get people to pay a significant premium for an increase in speed. That is partly because, that for a residential user, there isn’t much, if anything, you can do with 100 [Mbps] that you can’t do with 12 [Mbps].”

Malcolm Turnbull, 2010

Eventually he got his way and crippled the original NBN, changing it from a full fibre deployment to the horrible shambles it is now. “Mixed Technology Mode” – it was supposed to be cheaper and faster by incorporating existing infrastructure into the deployment, HFC and old copper. Turns out it took longer and cost more than the original fibre only plan.

And now in the midst of a major pandemic and with people all being told to stay and work at home we find ourselves with an unfinished NBN that struggles to reach speeds over 20 Mbps at most locations. The rare few like myself live in one of the early deployment areas and we have fibre to the premises but one suburb over there are people there that can’t get above 2 Mbps because they are on the fibre to the node setup. Turns out relying on 50 year old copper is a major flaw in the plan.

So as the government, both federal and state, all tell us to work from home, and as they bring in the telehealth services, we put additional strain on an already strained network. The backhaul links that should have been designed to handle multiple gigabit connections are only designed to handle throughput from old copper so congestion is getting worse. Netflix and Alphabet have started to alter the default bitrate levels on their streaming platforms to ease the load as more people are working from home and trying to entertain the children.

It is at times like these that we see that cutting corners on critical infrastructure just to save a couple of bucks is ALWAYS going to bite you in the ass.

Australia, our ass has been bitten hard.