18 Jun. 2007

Helen Coonan Doesn't Know Jack Shit About Broadband Technology.


Coonan's ignorance was almost hilarious as she made a fool of herself on The 7.30 Report last night.

First she said broadband "as such" has only become "widely available" in the past three years:
It was dial-up Internet until about 2004 and then we've had people connecting to broadband, 4.3 million, 1 million of which have been subsidised by the Government. And this technology simply wasn't available 11 years ago.
Not in Australia it wasn't. Thanks to Howard for that! Maybe if the Libs hadn't been so mad keen to sell Telstra, they might have invested a bit more money in infrastructure rather than fattenening up the books... (sigh)!

Kerry quoted World Internet pioneer Larry Smarr, speaking last week about Australia and the globally interconnected economy:
"Australia ranks 42nd in the world in the cost of Internet service, 38th in mobile phone costs, 40th on the availability of skilled labour and engineers and 20th on scientific infrastructure".
Coonan insisted he was talking about submarine cables!
As for the other visitor what he was quoting from Kerry was the size of submarine cables, nothing to do with domestic Internet broadband. He was talking about things like a gigabyte of power, which is something that you hardly even get in universities.
A gigabyte is nothing to do with "power"! It is a measure of storage capacity. With respect to broadband, the speed of a connection can be measured in gigabytes-per-second, but that is not a measure of power either.

Coonan promised that the Liberals' wireless broadband plans will provide Australians with "100 per cent coverage" high-speed broadband. Anyone in the I.T. industry (as I am), or even vaguely familiar with wireless technology, knows that this is an absurd claim. For example, half the time my Nintendo Wii can't even pick up the signal from my wireless broadband modem upstairs! It's the same technology, on a larger scale, with the same problems, out in the bush. But Coonan insists that even the most remote bush folk will be able to "take their laptops out to the shed" and download full-length porno movies in minutes(*).

When Kerry challenged Coonan about using "fibre-to-the-node" rather than wireless, she said "you've got to be right up against an exchange to even be able to get it". That's crap. The 4km limitations on ADSL2+ have now been solved by repeaters which can boost the signal. If Coonan is not aware of that, she should resign.

Coonan insists that she is "very close to the business case" for rolling out a fibre network. That may be so. But based on these comments, for a lady in her position, she is an embarrassingly long way from understanding the technical case. Coonan's job title is "Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts". I hope she knows something about "the Arts", because she obviously knows fuck all about her other portfolios.

Kerry's questions were well prepared, but it's a pity he didn't pick her up on these nonsensical remarks. I'd like to see Coonan front up on TV in front of an audience of techies, geeks and hackers. I doubt she would last five minutes.

And don't get me started on the Lib's decision to hand this multi-billion-dollar taxpayer-funded contract to Optus, part-owned by Singapore's draconian government, and the further Singaporisation of Australia that such Big Business deals invite!! Aaargh! My head hurts!

For homework, I recommend Ms Coonan read Roger Clarke's 2004 Origins and Nature of the Internet in Australia. A brief sample follows:
The Australian Communications Authority has sat on its hands. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission undertook a study during 2003, but this also appears not to have had any outcomes. The Government initiated a House of Representatives Inquiry in late 2002, but its intention was merely to prevent such an Inquiry being conducted by the Senate. The Opposition came to an accommodation with the Government in early 2003, and the Inquiry was aborted, even though 68 submissions had been received. See Budde (2003a and 2003b) and Fist (2003). Politics dominates economic and social needs, and there appears to be little prospect of Australian telecommunications infrastructure and services maturing into a fully competitive market anytime soon.

One result of the lack of competition has been over-loaded and fragile overseas connections, which plagued the Australian Internet during the mid-to-late 1990s...

Broadband penetration, because of high pricing and incomplete availability, continues to be low, with 86% of connections still by modem (but including a few ISDN users)... Moreover, users in many areas where broadband is unavailable or excessively expensive get far less than 56Kbps from their dial-up connections. The Government has been successful in its endeavours to avoid survey information about achieved dial-up speeds becoming publicly available. As late as June 2003, in its response to the Regional Telecommunications (Estens) Inquiry, it made clear that it still regards 19.2Kbps as being acceptable as a target minimum transmission speed for regional and rural Australia, and even for the less fortunate urban areas.
(* - OK, I elaborated a bit there. Actually she said that remote broadband users will be able to go out to their sheds and "get on with business in the global economy". Which is exactly what all those business-minded moguls 150km west of the Chillagoe pub want to do, right?)

UPDATE: The Coalition has been down-playing a leaked memo showing that their broadband rollout (starting "immediately") will target marginal seats. Helen Coonan says "You've got to start somewhere." Howard pretends he is not concerned about the leaked memo, but Coonan is giving the game away by launching an internal probe of her department.

UPDATE 2: Jeremy Sears has more.