Friday, April 27, 2012

The mis-information back road to the NBN



As a former network design engineer who has designed and implemented some very large networks, I am beyond frustrated with the pollicisation of telecommunications regulation in Australia. More to the point, I am appalled by the negative polarised mentality that has dictated public debate on just about everything to do with Australia’s future direction.  Bipartisanship for the greater good has been replaced by opposition to every issue from the opposite side of the political divide. Negativity for negativity’s sake erodes democracy especially when the term “mandate” is used in the same sentence as democracy. I must maintain my political heartbeat” because a pole informs my future not my vision for the future has produced a generation of politicians without vision. The yes brigade; informed by dubious, loaded polling masquerading as public opinion. It would seem that visionary thinking, like critical thinking has been sucked into the vortex that is the news cycle. I am a technologist and like my other scientific colleague’s, we suffer at the hand of a new phenomenon; “malleable scientific convenience”.  We all know this game don’t we? It was popular in the dark ages when scientists were burnt at the stake as heretics. Now we prefer crucifixion by public opinion with those fakers and shaman known as “commentators”. These “commentators” used to stand on soap boxes in parks on Sundays shouting all sorts of crazy things for people’s amusement. Back then we did not take them seriously. Now in the information age, silly soapboxing has been adopted as the preferred model of journalistic credibility..  After all who wants to be a reporter when you can be a commentator? Who wants to be an accountant when you can be an economist? Who wants to be a disc jockey when you can be a social commentator especially when you can conveniently call yourself an entertainer if anyone wants to sue you for telling porky pies or inflaming  xenophobic hatred rite?.  It seems that if we don’t get an answer that supports this divide and conquer agenda, its attack, discredit and lie till public opinion is so confused that it collapses into exhaustive submission.

We technologists can only present you with the evidence based upon the benefits you already receive. It took us decades to assure the benefits of the steam train, the washing machine, the computer and the mobile telephone but convince we did. We are a patient breed and expect a few brothers and sisters to be burned at the stake for the greater good of our vision and its application. So you trusted us before and it worked, so why are we the bad guys now? Why are these puppet commentators locked in the perpetual news cycle the anointed keepers of modern credibility? What went wrong? Now it seems at every given turn there is a politician with a lobbyist, consultant or self-proclaimed expert in their ear. They are usually economists (a term used by accountants to sound hip and more important).  The main reason I left IT was that everyone who could operate MS word was apparently an expert.  The budget obsessed cost benefit analysts, whose vision is a bottom line on balance sheet that would not have given penicillin or an ECG machine a guernsey for fear of no quantifiable projected future revenue. These future police are typically the people who say “I'm sure we can do it cheaper” using terms like " revenue reactive scaled implementation" or "calculated risk". Let me translate that coded inference for you. They are gonna do it on the cheap against all the informed advice from qualified technical staff who designed and specified it, destroying all intended functionality to make them look better with management who remunerate their bonus . At that point they hand you glue, paper and a staple gun to build their useless cheaper version of the future. Then when this slow, unreliable, unstable, unscaleble, out dated before its installed version of the future falls over, they say "It's was not my fault, I told you so". I decided that Australia is so far behind the 8 ball thanks to cowboys (remember 1tel Jodi Ritch and Sol Trujillo, the backward Mexican) , polly speak and instant expert just ad software, that I was better off implementing existing technology to creatively deliver content. In the preceding ten years on nothing has changed except the amount of technology experts.


 I am old enough to remember our past to present saga, so let’s revisit a few prudent truths in regard to the basket case that is the Australian telecommunications industry. Australia was; (underlined in bold) a world leader in telecommunications with the best trained staff and infrastructure in the world. Australia was of the first countries to adopt digital switching from mechanical switching (ARE11 exchanges), high speed data, switched digital (Australia was a leader in ISDN ) and join telephone exchanges via  fibre in the 80’s. Australia is a small market with horrible real estate to own a telephone network. To put this into perspective there are about the same amount of working end connections in New York State that there are in the whole of Australia. Small pie, limited revenue and very long term investment.  Instead of absorbing Aussat into Telecom or OTC (who merged with Telecom) they set up a third entity which was doomed to failure from the outset. Then what happened? Deregulation by stealth after the Aussat debacle. Hey I think we can sell this thing! Yeah who too? I know we will sweeten the deal with a Telephone carrier licence and throw in a bit of that pay TV cable stuff. Sterling Idea, lets find a sucker and we are off hurtling down the slippery slope of market forces and competition.  You know this game…That’s the one where you get that incredibly valuable piece of infrastructure, commission a report with your interested mates and open it to the competition of market forces (your mates in big business).  Your accountant is in your ear again confusing the horizon with the bottom line, obscuring the vision of the future out there in the distance with the here and politically convenient now. Then the competitors; after arguing how much cheaper and better they are going to do it are too cheap to invest  in their own infrastructure (see market forces at work). So they string 1950’s RF cables over the telegraph poles you are trying to phase out to the horror of local councils. They provide third rate TV services no-one can afford, hijacking sport and anything they can charge for. Then they deliver this rubbish via second hand decoders they got cheap from the British who were throwing them out to third world countries trying to get cable TV networks up. Not content with a retail margin they agreed to initially (from Telstra) and faced with the prospect of actually having to invest in a network for long term clients, they sue the wholesaler (Telstra) for a better deal screaming….Monopoly, Unfair!!!! These people don’t care about your future; they aspire to personify the very word Monopoly.


Just when you though it could not get any worse, those hip economists decide that the government should never own basic infrastructure.  Instead, “we should give people choice” they herald, or as I like to put it give people the option of what wolves they wish to be thrown to. But don’t fear we have an ombudsman to protect you. He or she will look into your issue with these unregulated cowboys called Telco’s or resellers (see One Tel) after they have trashed your credit should you decide to not pay your bill in protest.


OK let’s sell our national carrier so ordinary Australians can own it. Ahh, excuse me, don’t I already own it?  I’m a taxpayer, didn’t my taxes pay for our telephone network? No, No No…We know what’s best for you and the future(see Ausatt:see political here and now)  …. So it’s sold, the share price crashes and those ordinary Australians and their superannuation funds have no pot of gold, just a big fat telephone bill and a bunch of shares in the errrr ummmm “The future”. Ironically had they invested in the past (coal for instance) they would be infinitely better off. The accountants and lawyers who set the whole scam up did very well thank you very much, as did the politicians…Look at my surplus, aren’t I a genius?  But what about all those people who lost their jobs? My shares are trashed thanks to that Mexican bandido, no trained staff anymore, and the network is a mess.  I can assure you that our consultants assure me that ideology and market forces will sort out your future.


So what next? We buy part of it all back for the same price it was sold for to…. wait for it, “build a national digital network for the benefit of all Australians”. So that would be the one we owned in the first place. So where do we go? Down the path of economic political ideology, a path we technologists are never comfortable on. A treacherous slope; where visionary aspirations of convergent services are obscured by confusing irrelevant politics. This short sighted approach to technology has proved costly and set services back ten years. The sociological benefits have been regulated from honey to steam, evaporating in the ether of political ideology.  Rhetoric, lies and vitreous diatribe derail our future for a few cheap “shot at the title” points. Self-important megalomaniacs masquerading as political commentators (a termed used by reporters and disc jockey’s to sound more credible and important) poison public opinion, which is easy as most people don’t understand technology.  These fakes, who have trouble operating a toaster oven, pretend to be informed authorities. They are not interested in our future or the furthering of knowledge, just advertising revenue. If they dictate information and masquerade it as knowledge by dumbing down a complex issue to idiocy they increases rating's and their own pay packet.    A few weeks ago at a party, I was faced with explaining why the NBN was a good thing to a LNP 70 something after he spouted to me that “it’s a big waste of money”. I asked him how he came to his conclusion, explained my credentials and watched as he started squirming in his chair. He had that look on his face  that you get when you realise you are trying to explain a phone call to the guy that built the network.  I attempted patiently to resuscitate the dead and get beyond the three words in the slogans. Starting with  touch points I knew he would like “this is great for rural Australia” because, I had lost him. He was lost  in a glaze of I don’t care, your obviously one of them from the other side.  I could see the vacant look of withdrawn denial only truth can deliver. His next response I can only describe as indicative of what is wrong with Australia. If  that's the case why does Alan Jones and Tony Abbott disagree with you? When I pointed out I am far better qualified to make that assertion, I felt then and their how climate change scientist feel.  There is no bridge in this poisonous divide; credibility seems to get equal footing with nonsense.


Third world countries like South Korea warp past us and our future economy at the “LIGHT SPEED” of the real information Superhighway,” fibre to the house”. That not the light speed that those expert commentators say gen Y gamers travel at that we don't need because it’s a monumental waste of money, glue and staples. That's the speed at which real time medical imaging, teleconferencing, energy control systems, regionalisation and other future technological benefits, too visionary a higher concept for their poor toaster oven mentality to comprehend.  


We seem to be content to be lost on a misinformation back road with an out-dated street directory from nineteen fifty rather than tackle this elephant in the room at the expense of the future.  When I explained the practicalities of what we have now ten years ago, you laughed at me as your eyes glaze over. Now it’s here everyone sees the benefits.  See we were rite and have not failed you all. Don’t worry accountants build and the money will come, the business case will come, the economic rationalisation will come. When your bucket of ideological opposition is empty, the bipartisan visionary bucket is full of positive aspirational hope. Not everything has a quantifiable, economically rational cost. I sat around for years trying to figure out how to make money from the internet and looky now.


Furthermore, this nation was not was not three word slogans. I find someone who has no credibility whatsoever on this issue using lies in three word slogans like "big white elephant" and "will not work' an insult to Australians intelligence. This same language is being echoed by members of the Nationals in coalition who say they have the best interests of regional Australia at heart. Sorry I don't buy that hypocrisy any more than the shadow minister for communications does. This divisive Noism demonstrates a serious lack of understanding of the issue and its benefits capped by an unhealthy lack of vision. Do we want narrow focussed Luddite’s using divisive doomsday language running our fine nation; dictating its future? It’s this offensive and divisive political point scoring that threatens Australia’s future prosperity, not establishing critical infrastructure. We tried market forces, it did not work, let’s move on. So stand aside agenda benders or become road kill on one of the greatest asset’s a prosperous future economy can have; the road to information. Who knows?,It may just lead to knowledge and ultimately wisdom. Don't just take my word for it; The chief technical officer from BT is of the same opinion

— The future belongs to those who see the possibilities before they become obvious

John Scully


1 comment:

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