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En route

I'm heading for Melbourne airport in a double-handful of hours, and won't be home for another 30 hours after that (assuming everything runs to schedule). I'll probably be exanimate until Sunday or Monday due to jet lag. Interestingly, I'm leaving an Australia governed by ... well, the same people they were governed by before I arrived, modulo a thinner majority which is conditional upon the support of some independent MPs, whose support comes at the price of a subsidized national broadband scheme to ensure that all Australians can get equal fast access to YouTube videos of dancing dogs. Is this the first election in a western democracy to have its outcome determined by the need for internet access as a basic right?

66 Comments

1:

And by all Australians this means that an area the size of Europe has to be wired up for the benefit of 20million people, most of whom are clustered around the coast. Efficient? Not really but at least the ones in the middle won't be 'disadvantaged' by not being able to book their concert tickets online.
It'll be an interesting day when society realises that access to superfast internet has not empowered or helped 95%(?) of the people who have it. Or maybe that's not the kind of thing societies actually realise. Or is it a new kind of politically incorrect?

2:

The wire itself will only cover 93% of the population, which is geographically only minimal. Have a look at the NBNCo's national footprint map (http://www.alp.org.au/getattachment/a056f388-c0de-4660-8d62-ad85f94b2fa5/nbn/) to see exactly where the fibre (red), wireless (grey) and satellite (yellow) will be used (spoiler: geographically, it's mostly satellite).

Also, I think claiming the NBN will only be used to watch dancing dogs and book concert tickets is a little disingenuous - you're clearly forgetting about Inception Cat.

3:

Once you have broadband into the outback a lot of ... interesting possibilities emerge.

The ability to provision environmental monitoring stations with rich data feeds, for example.

Or use of distance learning systems to try to reduce social/economic exclusion among disadvantaged groups (here's looking at the indigenous peoples' low life expectancy and poor economic outcomes).

The question is, what will this facilitate that isn't obvious (cf. concert ticket bookings and YouTube)?

4:

Not politically incorrect, just plain wrong, especially the way the world is going. For example, I'm typing this in a hotel in Melbourne, which is about 17000km from home. The flights were booked online; so was the hotel. The convention we attended used online registration. The visa to get into the country was done online, and did not cost anything as a result (the alternative being to get an agent to do it at great expense). My government would rather we filed tax returns online, but they can bugger off with that one. If I wanted to get a proper job, I would have no choice but to make my application online.

Internet access now is as important as the telephone was a couple of decades ago, and electricity itself (wiring up rural areas for electricity was not cheap) a few decades before that. Your whinge sounds a bit like those Thai protesters who were complaining that people in rural areas are allowed to vote and vote in ways they don't like because, well as far as I can tell, they thought rural folk were too stupid and unimportant to be trusted with votes.

5:

While I am a supporter of the NBN idea, to say the final outcome of the election was determined by access to internet isn't quite accurate.

The National Broadband Network certainly factored into the independants decisions, but it was part of a greater issue: The long term neglect of Regional Australia (accounting for around 30% of our population) by both major parties. Health, Education, and Infrastructure, especially for Indigenous Australians has been woefully neglected for decades. The Indies now have the power to force some improvements in these areas and they selected the party more likely to cooperate.

6:

Telediagnosis might make the Flying Doctors' job a little easier. Open University could fill in time for bored intellectuals in the Bush.

7:

I would think that the more remote you are the more important access to simple things like internet shopping would be. It is never going to be commercially viable for private industry to lay the cables etc but we need to keep people in these communities if we want to keep growing food in Oz. The internet is infrastructure as much as roads and rail and in the same way best provided by government (that will rile some of you I know).

8:

First: the NBN (National Broadband Network) was, as has been mentioned above, only part of the independents' consideration. And even then, one of the three plumped for the Liberals. (Although Katter is of arguable stability at the best of times.)

Second: I think there's a slightly different attitude being taken: not that broadband is a right, but that it is necessary infrastructure. People don't have a right to paved roads or piped sewerage, but it is laid out where possible anyway, because it's a good idea in its own right. For ninety percent of the population, who are in urbanised areas, it doesn't make much difference, but it does mean that extension to the last, most isolated station house is not necessarily going to be done just for completeness' sake.

Third: the Liberals had a 'Broadband' 'plan' as well: give everyone a wireless card, and if they're really out bush (like, say, in a suburb twenty km from the center of the nearest city but with godawful mobile coverage), a satellite link will be just fine. It's a plan with no drawbacks! *cough*

9:

"Is this the first election in a western democracy to have its outcome determined by the need for internet access as a basic right?"

But not the last.

10:

Let's just rewire Australia's network in a ring topology. Take advantage of the coastal population! :-P

11:

Australia clearly needs a grid of straight line connections between each pair of Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. It will be a portal to an unimaginable future, allowing us to summon unprecedented amounts of information with ease.

12:

Adam (@1), it's actually an area the size of the continental United States. Australia is a lot bigger than it looks on a standard Mercator projection map.

The initial connection of the fibre isn't going to be a huge, culture-changing shock to the system, I grant you. The real impact, however, will be through the knock-on effects of this one small change.

Okay, one of the knock-on effects a lot of people are hoping for is the use of the NBN to facilitate better medical diagnosis and treatment options for people living in "the bush" (i.e. outside the immediate confines of the various state capitals). For example, rather than someone living in Karratha having to head down to Perth in order to get an appointment with a medical specialist (which is at least four days of driving for someone in the pink of health) they could have the initial appointment via teleconference, along with any subsequent post-treatment follow-up appointments.

Another possible knock-on effect - less people actually leaving rural Australia in the first place. When it's possible to get access to a greater range of university courses online, there's less need for person who's grown up in the country to head into one of the major capitals to obtain further training. There will, of course, always be economies of scale to be considered (university-level chemistry labs aren't cheap to set up and maintain, for example) and there will always be courses where it's just not practical to teach the material online. But for the vast majority of university learning, online provision means the students (or even the professors) don't need to leave their rural homes in order to connect.

A further thing: I live in Perth, which is the most isolated of our state capitals. It's a pretty big city, but retail is, by and large, a conservative business. This means there are some things which I'd like to buy which I simply cannot get here because there isn't the wide-scale demand for them - but I can order them online from Sydney or Melbourne, or even from the US or UK, if I so desire. One of the things which makes a lot of people who are living in rural areas discontented is the lack of access to retail outlets - if going to the nearest department store means up to eight hours drive each way and a stay in a hotel or motel for a couple of days, it can save a lot of money, fuel and time to be able to just bring up a web browser, log into the website for the department store in question, and order everything to be delivered. It also means you're not restricted to the sizes and colours of items that are available in the shops on the day you visit - if you want a left-handed green widget, rather than chasing all around the place in search of one, you can visit the website of the nearest manufacturer of left-handed green widgets and order one direct.

If nothing else, the National Broadband Network will allow rural people to achieve savings of time, money, annoyance and fuel comparable to the everyday savings achieved by folks who live in the cities - savings which they don't even notice. Again, the cable itself isn't what's going to make the difference - but rather, it's the possibilities the cable opens up for rural Australians which are going to be making all the differences.

13:

If it is indeed the first election to have its outcome determined over Internet access, I feel sure it won't be the last.

14:

Though not an election issue as such, it's interesting that Finland has recognised a 1Mbps broadband connection as a basic legal right for its citizens. I guess it's no coincidence that two countries with huge rural hinterlands should be among the first in the world to see that being connected is a necessity rather than a luxury--a recognition that is also evident in the Finnish development of mobile telephony.

15:

I'm pretty sure it wasn't the main reason we got the result we did but it was certainly a factor.

We had one party (Labour) who wanted to give everyone fast broadband but install a censor-wall to protect the RIAA's profits ^h^h^h us from kiddie porn.
And on the other side a party (Liberal + minor coalition partner suckers) who wanted to build services good enough for now which would be too slow by the time they were finished but wanted to subsidise client based filtering options instead of mandatory censorship.

Somehow the voters managed to find the none of the above box and ended up with the best of both. Not sure how that worked but if I figure it out I'll be sure to tell the UK.

16:

Daniel@15:

The Greens were the only party of any significance that opposed Internet censorship and also supported the NBN, lots of people who like the Internet supported them for this reason. With the current senate no bill can be passed unless it is supported by two of Labor, Liberal, and the Greens. As Labor and Liberal tend not to work together that required that Labor work with the Greens on lots of things to get bills passed in the senate.

As for the good of the NBN, the most rural areas will never get fiber. It's just a matter of what speed wireless. So a lot of the benefit that people hope to get from the NBN will never happen.

Also fiber tends to get damaged and needs to be replaced in less than 25 years (maybe 15 years). So let's not think of the NBN as a future investment thing like building a bridge.

17:

Finland and Switzerland seem to have similar provisions about broadband internet as right - even for the rural outback.

18:

As an aside, ^H is one character back. ^W is a word (try it out in a terminal).

^H is a lot more likely to have been seen in the wild (before this became a regular joke), but ^W is a useful shorthand.

19:

Fibre lasts 25 years as a rule of thumb, but that's not the important bit. 70-80% of the cost of an FTTH deployment is civil works - essentially, trenching. Once you've got the ducts, blowing the fibre is trivial. COLT did it in some of the old London Hydraulic Power ducts without even draining off the hydraulic oil. Neat, although occasionally things went wrong in a "mini-gusher in the street" way.

One of the most important things in NBN is getting public control of the last-mile civil works and open access. Once you've got that, the Big Expensive Phone Company is history because anyone can either lease the NBN fibre or share the ducts.

The Tories have talked vaguely about a national open access measure, but as they also want to kill OFCOM it's unlikely anyone will be able to hold BT's feet to the fire on it. When OFCOM did a pilot survey, they found that 15% of BT ducts were actually filled with raw sewage.

20:

Wow. Who knew that all the porn viewed by BT users would make the ontological leap to genuine filth. And to think they say homeopathic magic is bullshit ...

21:

LOL, but I think it's more likely to be the result of people reading the Daily Snail on-line! ;-)

22:

Better access for farmers to satellite imagery is one possibility (although I understand the data gained from this has an at best 50% chance of leading to improved crop yields (B Sauer pers comms). Many other purposes, for satellite imagery though -- such as finding illegal upstream dams).

On the same theme it may become more easy to access data from crop/field/telemtary monitoring stations; a pervasive wireless network would be interesting for many farmers.

Finally, it will enable people to have better access to online education resources; this will either make people more inclined to stay in the country, or more likely (IMO) is they'll increase the rate of exodus to the cities.

Finally, it might actually encourage skilled immigrants to not settle in Sydney (Australia has problems getting skilled professionals to move country areas; it offers incentives for skilled immigrants (like doctors) to move to country areas.).

23:

"whose support comes at the price of a subsidized national broadband scheme"

That sounds like a huge improvement over what I understand their current situation to be.

24:

"My government would rather we filed tax returns online, but they can bugger off with that one."

Why?

I've done mine online for five years now. Can't see any downside personally.

25:
the most rural areas will never get fiber.
As I've said before Russell I don't get this bit - laying wires to distant rural areas is cheaper than doing it in built up urban places, and laying long distances of fibre should be much cheaper than doing the same distances with copper.
26:

Re Australian tax submission online

I worked on e-tax for a couple of years. (shrug). Nothing special going on. It uses the same interface the ATO provides to other applications to lodge tax returns (such as the one your tax agent might use).

Over a million people use it, there were no security issues when I was there, and I've heard of none since. The app doesn't trawl your machine for information; it doesn't install root kits. The ATO's smarter than Sony. It only submits whatever information you enter. The ATO cannot risk making 1M+ tax returns immune from investigation due to them breaking the law. Honestly, they really aren't that silly.

Personally I'd be more worried about online banking -- your bank acccount is far more interesting because it has cash.

27:

I tend to side with Feorag. I wouldn't do it personally but my accountants do. Accountant to HMRC is a different kettle of fish from Joe Public vs HMRC

Anyone who's seen the UK headlines where approximately one quarter of the working population are soon going to get letters detailing additional tax due because HMRC can't keep the numbers straight in our horrendously over complex and baroque tax system.

28:

I've also heard claims that most of those who've underpaid have done things like getting new company cars and not informed HMRC, or used their personal allowance twice; once for a job and once for a pension. If that's true, I think they're due little sympathy.

29:

"The question is, what will this facilitate that isn't obvious (cf. concert ticket bookings and YouTube)?"

Maybe the next generation of Hugo-winners will come from Mimili and Finke and some other tiny collections of buildings in the middle of the outback.

30:

Are you just looking at cost per mile for running fibre, rather than at cost per customer and payback periods?

After all, even if it costs 5 per mile to run fibre in Edinburgh, you'll be looking at probably 32 rising to 200 potential new customers, whereas where I live, even at 1 per mile to run the fibre you'd only get one potential new customer per mile, so assuming everyone signs up, worst case in Edinburgh is it's cost you 5/32 or 0.15625 per customer attachment.

31:

This may have been the first election determined by voters seeing the need for widespread broadband access - but if so, they're smart voters.

Similar program for the Canadian hinterlands (and they are even larger) was announced this past July as part of Canadian federal gov't's infrastructure spending. The initiative is called Broadband Canada.
http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/720.nsf/eng/h_50010.html

Aside from dancing dog and cat videos, this improves rural healthcare via remote medicine, agricultural monitoring (the technologies are already widely used, but additional speed and band width enlarges the possibilities) wildlife monitoring, distance education, ability to talk to far-flung relatives face-to-face cheaply (not a small consideration!) and perhaps keep a closer eye on the whole warming-arctic-thingy.

Money well spent, imo. It's an international competitiveness issue. I think the U.S. (where I'm currently residing) would be wise to be moving on same for it's rural areas. If I'm not mistaken, there are plans afoot.

32:
After all, even if it costs 5 per mile to run fibre in Edinburgh, you'll be looking at probably 32 rising to 200 potential new customers, whereas where I live, even at 1 per mile to run the fibre you'd only get one potential new customer per mile, so assuming everyone signs up, worst case in Edinburgh is it's cost you 5/32 or 0.15625 per customer attachment.
Did some characters get lost?

I'd be surprised if the cost of hooking up an urban area was as little as 5 times (per mile) the price of a rural area.

To fibre up some farmhouse your cable guys have to string the fibre all the way out, but it's a simple job, stringing the stuff from poles.

To fibre up an inner city area you either dig the streets up (What! Again! We just did that for the cable TV!) or do crazy dangerous things like put the fibre down the sewers.

33:
because HMRC can't keep the numbers straight in our horrendously over complex and baroque tax system.
Well, there's your problem, right there. Nothing to do with doing it online, just doing it at all.

Luckily for me France has a very simple income tax system.
(Unless you're called Liliane Bettencourt, and she has people to do her taxes for her, like the President and the minister of the Budget).

34:

I deliberately didn't use currency units. Personally, I'd be most surprised to find anyone attempting to string fibre from a cantenary system, because it's going to fail much easier than copper does in a wind.

35:

Your post makes it sound like the NBN was extorted from the government by the Indpendents, which isn't quite the case (although I don't doubt that they've moved it up on the agenda and probably bumped up the expenditure on it too). The ALP had the broadband network as a policy going in to the election, and one of the turning points in the campaign was when the Leader of the Opposition made a fool of himself when it was revealed that he didn't understand his own technobabble (you can see it here).

In terms of effects it's likely to have, I suspect it will go some way towards breaking the trad media hammerlock on the rural areas. I'd like to think that doing so would help to undermine the National Party, but I suspect that's a generational change that will be aided by the NBN, rather than a direct result of it.

36:

"Is this the first election in a western democracy to have its outcome determined by the need for internet access as a basic right?"

Forgive the carp, but by what possible geographical measure is Australia a western anything? "First world democracy", yes, but bar NZ I can't find anything much further Eastward than Australia!

37:

In unrelated news, the Laundry RPG is out!

38:
Personally, I'd be most surprised to find anyone attempting to string fibre from a cantenary system, because it's going to fail much easier than copper does in a wind.

http://www.google.com/search?q=overhead+fibre

Lots of it about. Some in New Zealand, which is, as far as I can remember my Geography, not far from Australia. (As far as anywhere is not far from Australia).

39:

"teaparty.net", You do realize that the Earth is a sphere, don't you?

That's 'Western Democracy' as in 'Western Civilization'.

40:

not exactly 'determined', but here in Brazil two of the hot topics of the moment, spilling also in general elections next month, are the national broadband program (PNBL, in pt_br) and the open consultation about the reform of copyright law (willing to legalize private copies, challenge collecting societies, etc.). important topics making the news pages everyday...

41:

Ahh, but the Australian flora has the Christmas tree, which, believe it or not, eats underground cables for lunch. Literally. Hopefully any cables put underground in that part of the outback will be thick enough that they can't get their haustoria around them.

Seriously, though, my first thought was, "Gee, I wonder if the aborigines will appreciate being forcibly given broadband? Or will they be denied broadband?" Either way, this is a problem for groups that have isolated themselves in an attempt to keep their cultures alive.

My second thought was, "Wow, what happens if they throw a grid-making party and no one shows up?" I mean, I drool at the thought of widespread broadband for environmental sensor networks, but someone has to pay for upkeep. This shouldn't be job security for environmental data collectors (though I like being one). Rather, wiring a country for data ideally should lead to small things like more efficient management of shrinking allocations of water and arable land.

And let's not forget fire. That's always fun to think about. Fireproof cable is kind of necessary. Especially in the territory of the christmas tree, where burying it might not be an option.

42:

It always amuses me whenever an American refers to NZ as 'the Antipodes'.

43:

The long-haul fiber part of the NBN looks pretty good, though a link across the Gulf of Carpenteria might help routing. The wireless part looks a bit dubious, though. It has low coverage and the map will undoubtedly be a bit optimistic in many situations. The satellite part, though, is going to cause a lot of grief. It doesn't work for mobile applications, the bandwidth is thin, latency is atrocious, and it costs the earth.

A better alternative would be a mesh network of unmanned airships. At 60,000 ft, one can see 480 km. That means only 13 airships to cover Australia in a hexagonal pattern. Figuring in the fiddly bits around the edges as adding 25%, and double redundancy, it's still only 33 airships aloft at one time. If airships can average about 40% of the time aloft (~50% is quoted by manufacturers), then 82 airships should do the job. The cost per flight hour is quoted at USD $500 max, but figure quadruple that to allow for electronics and ground support infrastructure. 33 x 4 x 24 x 365 x $500 = $578 million/yr. It might be as much as 50% more, allowing for the need for better airships to reach 60,000 feet under load. Still, that's well under a billion per year, about $3.60 per capita per month. With antenna arrays and software-defined radio, the system could support not only mobile high-speed internet but fixed ground-station backhaul links, cell-phone service, radio, TV, and potentially advanced radar for ATC, weather and defense. At the same time it would have much more even coverage and greater resistance to multipath and active interference. At 60,000 feet there would be little interference with optical networking between airships, and with a double-coverage system each airship would have line-of-sight to its six nearest neighbors, allowing a mesh network of vast capacity. Optical downlinks to ground stations would also be possible in clear weather, and because of the extent of the network there would always be multiple spots where the weather would permit a bridge to the fiber network.

Such a system would have the high bandwith, low latency and robustness to allow high-resolution remote mobile video, telepresence, remote consulting, gaming, unmanned aerial and surface vehicles, remote science and utility monitoring, and convenience and accessibility for users throughout Australia.

44:

Plus AIRSHIPS!!!

More seriously aren't we facing a helium shortage? Also unless they are solar powered they will have to travel insane distances to refuel before they even start station-keeping. How about weather tolerance?

I do love the idea though.

45:

Alex@19: We already have good ducts, Telstra has extensive ducts and Optus has some too. There is talk of outsourcing some of the NBN work to Telstra, so that might end up as paying billions of dollars for access to ducts that were created at taxpayer expense years ago.

Fiber lasts 25 years if it is undisturbed in a duct. If the duct is damaged then the fiber is damaged too - this probably happens often enough that a significant portion of the network would need replacement before 25 years has elapsed. Fiber that hangs from electricity poles (as is the plan for some of it) will last a lot less than 25 years.

John Hughes@25: Using existing wires is cheaper than using either new copper or new fiber - this is why ADSL exists!

Not to mention the fact that laying any sort of cable through a forest, across a river, etc has extra expenses.

EH@43: Good idea, and cheaper than the current plans.

kombipom@44: I was under the impression that the US still had a helium stockpile dating from when the US airforce had zeppelins! But even apart from that, hydrogen is less dense, doesn't escape as easily, and can be produced via electrolysis. So if they can deal with the fire risk then hydrogen would be a better option.

teaparty et al: Australia is fairly directly south of China, and Russia. Even apart from .au and .nz being called "western", the term doesn't make any sense, you can't have a "western hemisphere" of a sphere. Although I guess you could say that we are based on Western Europe.

46:
More seriously aren't we facing a helium shortage? Also unless they are solar powered they will have to travel insane distances to refuel before they even start station-keeping. How about weather tolerance?

Since they are unmanned, I'd go with hydrogen. A system to detach the payload and parachute it down in the event of fire would be possible. The gasbag would burn up before hitting the ground. Ground workers could use fire-safe clothing. Using a ventable and in-flight producible lift gas would make the airship much more flexible to operate and would reduce costs greatly over helium. Using several bases (~ 8-16) would make the distances traveled for refueling manageable. In-air refueling at moderate altitudes might be an option to increase flight duration. Solar power is also a possibility.

The numbers for the estimates in the previous post came from:
http://www.sanswiretao.com/Sanswire-UAV.pdf
which also has estimates of winds at lower altitude. Their airship has a design station-keeping airspeed of 22kts for 2-3 days endurance with 75kt sprint capability and 90kt survivability. Their payload is 2000 pounds at 15,000 ft. High altitude would require a larger bag and more airspeed for station-keeping, but would be worth it for the more clement weather, more reliable optical networking between airships, being out of the way of air traffic and the linear increase in line-of-sight area with altitude. Price per lift pound goes down nearly linearly with airship size due to cube-square scaling, so fewer and thus higher and bigger airships are more economical.

To really get wild, the most efficient way of station-keeping might be to emulate fish which can maintain position in a fast-moving stream with very low energy expenditures. It's hard enough to sell the idea of any sort of airships without proposing ones that swim like fish, though, even if some proofs of concept like the Fliegender Fisch and the beautiful Festo Air Ray have been demonstrated.[YouTube links] Better to just put a bigger prop and motor on a beefed up design to handle the high altitude winds. To give the greater structural strength and stiffness another design from Festo could be helpful: an internal lighter-than-air gas filled "airbeam".[PDF link] Pneumatic structures would also likely be the most economical option for hangar space.

47:

#Various - Ok, cantenary fibre is more common than I'd thought. Ref the Xmas tree (#41), has anyone done any work on why it attacks cables? I'm sure I've heard of cases where other species have attacked power lines, but not telecoms, and it's been found that they're attracted by the magnetic field that the current creates around the cable. If that's the case here, I think we could conclude that the plant won't be interested in optical fibre!

Defining a sphere as having an "Eastern and Western half" does make sense if you draw an agreed net of mutually perpendicular lines, let's call them "Latitude and Longitude", on the surface, and then define one as a 0 reference, and say "anything this side of this line is West, and anything the other side is East, up to this other line."

I like the airship network idea. Of the famous "hydrogen airship disasters" ISTR one is still suspected of being sabotage, and the other involved a design which was at best marginal being flown into a low level storm, so with better design (geodesic structure anyone?) and operation in a stable atmosphere, that side of it is workable. As for solar power, the (presently unratified) record for continuous operation of a solar powered aircraft (also a UAV by a happy co-incidence) is over 14 days (planned mission length; a longer flight by the Zephyr may be possible).

48:

Well, the deal is that NBNCo pays rent to Telstra for use of layer-zero infrastructure, while Telstra undertakes to become a customer of NBNCo for either layer two ethernet or dark fibre. As a result, NBNCo gets to roll out its public dark fibre network, and Telstra gets to retire the PSTN copper.

49:

AIRSHIPS! Use hydrogen. Also, tether it (NB - this might be a menace to navigation) for power supply and to eliminate station-keeping problems.

Or else just use Helios-style 'eternal flight' craft to lift the packages. There might, though, be some issues with the weather - like when you really need the coverage during the typhoon / fire seasons, it's most likely to be down or obscured...

50:

#49 - Tethered balloons!? Have you any idea how long and heavy a cable that would let us get a balloon to FL600 would have to be? I think it would need to be about 60_000 * 1.41 feet long before allowing for sag.

I don't know Helios, but is it similar to Zephyr? http://www.qinetiq.com/home/newsroom/news_releases_homepage/2010/3rd_quarter/qinetiq_files_for.html

51:

Russell:

John Hughes@25: Using existing wires is cheaper than using either new copper or new fiber - this is why ADSL exists!
I know. I have ADSL. A miserable 2-3mbps because I'm 3.5km from the exchange. I bet a lot of places in rural Australia are further away from the DSLAM than that.

52:

Hmmm, cheaper? really?

When I moved from the city to the country, I actually priced out what it would take to run cable to my home for high speed internet access.

Quoted price: $1,750,000 for a three mile run of fiber to the nearest junction box.

(I could have gotten my rural neighbors in on the deal to rent a ditch witch and do it ourselves. Most likely for a LOT cheaper.)

Currently using Wild Blue satellite (which isn't cheap ~$80/month!), but about to move to Cricket ($40/month).
Regardless of whether I switch, the download speed is still 1.5Mbs (which most of you are cringing the moment you read that.)

True broadband to rural areas. Please don't make me laugh.

53:

I don't do online banking, never have and never will. I know enough about banking IT to worry about the bankers more than the scammers.

Also, my government is not the Australian one, I was just in Australia when I posted. I am now in France, but that is still not my government.

54:

Given that the record for the highest kite flown tops 30,000ft, I reckon that we could get away with tethered balloons. It's all a matter of taper. Besides, the necessary massive investment in tether technology cannot but bring closer the day we can build You Know What. It's all win.

55:

I was going to ask you about Paypal but since they are a "middle man" I would guess you have the same misgivings? Since I live in rural America I do a lot of shopping online. But thanks to our "best health care system" my Credit Rating is so bad nobody would want to steal my identity!

56:

(Psst... hey Charlie... when you land and have time to decompress and relax and stuff, make sure to check the iTunes store for iPad application updates. I think you'll see what I'm talking about pretty quickly, and will be considerably more excited about it than even I am.)

57:
Quoted price: $1,750,000 for a three mile run of fiber to the nearest junction box.

(I could have gotten my rural neighbors in on the deal to rent a ditch witch and do it ourselves. Most likely for a LOT cheaper.)

Yes, you probably could have, Makes you wonder why the quoted price was so high, doesn't it. I doubt it has anything to do with the *real* costs.
58:

Re: cost of fibre installation.

The 1.75 million AUD for a three mile install may actually not be that extortionate for a one-off job. It depends a lot on circumstances, e.g: what type of ducting are they basing the price on (if it's the very old crock pipework, then it's very labour intensive to install) but even the modern plastic ducting is going to require a trenching team for some considerable time, not to mention all the routine checks for wayleaves, other buried services (if any), and a suitable profit margin on top.

Add costs of transporting the various teams to the site if you're in a really out of the way location, and the price could get very large very quickly.

Of course, if they weren't interested in doing it at all, they may have quoted the price for boring a 3-mile duct through solid granite....

Somewhere I have the figures for how much ducting a Signals detachment (30 men with or without a small excavator) can lay in a day - it's not large.

Chris.

59:

Going by how long relaying an 8 mile section near my Mum's place has been on-going for, I think you're talking weeks per mile of buried plastic conduit, by the time you trench, lay duct, back-fill and consolidate. With a crew of about 8, single-shifted, and not including the truck drivers to remove and return the overburden.

60:

So that's 1.750.000 AUD for an 8 man team for some weeks plus a few trucks (1.275.000 EUR for those of us in the antipodes).

Say 27.000 AUD per man per week if it takes 8 weeks.

Maybe the pay in Australia is better than I thought?

(Yes I know, I'm ignoring lots of the costs, but still).

61:

Small minor clarification, that $1.75 million price tag was in US dollars...

62:

Don't forget the legal costs of negotiating and paying for the rights required to use the land the fibre crosses.

63:

That must be the first time I have seen the word "wayleave" since my mother was a Wayleave Clerk for the Electricity Board in the 70s and 80s.

64:

I was under the impression that the US still had a helium stockpile dating from when the US airforce had zeppelins!

They've been ordered to sell it off at fire-sale prices:

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/41528

65:

I think Inception Cat would have been much better with Maru starring in it.

See the latter part of this.

Chris.

66:

My point (badly made) was meant to be that super fast broadband is mostly wasted as most of the bits moving around are carrying the equivalent of bad TV programs. Some of the most interesting things on the web are pretty low bandwidth. Discussion pages for instance (or the comment sections on certain blogs) don't really require fat pipes.

But I was just griping and that was silly. Even if Australia's population is 'inefficiently' distributed this project is a very cool thing. There are cool technologies and wonderful possibilities that may be enabled by this infrastructure.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on September 8, 2010 12:10 AM.

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