Smegmatron posted:

The NBN has nothing to do with rich people or poor people. It's about business productivity and government services.

The Howard government, for the better part of a decade, offered every incentive they could think of to encourage the private sector to build something roughly equivalent to the NBN, especially outside of metropolitan areas. It amounted to absolutely nothing, because no amount of government incentive will allow a network owner to turn a profit in a country with population density as low as Australia's unless they're able to hold a monopoly on access to that network. Telstra legally can't, despite having had a de facto monopoly, and the cost of maintaining copper that covers that much space but sees such little use is prohibitively expensive. As a result, telcos built infrastructure in places dense enough to turn a profit for them and provided only the most barebones services possible in regional areas. This created the rural/metro connectivity divide which necessitated the NBN. Even if the people in regional areas were multi-billionaires, Telstra would not have run fibre to their area because the time it would take for that outlay of capital to pay for itself and start generating profit is just far too long for a any company with shareholders. The only company who could feasibly do it is one which doesn't have to answer to shareholders and is exempt from monopoly regulations; a government company. 

While this was happening, business interest in information services and the delivery of digital content and services exploded and almost immediately outstripped the meager capacity of our telecommunications infrastructure. Public-facing government departments like Centrelink and various state health departments are desperately trying to do as much of their work as possible online because it lets them service more people more efficiently with less staff and resource consumption. Businesses in every sector from entertainment to private health are paying huge amounts of money to secure bandwidth and guarantees of performance which are incredibly modest by international standards just so they can branch out and do things which are considered the norm in other parts of the developed world. You know why Netflix doesn't operate, and therefore pay taxes, in Australia? There aren't enough people who with internet connections capable of supporting their service. They can't turn a profit here because of our shitty infrastructure. 

Education and health delivery to regional areas would be revolutionized if we could guarantee that the entire country had access to a high level of internet connectivity. The problem at the moment is that there's no guarantee anywhere, so even where a non-profit service can be moved online, it still needs to have equivalent telephone or face-to-face facilities available because people would lose access to the service if it went totally online. This is causing departments to double or triple the amount of time and effort going into service delivery rather than reducing it. Once edcuational institutions can be sure that anybody anywhere in the country is capable of watching a lecture in real time, scarcity in education ceases to exist. There's no reason at that point, theoretically, for the University of Sydney to not accept an enrollment from somebody in Alice Springs. There's no reason, in an NBN-enabled country, for a doctor in Melbourne to have any concerns about the quality of consultation he can deliver to someone in Mt Isa, meaning that patient now has the same level of healthcare that I do in Sydney.

In situations where turning a profit is a concern, i.e the entire private sector, the problem is exacerbated. Not being able to guarantee bandwidth availability means that it's almost impossible for a business to create an accurate estimate of how many people are capable of buying their service, let alone the number of people who are interested in it. Without that kind of projection being available, businesses, especially publicly traded ones, are forced to maintain a conservative and overly cautious approach to new services. This stifles innovation and further deepens the quality of life divide between regional and metropolitan areas. That quality of life divide creates further problems as it forces people into cities which in turn increases the need to focus on the inadequate metropolitan infrastructure, creating a feedback loop of shit where everybody loses. 

It isn't about downloading porn or playing games. It's about creating a level of confidence in our telecommunications infrastructure which enables businesses to innovate and the public sector to move online without disadvantaging anybody. What I'm saying here is that the future of our economy is tied to our telecommunications infrastructure and the government would save itself millions, possibly billions a year if this thing existed. In other words, the coalition's broadband policy is another example of them putting ideology ahead of the nation's economic interests. So yeah, go ahead and say "hur just pay for it yourself hur free market rich people get stuff poors deal with it" and hamstring your own economic prospects as well as the rest of the country's because you've got a huge boner for Ayn Rand and a shotgun. 

Edit: Also I forgot to mention something rather important. The reason fiber to the home was selected as the model is because it means that NBN Co is garaunteed a return on investment, meaning the NBN will be paid for and turning a profit within a decade of completion. If the coalition's "FTTN and deal with it poors" policy were to go ahead, the smaller expenditure would return an absolute pittance in access fees outside of wealthy areas because there wouldn't be anybody using it. All they'd have accomplished when it's over and done with is spend billions of taxes to enable the wealthy to spend some money. They'd have built a white elephant out of fiber optics and wasted an incredible amount of money in the process. They really are terrible at economics and need to go away.