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Let’s talk about the NBN: An open letter to the marketing, advertising & media industry


Founder of MediaScope Denise Shrivell recently brought this to our attention. We thought it was important and simply had to share with you, dear Anthillians. It is an open letter to the Australian media industry…

Today ,I’m reaching out to all of you with a message about the National Broadband Network (NBN) – the ‘nation building’ telecommunications infrastructure which underpins the ongoing productivity and success of our own and all other Australian industries.

It’s time to raise your awareness and serious concerns around the NBN roll-out strategy and understand the negative and profound impact this plan will have on the future of Australian marketing, advertising and media as we transition to a digital based industry operating in a global market.

The long held views of telecommunications experts, tech journalists, academics and some politicians are gaining increasing traction for their evidence showing a vast difference between the infrastructure being rolled-out through Australia’s NBN and the infrastructure we need to comprehensively face the fast digital future.

“If we are going to be an innovations nation how are we going to compete against countries that already have internet speeds 100x faster than ours,” asks Laurie Patton CEO of Internet Australia.

“The national broadband network, as it stands today is a disaster,” says James Pinnell from PC Authority. “It is hands down the most poorly managed infrastructure project in Australia’s history. Everything – from the pathetic political debate that ensued at its inception, to the horse trading over its design and funding, has been an absolute and complete mess. From its initial idea, which was fairly simple and visionary, to replace the copper network with fibre and a couple of satellites, it has blown out to a mess of expensive, obsolete band aids.”

What you need to know about the NBN

For those of you who don’t know much about the NBN (I didn’t till quite recently) here are ten quick bullet points to get your head around. Hang in there, this is important…

1 – According to Akamai Australia’s average internet connectivity speed is ranked 46th in the world & is declining.  Most internet connections are currently through ADSL. Some commentators say we will be ranked 100th by 2020 even with the NBN in place.

2 – The NBN is being rolled-out now across Australia with the aim of delivering fast broadband. This roll-out plan is based on the Multi-Technology-Mix model (MTM) with 5 forms of connection…

  • – FTTN (fibre to the node) – optic fibre connects with existing copper cable and runs into the home
  • – FTTP (fibre to the premise) – optic fibre runs directly into the premise or home. Commentators and experts recognise FTTP as the most effective for our digital future.
  • – HFC (hybrid fibre coaxial) – optic fibre connects with existing cable used for PayTV
  • – Fixed Wireless – internet signal sent by tower to antennae fixed to a premise
  • – Satellite – for remote regions

3 – The majority of NBN connections will be FTTN (fibre to the node) where optic fibre connects at the ‘node’ housed in a green cabinet (see title image) with Telstra’s existing copper cable. This copper cable then runs directly into each premise or house connecting with a NBN modem.

4 – The average age of Telstra’s existing copper cable used under the FTTN model is in some cases upwards of 90 years old. The copper cable is degrading, requires increasing maintenance, is highly susceptible to weather conditions and rapidly loses speed over distance. In short, it’s not fit for purpose now, let alone in a fast digital future.

5 – In 2013, the current NBN MTM model replaced the original plan which involved FTTP where 93 per cent were to receive fibre optic cable directly to the premise bypassing Telstra’s copper cable. Australian’s in remote areas were to receive satellite.

6 – Governments of developed nations around the world (except Italy) are rolling out full FTTP (fibre to the premise) cable.

7 – A recent cost update increased the NBN MTM rollout from $41 billion to $56 billion, making it Australia’s single most expensive infrastructure project ever.  PriceWaterhouseCoopers recently valued the NBN at $27 billion.

8 – While the NBN cable provides broadband connectivity, the digital signal is pushed through bandwidth sold by Telstra to ISP’s.  This is another complex layer impacting internet speeds.

9 – Pointing to dissatisfaction within corporate ranks, regular leaks are now emerging from within NBNCo (the Govt run business charged with NBN roll-out) showing delays, cost blowouts and customer complaints. Some customers are saying their FTTN speed is no better than ADSL particularly during congested internet usage periods.  The latest leak appeared on Wednesday.

10 – There is an increasing awareness that Australia will hit a digital ‘roadblock’ through the NBN within 5-10 years as our digital telecommunications needs will be – and is already showing to be – far too big for the broadband infrastructure in place.

With the above points in mind, imagine a commercial future in which a sub-standard NBN is our gateway to consumers, clients, and a digitally connected global economy. How will this affect your business as marketers, advertisers and publishers?

These three images were produced by Rod Tucker – Laureate Emeritus Professor at University of Melbourne – and appeared in a recent article in The Conversation. They should, on their own, raise concern in our industry…

Image: Faster connection will be able to handle more simultaneous streams and at higher resolutions… (Note: many people with FTTN are reporting same or lower speeds than ADSL – particularly at high internet usage times)

Image: By 2025 Australia’s Worldwide ranking will be below world average at 75%… (Note: Akamai ranks Australia’s broadband speed at 46th globally – with some commentators predicting this will be at 100th by 2020)

Image: What the Future Household Will Require in 2020 and 2025…

This week I attended ad:tech in Sydney and the annual SXSW conference was held in The US. Emerging technology such as fast multi-stream video download, 3D printing, the internet of things, virtual & augmented reality were all mentioned widely.  The effects of slower data transfer, handicapped streaming services and a country of consumers whose digital connectivity speeds lag behind the rest of the world’s developed nations will mean the potential of such innovation is simply beyond Australia’s capabilities.

It’s fair to say, the impacts of inadequate connectivity delivered by the NBN will effectively place Australia under a ‘digital embargo’ partially quarantining us from more technically advanced global markets.

So where to with the NBN – what can you do?

You’ve taken the first step by reading to here so keep going…

There’s some articles and resources listed below as the story behind the NBN is a much deeper, more complex and wholly depressing story than the points I’ve outlined here. You could also take a look at the NBN hashtag on Twitter where there’s a very active discussion. You might see me there having a rant 🙂

2016 is a Federal Election year and sadly the NBN is a highly political issue. Of course, I’d never suggest how you should vote – but I am going to ask you make a more informed vote. You could ask your local Federal Minister about the NBN – and while you’re at it any other issue you may have concerns or views about. Find your local Federal Minister here.

I’m planning to start a dialogue on the NBN by sending this open letter directly to the heads of our Industry Organisations and other key stakeholders. I’ll keep you posted on any reply through MediaScope’s newsletter under a new section called ‘NBN Watch’.

In the coming weeks I’ll also host a Live Chat where a panel of experts will comment on the impact of the NBN on our industry.

Denise Shrivell is the founder of MediaScope.

denise shrivellThis article first appeared here.