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Analysis and Comment (58)

The Great White North is about as similar to Australia as any other country … so why don’t we follow their lead? The Great White North is about as similar to Australia as any other country … so why don’t we follow their lead? Winston Wong/Flickr

For top broadband policy, look no further than Canada

You might have seen communications minister Malcolm Turnbull raising the issue about Australian press not discussing policy problems and solutions from overseas, in a speech delivered at the Lowy Institute…
The NBN was not subjected to a cost benefit analysis - but this may not have circumvented controversy around the merits of the project. The NBN was not subjected to a cost benefit analysis - but this may not have circumvented controversy around the merits of the project. AAP/Stefan Postles

Cost benefit analysis can help or hinder good policy

Big infrastructure projects, such as the National Broadband Network, cost big money. So, how do we use public money wisely? For communications minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition government, a…
NBN Co is digging itself into a deeper hole. NBN Co is digging itself into a deeper hole. Shutterstock

The NBN is in a regulatory hole – time to stop digging

Has there ever been a bigger policy mess than the NBN? The latest claims are that NBN Co risks breaching Australia’s consumer law on the grounds of misleading and deceptive conduct. So how did it get to…
Treasurer Joe Hockey and finance minister Mathias Cormann face a difficult sell for the Abbott government’s tough first budget. Treasurer Joe Hockey and finance minister Mathias Cormann face a difficult sell for the Abbott government’s tough first budget. AAP/Alan Porritt

Federal budget 2014: political experts react

The Abbott government is hoping an A$11.6 billion infrastructure spending package, combined with a $20 billion medical research fund, will help soften the blow of widespread tightening of health and welfare…
Looking for fast broadband? Here, read this report. Looking for fast broadband? Here, read this report. Stefan Postles/AAP

The politics of unshackling the NBN from politics

Nobody can ever state with certainty how much it will cost or how long it will take to deliver broadband services to more than 22 million people spread out over 7.6 million square kilometres. Even more…
Consumers have never had more choice, but does that mean more local content? Consumers have never had more choice, but does that mean more local content? Shutterstock

Archaic cross-media ownership laws won’t save local content

Communication minister Malcolm Turnbull’s proposal for changes to cross-media ownership laws has reignited calls for the government to protect local content. On the surface, it appears reasonable to expect…
Business Council of Australia and now National Commission of Audit head Tony Shepherd is unlikely to make recommendations that don’t fit with the Coalition’s agenda. Business Council of Australia and now National Commission of Audit head Tony Shepherd is unlikely to make recommendations that don’t fit with the Coalition’s agenda. Nikki Short/AAP

Beware the veil of independence in government reviews

The Abbott Coalition government, like the incoming Labor government before it, has marked the beginning of its term with a raft of reviews, including the wide ranging National Commission of Audit. Given…
Malcolm Turnbull says Labor’s NBN would have cost $73 billion, but his version is also likely to be billions of dollars over budget. Malcolm Turnbull says Labor’s NBN would have cost $73 billion, but his version is also likely to be billions of dollars over budget. Alan Porritt/AAP

NBN 2.0: From engineer’s dream to political football

With unwavering confidence Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled the consultants report showing Labor’s ambitious plan to provide fibre–to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband to the vast majority…
Some technologies are easy to predict, but it’s easy to get the detail wrong. Some technologies are easy to predict, but it’s easy to get the detail wrong. mcscrooge54/Flickr

How we forecast future technologies

Although I’m a futurist, I have absolutely no idea what information and communications technology will look like in 50 years time. I do know that some of it will be familiar because once we find a usable…
Former communications minister Stephen Conroy relished the opportunity to attack new NBN Co boss Ziggy Switkowski on rising costs and the state of Telstra’s copper network in the Senate hearing last week. Former communications minister Stephen Conroy relished the opportunity to attack new NBN Co boss Ziggy Switkowski on rising costs and the state of Telstra’s copper network in the Senate hearing last week. AAP/Lukas Coch

Senate hearing circus shows politics has no place in NBN

As Stephen Conroy interrogated the incoming NBN Co chief Ziggy Switkowski in last week’s Senate hearing into the network’s rollout, it became increasingly clear that politics is getting in the way of good…
Stringing optical fibre on power lines isn’t a new idea, but there are better ones. Stringing optical fibre on power lines isn’t a new idea, but there are better ones. Sarah Caulfield

Sooner, cheaper, faster: can power lines speed up the NBN rollout?

Recent reports in The Australian call for the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout to be sped up by using optical fibre strung overhead with power lines, rather than replacing Telstra’s copper network…
Malcolm Turnbull says he’s agnostic about which technology is used for the NBN. Malcolm Turnbull says he’s agnostic about which technology is used for the NBN. BartaIV/Flickr

Turnbull’s ‘agnostic’ approach could restore faith in the NBN

Yesterday, the new Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, announced he had asked for the resignations of the National Broadband Network (NBN) board. He stamped his authority on the direction of…
Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has not accepted the resignation of six members of the NBN Co board – yet. Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has not accepted the resignation of six members of the NBN Co board – yet. AAP/Alan Porritt

NBN Co’s board members resign – but why?

The mass resignation of all board members but one of NBN Co - the company charged with rolling out the National Broadband Network (NBN) - should come as no surprise to anyone observing the NBN debate…
The vision of a fibre-to-the-home National Broadband Network continues for some. The vision of a fibre-to-the-home National Broadband Network continues for some. J e n s

NBN petition and the backlash: when does democracy speak?

Australian social media users and civil society groups are mobilising against Coalition communications spokesperson Malcolm Turnbull’s implication today that democracy has spoken through the election process…
A vote for the future? A vote for the future? AAP/Lukas Coch

Election 2013 Essays: Australia for the long term

Election 2013 Essays: As the federal election campaign draws to a close, The Conversation asked eminent thinkers to reflect on the state of the nation and the challenges Australia – and whichever party…
Workers install a fibre optic cable for the government’s National Broadband Network (NBN). Workers install a fibre optic cable for the government’s National Broadband Network (NBN).

FactCheck: will the NBN take another 20 years to complete?

“At the current rate of roll-out, the National Broadband Network (NBN) won’t cover the whole country for 20 years.” – Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, National Press Club, 11 August. The above claim on the…
A disparity exists between media representations and public perceptions of the NBN. A disparity exists between media representations and public perceptions of the NBN. Flood

Australia, what do you think of the NBN?

It goes without saying that the National Broadband Network (NBN) – regardless of who steers the rest of the build – is a major infrastructure project for Australia. And we all know its cost, technical…
There are two visions for the National Broadband Network, but what are the long-term costs? There are two visions for the National Broadband Network, but what are the long-term costs? Lukas Coch/AAP

Can Australia afford the Coalition’s NBN?

Consumers know well that buying a cheaper product often costs more in the long term when the cheaper product has to be replaced. This is true of the Coalition’s vision for the National Broadband Network…
Foxtel and the NBN … why all the noise of late? Foxtel and the NBN … why all the noise of late? Gaye Gerard/AAP

News Corp Australia vs the NBN – is it really all about Foxtel?

No-one would describe News Corp Australia’s view on the National Broadband Network (NBN) as rosy. But if it’s true the company has engaged in repeated attacks on the government because it “hates” its network…
Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspapers have already come out swinging against the current government in the early stages of the election campaign. Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspapers have already come out swinging against the current government in the early stages of the election campaign. AAP/Paul Miller

Murdoch and his influence on Australian political life

In 2007, journalist Ken Auletta spent a great deal of time with Rupert Murdoch while writing a magazine profile of him. Auletta observed that Murdoch was frequently on the phone to his editors and this…
The two proposals for Australia’s NBN offer two potential realities. The two proposals for Australia’s NBN offer two potential realities. Lukas Coch/AAP

Labor and Coalition broadband policies – what’s the difference?

Broadband – in the shape of the National Broadband Network (NBN) – remains a key point of difference between Labor and the Coalition’s policies going into the federal election. Our politicians are not…
We factcheck Malcolm Turnbull and Anthony Albanese on this week’s Q&A program. We factcheck Malcolm Turnbull and Anthony Albanese on this week’s Q&A program.

FactCheck Q&A: broadband, climate change and Labor Party reform

UPDATED: We were inundated with ideas for statements to check from Monday night’s Q&A on ABC TV. Here, our experts tackle four claims on three of the most requested topics. 1. Anthony Albanese: claims…
Civilians rescue an injured worker after the eight-storey Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on April 24. Civilians rescue an injured worker after the eight-storey Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on April 24. AAP

Mind the gap: company disclosure discrepancies not sustainable

The recent decision by two Australian retailers to sign an accord protecting suppliers in Bangladesh has highlighted discrepancies in company disclosure of sustainability issues and the need for clearer…
Exposure to even a single fibre of asbestos dust can cause significant health problems. Exposure to even a single fibre of asbestos dust can cause significant health problems. Image from shutterstock.com

Health harms of asbestos won’t be known for decades

The digital age crashed into the bronze age when the roll out of Australia’s high-speed broadband network was disrupted by the discovery of asbestos in Telstra pits in recent weeks. Workplace relations…
Speed limits were made to be broken - in internet terms, anyway. Speed limits were made to be broken - in internet terms, anyway. JRFreemanJr

Faster-than-superfast internet, and why we can’t have it (yet)

You may have read about Sony’s plan to install a fibre-based internet service in Japan which could reach download speeds of 2 gigabits a second (Gbps). That’s 20 times faster than speeds offered by Labor’s…
Will the NBN be more “future-proof” under Labor or the Coalition? Will the NBN be more “future-proof” under Labor or the Coalition? Lukas Coch/AAP image

The NBN needs vectoring – or is Turnbull just hectoring?

In yesterday’s Business Spectator, shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull defended the Coalition’s broadband plan, released on Tuesday, as a better alternative to Labor’s National Broadband Network…
Regardless of which NBN policy is implemented, it will be a win-win situation for Telstra. Regardless of which NBN policy is implemented, it will be a win-win situation for Telstra. AAP

As Labor and the Coalition duel over the NBN, the real winner is Telstra

Many commentators have claimed that the Coalition has proposed a cheaper but backward fibre-to-the-node option compared to Labor’s top of the range fibre-to-the-premises network. However, this is not entirely…
Yesterday, the Coalition launched its blueprint for the national broadband network, which will have lower access speeds but will be cheaper to build. But is it good policy? Yesterday, the Coalition launched its blueprint for the national broadband network, which will have lower access speeds but will be cheaper to build. But is it good policy? AAP

The Coalition’s NBN policy is a triumph of short-termism over long-term vision

“The superfast broadband of the order of 100+ megabits per second (Mbps) and into the gigaspeed bracket is de rigueur for any nation purporting to be a developed and advancing economy.” – Phil Ruthven…
“Quick and dirty” or “slow but consistent”? The policies are now on the table. “Quick and dirty” or “slow but consistent”? The policies are now on the table. Dan Peled/AAP Image

A tale of two NBNs: the Coalition’s broadband policy explained

Today in Australia, the Coalition released its policy on the National Broadband Network (NBN). So what is the proposal? Amid rhetoric claiming Labor government inefficiency, cost blowouts and failure to…
The ACCC has concerns over NBN Co’s wholesale pricing plans. The ACCC has concerns over NBN Co’s wholesale pricing plans.

NBN Co goes back to the drawing board on pricing plan

Yesterday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recommended that NBN Co revise its wholesale agreement — including proposals on pricing and access — as outlined in its special access…
Brunswick households have largely welcomed the NBN, but more needs to be done to address retail pricing structures for high-speed broadband plans. Brunswick households have largely welcomed the NBN, but more needs to be done to address retail pricing structures for high-speed broadband plans. AAP

Despite bumps in the rollout, households show strong support for the NBN

The NBN is emerging as one of the key issues in the lead-up to this year’s federal election. But the project has been fraught with challenges: planning issues and a shortage of skilled labour have delayed…
Silver bullets are elusive when it comes to curbing illegal downloads. Silver bullets are elusive when it comes to curbing illegal downloads. aquella manera

Smacking down online piracy – does New Zealand know best?

We know online piracy exists; we know governments want to stop it – but what are the options? Richard Freudenstein, CEO of Australia’s largest pay-TV provider Foxtel, has joined the chorus of entertainment…
Concerns about the NBN destroying Australian music are just scaremongering. Concerns about the NBN destroying Australian music are just scaremongering. AAP/Joel Carrett

The NBN will be disastrous for the music industry … really?

The NBN could have disastrous results for the local [music] industry. At least, that was the view of peak recording industry body the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and local…
Is it time to declare the NBN a “national disaster”? Is it time to declare the NBN a “national disaster”? MATEUS_27:24&25

The army should rescue the NBN

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is in dire trouble and has reached the point where Julia Gillard should declare a national disaster. By doing so the government would be able to utilise constitutional…
Getting something we all need for nothing … what’s not to love? Getting something we all need for nothing … what’s not to love? madlyinlovewithlife

Free Wi-Fi for everyone everywhere (maybe)

The Washington Post reported on February 4 that the US federal government wanted to create super Wi-Fi networks across the USA. While it appears that statements by the US Federal Communications Commission…
If we assume that demand for in-flight internet is going to increase, it’s time we did something about it. If we assume that demand for in-flight internet is going to increase, it’s time we did something about it. Damian Shaw/AAP

Qantas drops in-flight Wi-Fi – the NBN to the rescue?

The trial of in-flight Wi-Fi on six Qantas Airbus A380s flying between Melbourne, Los Angeles and London has ended, following an announcement by the carrier last week. So why does this matter? And could…
Asian languages are important, but they should be one part of a greater focus on Asia in the curriculum. Asian languages are important, but they should be one part of a greater focus on Asia in the curriculum. Asian image from www.shutterstock.com

Across the curriculum: access to Asian languages isn’t everything

Despite the breadth of issues in the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper released this week, so far the debate has focused largely on language learning in schools. With fewer and fewer students…
Open health is one side of “open data” policies being pursued by countries all over the world. Open health is one side of “open data” policies being pursued by countries all over the world. Kate Ter Haar

Open health: what is it and why should you care?

“Open health” captures a broad set of information technologies that will change the way we approach health and health care. It encompasses “ehealth” (the storage and provision of personal medical information…
The internet of the future could consume 10% of the world’s electricity supply. The internet of the future could consume 10% of the world’s electricity supply. rachel_titiriga

The internet is sapping the world’s energy, so let’s improve it

Despite its new economy sheen, the internet represents a surprisingly large old economy drain on energy resources. Industry and academia must work together to ensure the internet is a positive contributor…
The Australian Financial Review isn’t everyone’s first choice for coverage of the NBN. The Australian Financial Review isn’t everyone’s first choice for coverage of the NBN. Lukas Coch/AAP

For whom the Whirlpool trolls? Stephen Conroy and the NBN

The presence of “trolls” in online forums is often portrayed as a blight on constructive debate, but a recent stoush indicates political discussion by antagonistic online users may not be all bad. You…
Much like the development of the railway in the 19th century, the National Broadband Network (NBN) will transform our society. Much like the development of the railway in the 19th century, the National Broadband Network (NBN) will transform our society. Wikimedia Commons

How the NBN will change education: Australia’s “Last Spike” moment

When I grew up in Canada there was a famous painting on the wall of nearly every primary school classroom. It was called “The Last Spike” and it depicted the final railway track connection being hammered…
How can consumers get what they want on an NBN-enabled Australia without getting wires crossed? How can consumers get what they want on an NBN-enabled Australia without getting wires crossed? NBNCO

The NBN, service providers and you … what could go wrong?

Unless you’ve been boycotting all forms of media in the past five years, you’ll be aware that the National Broadband Network (NBN) is well and truly on its way. For some of us the NBN is already here…
Broadcasting live surgeries in Australia is not only possible, it’s already happening. Broadcasting live surgeries in Australia is not only possible, it’s already happening. Flickr/Focus Laser Vision

Broadcasting live surgery: the new reality rather than reality TV

The promise of technology is under-utilised in the medical profession but that’s hopefully about to change. Existing audiovisual equipment within hospitals is being used to fill training gaps and reach…
Treasurer Wayne Swan is chuffed about the surplus, but it pays to take a deeper look at the numbers. Treasurer Wayne Swan is chuffed about the surplus, but it pays to take a deeper look at the numbers. AAP

Accounting “tricks” behind the federal budget surplus

Government budgets are increasingly becoming more political documents. This has been particularly evident with the federal government’s pledge to return the budget to surplus. However, budget numbers are…
Read the second part of our In Conversation between Stephen King (left) and former ACCC head, Graeme Samuel. Read the second part of our In Conversation between Stephen King (left) and former ACCC head, Graeme Samuel. AAP

Graeme Samuel: the problem with petrol, the NBN and the ‘scare campaign’ against supermarkets

Welcome to part two of our In Conversation between the former head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Graeme Samuel and Monash’s Professor Stephen King, also a former competition regulator…
Pepper’s Ghost is an amazing technique, but holograms, done right, are so much cooler. Pepper’s Ghost is an amazing technique, but holograms, done right, are so much cooler. kisokiso

Tupac’s rise from the dead was, sadly, not holography

Last week rapper Tupac Shakur performed at the Coachella music festival in California – a notable feat given he was shot dead in 1996. Tupac’s glowing image appeared on stage, rapping, dancing and interacting…
Huawei has trumpeted its private-sector credentials, but it is a critical supplier of technology to the People’s Liberation Army and has strong links to the CCP. Huawei has trumpeted its private-sector credentials, but it is a critical supplier of technology to the People’s Liberation Army and has strong links to the CCP. AAP

Huawei and the NBN: beware the long arm of the CCP

In response to the Australian government’s decision to prevent Huawei from tendering for National Broadband Network projects, Huawei Australia went on the offensive. Former foreign minister and current…
The NBN promises to be way more than a technology side-show. The NBN promises to be way more than a technology side-show. Theophilos

The NBN and cloud computing … a marriage made in heaven?

Now that the hoopla associated with the Australian National Broadband Network (NBN) has died down somewhat, I’d like to discuss one of the significant opportunities by drawing a line between the NBN and…
Telstra chief executive David Thodey at Telstra’s annual general meeting where shareholders voted for an $11 billion NBN deal. Telstra chief executive David Thodey at Telstra’s annual general meeting where shareholders voted for an $11 billion NBN deal. AAP

Telstra agrees to NBN deal, but ACCC hovers

Telstra shareholders have agreed to an $11 billion deal today that will hand over the telco’s fixed line network to NBN Co. Under the deal, Telstra will decommission its copper line network as customers…
Malcolm Turnbull talks about Telstra’s structural separation, the ACCC and much more with Joshua Gans. Malcolm Turnbull talks about Telstra’s structural separation, the ACCC and much more with Joshua Gans. Supplied

Turnbull: ‘It has been trench warfare between the ACCC and Telstra for a long time’

Welcome to the latest in our In Conversation series, between Opposition Spokesman for Communications and Broadband, Malcolm Turnbull and economist, Professor Joshua Gans. This week, attention has again…
Broadband-enabled technologies can ensure a more comfortable ageing process. Broadband-enabled technologies can ensure a more comfortable ageing process. sparktography

If I had a blank cheque I’d … reform Australia’s aged care system

Welcome to If I had a blank cheque … a series in which leading researchers reveal what they could (and would) do in their discipline if money were no object. Today we hear from Dr Kate Cornick, Executive…
Great headlines … shame about the reality. Great headlines … shame about the reality. Australian Federal Police/AAP

Evil descends on the NBN? Erm, not quite

Another day, another hacking exploit makes headlines. This time it’s a “self-taught, lone hacker”, David Cecil, apparently known online as “Evil”, who allegedly broke into Platform Networks' site, one…
Investment in Australia’s ports is one obvious priority to enhance growth - but let’s broaden our outlook. Investment in Australia’s ports is one obvious priority to enhance growth - but let’s broaden our outlook.

With the NBN locked in, it’s time to bridge our infrastructure gaps

There has been much debate in the popular and political discourse on the state of our national infrastructure. The general consensus, despite Victoria’s Baillieu government’s failure to put forth any proposals…
Are traditional telephony services looking down the barrel of a gun? Are traditional telephony services looking down the barrel of a gun? Grace

You use VoIP, try and understand it: make a noise and make it clear

If you use services such as Skype, you’ll already know about Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This is what makes your video calls with loved ones possible, and – not least with the advent of the NBN…
NBN Co chief Mike Quigley and Stephen Conroy still face many tough tasks. NBN Co chief Mike Quigley and Stephen Conroy still face many tough tasks. AAP

It’s no secret, the NBN’s been left to tender mercies

The news that NBN Co has found a way to move forward from the crucial cost-of-construction issue must have surely lifted the Gillard Government’s spirits. NBN Co, the government-owned corporation in charge…
Is the NBN a “perfect answer” to Australia’s broadband needs? Is the NBN a “perfect answer” to Australia’s broadband needs? Mozzer502/Flickr

Getting Alan Jones up to speed on the NBN

A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Radio 2GB commentator Alan Jones demonstrated this adage last week when commentating on a recent technology breakthrough by a group of international…
The NBN could give all Australians access to online services. The NBN could give all Australians access to online services. iStockphoto

Explainer: the National Broadband Network (NBN)

The big picture Australia’s plan for a National Broadband Network (NBN) represents one of the largest infrastructure projects in the world at present. The estimated $43 billion price tag has stirred up…

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