Wednesday, 8 April 2009

There's Infrastructure, and then there's Infrastructure


[Australian Prime Minister Kevin] Rudd has proposed building a fiber-to-the-premises broadband network that will serve 90% of all Australian homes and businesses with speeds up to 100 megabits per second, 100 times faster than the services many Australian currently have access to.
Rudd's world-class broadband network requires an initial investment of 4.7 billion Australian dollars ($3.3 billion) from the government's Building Australia Fund. If private investment can't be drummed up, the government is committing to issue infrastructure bonds worth up to 38.0 billion Australian dollars ($26.9 billion) to complete the project.

Using almost $40 billion dollars of public money to upgrade their infrastructure wiring to fiber to the home is either lunacy or sheer brilliance. Don't get me wrong, with the demands being placed on existing antiquated copper networks, this kind of project needs to be done in most of the Western world, including here in Canada. And there is a strong argument to be made that communication infrastructure should be considered part of the core service infrastructure that government already provides (roads, sewers, water etc.). No private company can or will lay out the capital to upgrade all of the wiring of an entire nation. I believe the government should own the cabling and sell access to it to content providers who then sell their services to the consumer.

However, $40 freakin' billion dollars? Lets face it, this upgrade will mean Australians can watch YouTube clips in real-time while stealing downloading the latest Hollywood blockbuster in the background. That and Twitter updates will be instantaneous...

This is the crux of the matter. I wouldn't be surprised if 90% of Internet traffic (after Spam and viruses) was entirely of the personal entertainment variety. I.e. non-essential uses.

Its literally a choice between funding a hospital so you can get that life-saving operation, or upgrading bandwidth so you can more easily watch Jon Stewart lampoon republicans.

Rudd has to come up with a way for this project to make the government money or at least break even, otherwise Rudd's critics have a strong case to kill this proposal.

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