Richard Piper, 21st January 2016.
Like Mr Turnbull, I grew up in the 70s at Sydney Grammar School. The world relied on pen and paper. A form of scholarship that the modern generation has not had the privilege to experience. The years have passed, and I am getting old. I look at the past with perhaps unreasonable fondness. We can learn from the past, but the future is what we can change. In the future, it will be almost impossible to work without rapid Internet access. I can remember in 1983 at the University of New South Wales I did my first thesis on PDP 11 UNIX machine. At this time, the Internet TCPIP did not exist, although you could send an email. When I was studying in Canada in 1993, the use of a web browser was something novel. In 2003, the use of the Internet was commonplace, But certainly not an essential part of our daily routine. Internet-capable mobile phones such as the iPhone did not come into production till 2007. Today the world has changed. Mobile devices connected us to the Internet wherever we are. Essential services are difficult to access unless you have Internet services. For instance, it is almost impossible to obtain a CD to upgrade your computer, this requires a multi-gigabyte download over the Internet on a moderately regular basis. Similarly, banking, access to government services, and educational resources are all provided by the Internet. Our children’s education is dependent upon information and learning resources on the Internet. CDs and books seem to have become a thing of the past. Information resides in the clouds whatever that means. Commerce is all based on electronic data transfer. The use of cash is almost synonymous with not paying tax.
Since the days of the 300 baud modem, I have probably accessed the Internet with every possible technology. I presently live in Chatswood, in the heart of urban Australia. Internet access using ADSL in the old copper phone lines is completely unreliable. The quality of the service seems to be dependent upon the weather and other unknown factors. I have finally decided to install cable Internet through Telstra. I did use this some ten years ago but moved on after it proved to be unreliable. The fact that Telstra has been unable to connect the service for a week due to widespread network outages does not fill me full of confidence. Particularly as this is likely to be the future of NBN in my area. If this is the Internet access we can provide to individuals and businesses in our community, our society is in a lot of trouble.
At work, I can access the Internet using the University of Sydney network. This service provides 100 Mb symmetrical service. It is reliable, and fast. But in this modern era, where we will store our data files remotely, this service will limit productivity. There are some practical advantages to remote data storage (iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.). There is no doubt about that. However, if remote data storage is to replace local storage the speed of our data networks needs to increase by at least one order of magnitude. In the short term, the speeds that the NBN considers to be broadband will be proven to be woefully inadequate.
I suspect our politicians do understand that the world has changed. Call at the fourth industrial revolution, or whatever you like. We are not keeping up with this revolution (Donovan, 2015). Our society needs to keep pace with this technology. We need to make appropriate investment. It is an essential service. It needs to be widely available, fast, and reliable. The original Internet was designed to be highly redundant, providing a data service that was highly redundant and possibly survive a nuclear disaster. Given the nature of modern society, the wide spread loss of data collect activity my will cause a catastrophe unrelated to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I’m not sure that the political processes in Australia at present (Harmer, 2015) can provide the sort of leadership which will guide us through the rapid technological changes that are likely to occur in the next decade.