Today the Abbot government released their cost-benefit analysis of the NBN and their own, mixed-technology model. Not surprisingly (for a report commissioned by the Government), the analysis finds that the Coalition’s fibre-to-the-node NBN is more cost-effective than Labor’s fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) model. The case for FTTP isn’t good, according to this document. The mixed-technology model comes out $16b ahead in terms of value for money.
I discussed this report on the The Project in the evening. Have a watch below.
Setting aside the issue of the impartiality of the study, one can assume they have the costs in the ball-park at least. But what about the benefits? This is where the debate will be, because some of the assumptions about the value to the country of faster broadband are highly questionable.
Today’s glitch with Commonwealth Bank ATMs raised some questions about the reliability of our bank’s IT systems, and our dependence on technology. I made another appearance chatting on 2UE’s evening program about the issue. Have a listen here.
In January last year, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a landmark speech entitled “Remarks on Internet Freedom“. The speech was noteworthy for its clear and unambiguous rejection of all forms of censorship and network control. Coming on the heels of Iran’s presidential elections and Chinese cyber-attacks, it seemed the U.S. was drawing a principled line in the sand. They put their money where there mouths were, allocating millions in funding for projects to help the citizens of the world to circumvent government controls on freedom of speech.
(Me on News 24 discussing the speech and the revolutions in the Middle East)
Yesterday Secretary Clinton revisited that theme, announcing the creation of an Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues and pledging a further $25 million for tools to combat censorship. However, while we heard another eloquent defence of the principle of freedom of speech in the online world, this foray is receiving a markedly cooler reception.
It’s been an interesting week but it ended on a low note, with the meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys General not agreeing on implementing an R-18+ rating for games. EFA have campaigned for this for a long time, and with Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor thoroughly behind it, a lot of people were optimistic we would finally see it happen. It appears that there were one or two holdouts amongst the states, so we’re going to have to push for this next year.
Tonight I debated the issue with the Australian Christian Lobby’s Jim Wallace. You can count on Jim to be on the opposing side to just about any free speech issue, and he represents a tiny minority of Australians, but it’s amusing to hear how quickly he devolves into rants about the horrors of war – which are certainly real, but not particularly germaine to a discussion on classification reform.
Have a listen below.
Over the last few days I’ve been dealing with a flurry of media on the (missing) R-18+ games category, and I’m just catching my breath. The news on this front is that the Commonwealth government has come out strongly for amending the national classification code to allow R-18+ games. They released research which shows that the links between games and childhood aggression are tenuous, at best; performed a survey which shows that the move is overwhelmingly popular; and made an official statement backing the reform. (I put some more info up at EFA.)
Apart from the fact that this ridiculous hole in the law is about to be fixed, what I find most interesting here is the very shrewd way that the Home Affairs Minister, Brendan O’Connor, has framed the debate. Rather than discuss the measure as an overdue liberalising of the censorship regime to allow broader entertainment choices for adults, it has been presented as a new ban on selling games to kids. It’s worked; the news on Sunday reported it as a new ban and even went so far as to show teenagers outraged at the patronising new policy, rather than happy (as they should be) that formerly banned games will now be available for sale, at least to those over 18.
I did a few newsspots, which demonstrate the slightly confused but highly effective messaging. I also did an interview for ABC News 24 which you can see below.
With elections, report-writing and speaking engagements over for the time being, expect to see a few more updates here in the near future.
On Friday I was a guest on ABC Radio National’s Life Matters discussing online reputation. This has close ties with the privacy concerns that are getting more and more attention in the media these days. There seems to be a lot of concern and a growing realisation that once the genie is out of the bottle it’s hard to put him back in. It was an interesting discussion, though I wonder if I’m becoming a harbinger of doom on these matters.
I did another appearance on the 7PM Project on Wednesday, talking about Facebook vandals (/b/tards, basically) defacing tribute pages. It’s a difficult subject in some ways, as we must balance the outrage and no doubt genuine anguish caused by such actions against the practicalities of any response and its implications for legitimate anonymous free speech. I wrote something on the subject earlier in the year when a similar incident occurred. That can be a hard line to sell when a grieving parent is involved.
Today I had a short spot on The 7PM Project discussing the Government’s plans for a National Broadband Network and contrasting it with the Liberal plan. The NBN is a massive undertaking, at $43 billion, and given the cost we’d expect to see a pretty solid cost-benefit analysis, yet none has been forthcoming. It’s therefore hard to know quite how enthusiastically to support the NBN.
I do have a soft spot for a bold, forward thinking and long term project like this one, and I appreciate as well as anybody what this might mean in terms of future educational and business opportunities for the country. The need for connectivity will not go away, so I think the Commonwealth’s asset, in NBN Co, will have real value. I want this for myself and my business. It’s slightly concerning that it requires a leap of faith, but there you have it.
Stephen Conroy, as usual on a Friday, made some major filter announcements today, using the excuse of a review of the “RC” classification category to put the filter on the back burner for 12 months. He also announced that three large ISPs – Bigpond, Optus and Primus – would begin a voluntary filtering scheme. Although that raises some red flags, it would be definitely preferable to having a compulsory government-controlled scheme. However, it looks like the old plan is still very much in the offing.
Read more on the SMH here, or listen to me discussing the issue on the ABC: