As US Still Argues Over Semantics, Australia Expands Its Ambitious Broadband Plan

from the you-get-fiber-to-the-home!-you-get-fiber-to-the-home!-everybody-gets-fiber-to-th dept

About a year ago, long before the FCC came out with its incredibly weak broadband plan that is full of non-specific nothingness, we had suggested that if the new FCC really wanted to be bold, it should look at what Australia was doing, building on an idea that we first started talking about back in 2003: building out a single super high end fiber infrastructure, and letting service providers compete on top of it. The idea, then was to offer 100 Mbps fiber to 90% of all homes, and provide the remaining 10% with 12 Mbps wireless). The thinking, of course, is that broadband is a natural monopoly, and you don't want multiple infrastructure providers having to dig up the entire country to lay fiber, but you do want competition. So you build a single top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and let the competition happen at the service level. Now, there are reasonable concerns about the government being involved, but there are ways to structure such things so that it minimizes the problems. If you think of it like the national highway system, and the massive economic benefit that created, it begins to make sense.

So, as the US continues to muddle along at much slower speeds with little likelihood of much change, Broadband Reports points us to a new report out of Australia, noting that they can actually go even bigger, increasing the fiber coverage to 93% of the Australian homes.

This comes out of a feasibility report on the original plan, done by McKinsey and KPMG, which noted that it wasn't just feasible, but that the original plan wasn't as ambitious as it easily could be, and came up with some recommendations to make it even better. Australia's plans do have some problems, but the plan seems a lot more ambitious than anything coming out of the US lately.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    tom k, May 10th, 2010 @ 3:09am

    this is a crock of s@#$t. The government is irrelevant in the deployment of US broadband. And if a country of 20M people spends 40 billion, it would cost like half a trillion in the US. Are you suggesting the US government should spend half a trillion to build fiber to the home to everyone in america? how stupid can you be?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Paddy (profile), May 10th, 2010 @ 3:10am

    I spy with my little FBI…

    I have one big issue with a government owned infrastructure in general. At present, certainly in the UK, I don’t know what goes on in the States, several broadband providers have taken a stance against collecting and releasing data on users suspected of illegal file sharing and other questinably legal practices without court orders.

    On a state-owned network, the likelihood of illegal and otherwise invasive broadband monitoring by various law enforcement agenices (often at the behest of big business, as you well know) is increased.

    Since keeping their customers online is in the interest of the providers, they are reluctant to sell them down the river. If you take them out of the equation, you lose what small amount of consumer protection the current market provides.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2010 @ 3:22am


    "hurrrr durrrr"

    If you did it all at once it'd be a problem, but if you start in the most populated areas first and then to the less populated ones it'd be more feasible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Chargone (profile), May 10th, 2010 @ 3:30am

    Re: I spy with my little FBI�

    'course, then you get NZ, which has competition and privately owned infrastructure (ok, Heavily Regulated privately owned infrastructure, but still) where in we have spy devices (or was it software?) installed at the exchanges... which the FBI claims was it's idea... great.

    private ownership is, sadly, no guarantee of greater protections, nor of lesser ones. it's simply that the alignment patterns of the interests of the parties involved are different.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Yeebok (profile), May 10th, 2010 @ 3:32am


    Consider the land mass vs population density .. and I suspect that the cost per person for us Aussies would be higher than for the US.. ( vs (

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Chargone (profile), May 10th, 2010 @ 3:40am

    Re: Re:

    it gets better: geographically Australia's actually about the same size as the USA. (ok, a Little smaller, but not much.) some of that 'fiber to the home'? (probably the 7% who miss out, but whatever) are further away from the nearest exchange than any town in the USA is from the next one over.

    plus, if all else fails, if the government builds the thing they can have... oh, wait, the US doesn't have publicly owned utilities in most places does it? heh. i was about to suggest simply adding it to the rates. (local government taxes that cover things such as the water supply, maintenance of roads other than state highways, public libraries, public swimming pools, and all manner of other such things)

    but yeah, if it costs so much to lay out, there's a number of ways to recover that money without breaking things, and, as the AC above me points out, it's always possible to do it a bit at a time.

    of course, the US government (or is it the nation as a whole? i'm not entirely clear on that) is functionally broke... i mean, how many trillions of dollars of debt are we talking now? :S

    is it even Possible to pay that off? wow.

    i wandered off topic. but yeah, if the national government can't pay for it, then orginise local government to do the actual work for your 'last mile' or whatever it's called (and naturally it would also eat/pass on the costs.) still has the same result. (am i correct in thinking that current telco/cable monopoly systems keep getting in the way of attempts to do this on local initiative? I seem to remember reading something like that.)

    parentheses ftw!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    tom k, May 10th, 2010 @ 3:41am

    Re: Re:

    the fcc estimated that something like 100Mbps to a % like the one in australia would cost about $350 billion. there is no reason to spend this amount of taxpayer money (even if this was remotely feasible politcally).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Bob Mongoose, May 10th, 2010 @ 4:26am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Local municipalities are already doing this in the US. Just like with other utilities. It's starting small, and each community gets more say and control.

    And so far, it is absolutely crushing the cable companies in those areas.

    So rather than having an expansive national government, you get the same results, although probably a little slower. My concern is that large cable companies will get laws passed to block this sort of behavior.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Jan Tångring, May 10th, 2010 @ 4:34am

    This is not expensive and it creates a market with competition

    Stop worrying about the state participation in this. This is dark fiber infrastructure. Like public roads. There will be no state monopoly on the Internet service, but quite the opposite — operators will rent fiber, you will have a functional market on top of this dark fiber, with real competition, as opposed to most industrial countries where operators are monopolies or duopolies (tele and cable).
    And guys, this is expensive only if you are not used to dealing with big budgets. Think of it instead as comparable to a few years or less of what is spent on road traffic infrastructure. Also: this is fiber, so it is an infrastructure investment that will last virtually forever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2010 @ 4:45am

    Re: Re: Re:

    That's right, because we are wasting that money elsewhere right now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Michial Thompson, May 10th, 2010 @ 5:25am

    Re: I spy with my little FBI�

    Actually if done right it wouldn't be a state owned network. The state would ONLY own the fiber, and the data center that the fiber terminated in.

    As for the network, that would be private owned. An ISP would provide the bandwidth to the data center, the hardware for distribution of the bandwidth, and the servers the manage it etc.

    The problem would be in the corruption of the people managing the Data center. "favored" ISPs would get their provisioning done faster, perhaps get repairs completed faster etc. Or the state would step in and "require" the data shared in order to make use of the infrastructure etc...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Paddy (profile), May 10th, 2010 @ 5:53am

    ‘Or the state would step in and "require" the data shared in order to make use of the infrastructure etc...’

    That’s the bit I’d be most concerned about. It’s not an insurmountable problem though. It just needs some very careful consideration and a whole lot of lobbying from someone other than the music and movie industries.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2010 @ 7:59am

    1) Do you think our highways are pointless and never should be built? They cost way more to maintain than fiber with light shooting through it.

    2) They are laying down fiber, I imagine at the node points the ISPs would bring their own computers in to manage their customers network connections instead of the government trying to maintain a huge tech network which it is completely unable to handle. So no, they wouldn't be spying on you any more than what they do now.

    3) Stop making stupid posts about technology and infrastructure when it's obvious you think "techie stuff" is magic and find it an accomplishment that you can send an email.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Silent Bob, May 10th, 2010 @ 8:05am

    an immodest proposal

    why don't we let the porn industry sponsor the infrastructure? They've been the driving innovative force behind broadband all along.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2010 @ 8:36am

    Re: Re: I spy with my little FBI�

    "where in we have spy devices (or was it software?) installed at the exchanges... which the FBI claims was it's idea... great. "

    Yeah we all know that the Aussies and NZ types are the real cause of sept 11 and thats why the FBI needed that software installed ....


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Johnny Canada, May 10th, 2010 @ 9:47am

    Re: Half a Trillion Dollars

    Where will the U.S. Government get this amount of money???

    Easy stop the War on Terror for about one week.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2010 @ 10:56am

    The FCC keeps making promises that it will do something, the government keeps making promises that it will fix the problem, but in the end they do nothing and the rest of the world passes us up and continues to further pass us up while our government is still continuing the practice of making empty promises and delivering nothing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Joe Bloggs, May 10th, 2010 @ 4:24pm

    Yes we have a socialist streak, a good safety net for the poor and disadvantaged and that's why our country is a great place to live.

    Broadband speeds in Australia are currently quite slow in comparison to the rest of the world. This is mostly because our largest telco company (Telstra) was originally state owned, it laid down the majority of our infrastructure (the copper and conduits) and for the better 3/4 of it's existence was simply there to maintain the network and bring in a couple of dollars for the government coffers.

    During the dawn of the internet Telstra (previously known as Telecom) was privatised which created an unfair monopoly due to most other telco's not having the resources to lay down their own infrastructure and instead they now rent a fair whack of it from Telstra.

    Telstra not surprisingly now seems to be totally against the idea of taking part in building the national broadband network (NBN) because it will loose this monopoly and most likely go out of business soon after it is complete because it can't compete on a even playing field (although we use double-speak to avoid saying this politically).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Yargh, May 11th, 2010 @ 7:21am

    Really? What's the point/purpose of getting fiber networking in Australia if the internet there is filtered? Before pushing better networks, they should be pushing to remove the internet censorship.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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