Telework, NBN and short-sightedness

I was listening to the ABC (not the US commercial one, the Australian public broadcaster) and they were discussing the fact that the National Broadband Network (NBN in government-speak) was not likely to live up to expectations for those outside of major cities.  Indeed, it would seem that even in the suburbs of one of the countries largest inland cities the NBN would not be delivering the 1gbit fibre network, but the 12mbit shared wireless.  For those outside of the suburbs, you can expect an even less performant satellite connection.  All this, and the NBN site has a link to Telework Australia which touts the benefits of a fast network for remote workers. Huh?  You mean those of us who aren't in a city can use the third-best option of a multi-second latency connection to compete with city-based workers?  Are you kidding me?

Now I know a bit about teleworking.  I was first teleworking almost 30 years ago. Yes, that's right, 30 years.  Almost a generation ago. At that stage I lived on a rural property and had an uppercase-only terminal connected to a 1200baud modem, but it was still teleworking.  For the past five or so years I've been teleworking for international companies. For a variety of reasons I moved from the outer suburbs of a major city to a rural property.  From an ADSL connection to a satellite connection.  I know the difference between the two technologies.  I also work in IT, and have a lot of experience in networks, and know the difference between fibre and copper networks. This is why I think the entire NBN rollout is wrong-headed.

Don't get me wrong, I want the NBN to rollout, and to succeed. My livelihood depends on a reliable, fast internet connection.  But I can't see that the current rollout plan actually helps me, or anyone in regional or remote Australia get anything like the benefits that are claimed.  What is worse is that I know that there is the main fibre-optic trunk cable running around the edge of my property, and there is no way I'll get any benefit.

Let me give you some realistic expectations on satellite broadband.  Heavy cloud affects the performance. Much the same as satellite TV, you need a clear path between you, the satellite and the ground station. Even if the weather is perfect at your end it may be stormy over the ground station.  In the last week we have had periods of no connectivity (for several hours in the past two days) and you can quickly identify when it is past school time or it is a school holiday as the performance drops to a trickle.  I've had to purchase a mobile phone data pack in order to make sure I have an option, even if it is horribly expensive, it is cheaper than losing my job.

From my perspective the major cities don't need the NBN to be rolled out first.  They already have options, including ADSL2. Regional cities should be first with the fibre.  The wireless rollout should cover pretty much everyone else except where it is totally (and I mean totally) impractical.  Then, and only then, should satellite be considered.  And satellite should be there before the main cities are wired up.  Are we trying to bridge the digital divide or simply make it more stark.

It is hard enough to get an Australian company to agree to telework.  That is why I don't work for an Australian company. Australian companies are still stuck in the 19th century where you don't trust your employees and you have to keep an eye on them every minute of the day.  If you want to link Telework to the NBN, then you need to redress the obvious inequities in the NBN rollout.

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