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Obama Looks Down Under For Broadband Plan 387

oranghutan writes "The Obama administration is looking to the southern hemisphere for tips on how to improve the broadband situation in the US. The key telco adviser to the president, Sarah Crawford, has met with Australian telco analysts recently to find out how the Aussies are rolling out their $40 billion+ national broadband network. It is also rumored that the Obama administration is looking to the Dutch and New Zealand situations for inspiration too. The article quotes an Aussie analyst as saying: 'There needs to be a multiplier effect in the investment you make in telecoms — it should not just be limited to high-speed Internet. That is pretty new and in the US it is nearly communism, that sort of thinking. They are not used to that level of sharing and going away from free-market politics to a situation whereby you are looking at the national interest. In all my 30 years in the industry, this is the first time America is interested in listening to people like myself from outside.'"
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Obama Looks Down Under For Broadband Plan

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:10AM (#29906473)

    Oh good lord.

    • by iammani ( 1392285 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:12AM (#29906483)
      Seriously why not Japan, or most European countries?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Why can't we be a leader and make our own plan?

        • by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:25AM (#29906585)

          That's what we've been doing, and it sucks.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Most of the problems I see presented on this issue stem from the fact that competition is artificially limited through regulation.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by mirix ( 1649853 )
              Or rather, competition is reduced by a natural (mono | duo)poly in most areas, and current regulation prevents utter ridiculousness, but isn't enough.
            • by mcbridematt ( 544099 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @03:10AM (#29907439) Homepage Journal

              Ha! In Australia its the regulation that makes the market competitive. The American's who ran our version of pre-breakup AT&T (Telstra) got very frustrated at not being able to kick their competitors off their network (a former government asset), and left.

          • by Totenglocke ( 1291680 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:35AM (#29906645)

            It only sucks because the government didn't force companies to upgrade their networks when they took money from the government to.......upgrade their networks.

            All the government had to do was actually enforce the measures they enacted and we wouldn't be having this conversation. So yes, while the companies are definitely in the wrong for essentially embezzling the money, the politicians who gave them the money and then let them just pocket it are even more in the wrong.

            **Apologies for any typo's - Firefox doesn't want to run on my system without crashing every 5 seconds since I overclocked it (everything else runs 100% fine, and no system crashes - so the problem is with Firefox) and good ol' Shiternet Explorer doesn't have spellcheck.**

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Khyber ( 864651 )

            No, it doesn't suck. We have a 45mbit symmetrical plan, have had it since 1996 - ain't nobody suing the fuck out of the Telcos and cable companies to force their ass to roll it out, uncapped.


        • How would you even know you were a leader if you didn't look at the other plans first? If you ignore the lessons other nations have learned on what works and what doesn't then you won't lead anything.

        • by Yokaze ( 70883 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @03:07AM (#29907427)

          People learn from mistakes, smart people learn from other people's mistakes.

          I find it always depressing, when my government tries to come up with its own plan and doesn't bother to have a look how other nations did it.
          That is either ignorance, arrogance or misplaced pride.

      • Seriously why not Japan, or most European countries?

        Indeed. I had 100Mbps fiber in northern rural Japan, in 2006. That's fiber from the pole through my wall and into my apartment, by the way, and I never experienced throttling or arbitrary caps. Total cost? Around US$70 per month.

        Then I come back to the USA, move into a neighborhood right next to a university in a city of a million people, and the best I can get without some crazy business plan is 1.5M/128K ADSL, for about $40 per month. And the connecti

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nschubach ( 922175 )

          Because Japan doesn't have the landmass... they have fewer lines to lay and less overhead.

          I question if looking to Australia is still a bad idea because they generally have most of their population along the shores, right? Our problem is that we have such a landmass with people spread out. Obama always likes to think of "everybody" when he does something and thinks that my parents who live 50 miles from the nearest major city need ultra fast broadband.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Do you suppose the Japanese pay something additional in taxes to get those high speeds?

        • by Gerzel ( 240421 ) *

          What is with it is called profit taking. Some might think of it as organized crime, but it isn't very well organized and in the US it isn't criminal either.

          Doing thing the US way in the US is taken as being the best way regardless of evidence to the contrary. In particular doing things the US way means not even looking at outside ways of doing things other than as a way to rule out how not to do something no matter how well it is done elsewhere; if it is done elsewhere a particular way then that way is ru

        • Mine was $50 in a small city, and right when I left they did introduce bandwidth capping -- they asked us to please refrain from uploading more than 500 gigabytes per month, with no download cap. Japan makes the US internet situation look paltry.

          For the record (for those claiming the landmass has anything to do with it), the way Japan regulated was that it encouraged/forced ISPs to work together to cooperatively build and share lines all the way up to the DSL station. From there, each company was responsibl

      • by BluBrick ( 1924 )

        Seriously why not Japan, or most European countries?

        The .jp or .eu plans might make suitable models for the East coast, but looking to Australia makes pretty good sense for the rest of the USA. Even though the population of the USA is about tenfold that of Australia, Australia presents many of the same hurdles for ubiquitous broadband coverage as does the USA. Both have vast areas to cover across a range of climatic conditions and timezones. Both have an overall low population density, with several concentrations of very high population density in and aro

        • Actually, "very high population" density in a few coastal cities isn't quite right either. Australian cities and the more modern cities in the USA are sprawled and oriented around suburban life in a way that the older European and Japanese cities (that really do have a very high population density) aren't. .

      • by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @03:19AM (#29907479) Homepage
        Seriously why not Japan, or most European countries?

        Most of those countries don't speak Americanese, dammit! At least the Aussies have something vaguely close...
    • by kestasjk ( 933987 ) * on Thursday October 29, 2009 @01:16AM (#29906859) Homepage
      As an Australian I agree, why not look to Zimbabwe for an economic recovery plan?

      I exaggerate, but there are surely better places to look.
      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        I was looking at the sunny land of Somalia for a economic recovery plan, but I suppose Zimbabwe will work too.

  • Bad Idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Solitaire ( 1119147 ) < minus cat> on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:15AM (#29906511) Homepage
    I live in Australia. Our broadband *sucks*. Try Korean or Japan if you're after inspiration.
    • Re:Bad Idea (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:17AM (#29906523)

      yes, our broadband sucks. But it won't suck after the NBN has been built. Hence why they're talking to people about the NBN.

      Try reading the summary. (I realise RTFA is too much to ask)

      • Re:Bad Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Frogbert ( 589961 ) <> on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:36AM (#29906651)

        Ha! I'll believe that when I'm connected to it.

      • Re:Bad Idea (Score:4, Informative)

        by Techman83 ( 949264 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:36AM (#29906655)
        But we have a buffoon who's attempting it, he just made recent blunder []. Read the PDF, it seems like he's still pushing the whole FTTN + VDSL angle, which when I met him, argued that the premise, whilst an improvement on what we have, is seriously flawed. Telstra will still control the "Last Mile", meaning that they can still gouge us. Now if they are going to go with FTTP, then that changes things a lot, but it isn't going to close to even being started in their current term and I have a feeling they may not make it to a second term. Combine all of that with the fact Senator Conroy changes his story on a daily basis, so I wouldn't be watching us at all!
        • Re:Bad Idea (Score:5, Interesting)

          by shitdrummer ( 523404 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @01:15AM (#29906849)
          Telstra will most certainly not control the last mile. Well, at least not Telstra in it's current form. This is why the Government is pushing for a split of Telstra into wholesale and retail.

          I won't try to defend our Communications Minister, but there are some very smart technical people involved with this project. It will be a huge success for Australia.

          Almost everyone who works in communications in Australia agrees this is a great idea, as I do. Some are skeptical about the dollars, but this infrastructure will be in place for many many decades and will be profitable in the long run. A cheer went up in my IT department when this was announced, literally people standing up at their desks saying how awesome this will be for Aus. You should have seen the celebrations when it was announced that Telstra would be split into wholesale and retail. :)
          • You should have seen the celebrations when it was announced that Telstra would be split into wholesale and retail. :)

            My Dad and I pretty much broke down in tears of joy. Good times, good times. The beers did flow.

          • oh there is some very smart people, but this project will be good for them and not the country.

            great truck loads of money will be wasted on studies,consultants and legal battles with telstra. your cheering is very premature.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Techman83 ( 949264 )
            Oh I whole heartedly agree with the Idea, but that's not to say my cynical side isn't screaming. The current government seem to be more about given the impression they are doing the right thing for the country, but I don't see a whole lot happening. The minute I see a detailed plan without Conroy spout a bunch of buzzwords he doesn't understand, I will remain somewhat skeptical.
      • by wisty ( 1335733 )

        Gah. The NBN. 43 Billion is about $5000 per home. It's just too expensive.

        Why didn't they stick with the original idea? Fiber connecting the cities, then rent out bandwidth to local providers, who could do the last few miles using whatever technology the customers wanted. Some people want wireless (and yes, there are issues). Some people want fiber. Some people just want a cheap connection, because they only use the internet for email and banking. It would have been a little more expensive for the people wh

        • Re:Bad Idea (Score:4, Interesting)

          by dakameleon ( 1126377 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @02:51AM (#29907325)

          Because it isn't just about the home and personal use. It's about businesses and utilities such as hospitals, schools, fire, police, etc.

          Business contributes a significant chunk of our tax take - corporate tax take increase is what is responsible for all our tax cuts over the last 10 years, after all - and more efficient utilities reduces spending.

          The difference is that business doesn't vote, people do - so while the backbone will be there for business, the fringe cases of getting it to the homes will get the votes.

          And before you object to public money being spent on private enterprise, that's because it's infrastructure. The government builds roads and rail and ports because very few single businesses can afford to pay for it themselves (BHP & Rio being exceptions). This is what governments are supposed to do, a fact too many have forgotten.

  • Awesome (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:18AM (#29906537)

    This is good news. We all hate Americans so it seems good to hear that while we're screwing ourselves we're screwing you too.

  • Are you kidding?! (Score:5, Informative)

    by sammcj ( 1616573 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:21AM (#29906557)
    Is Obama going mad? Here in NZ we have one of the WORST internet "solutions" in the world! Its: -Slow -VERY expensive -Lots of area's don't even have access to internet -Heavily Data Capped (I pay $120 NZ for 10mbit (which is more like 7mbit) with only 40GB of data!)
    • IMHO, New Zealand is pretty good with broadband coverage. NZ currently have ADSL coverage to over 70% of the population and UMTS (3G broadband) coverage to 97% of the population with two different carriers providing that service. We might not have the best speeds et al but a much higher proportion of the population can actually get broadband compared to the US.

      The US current approach is odd -- they're rolling out fibre to the home in some areas, despite the fact a large proportion of the US population is st

  • by AbRASiON ( 589899 ) * on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:26AM (#29906593) Journal

    If Obama is asking Telstra / Australia or the Australian government ANYTHING about broadband than my American friends, I am very very very sorry for you, quite sincerely - this can not end well at all.
    Telstra is one of the most vile companies in existence, Microsoft may get mocked a lot here but that's only because the evils of Telstra are not known internationally. (We're talking about a company that first introduced Bigpond cable with a 100mbyte per MONTH limit, no - I'm not joking)

    As for the broadband network, it's a load of cobblers, we won't see it for a decade at least, it's one of those dopey empty promises which mean absoloutely nothing (no, I'm not a liberal, not even close)

    • by some_guy_88 ( 1306769 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:40AM (#29906681) Homepage

      (no, I'm not a liberal, not even close)

      To anyone who doesn't know, the two major political parties in Australia are the Labor party (left-center) and the ironically named Liberal party (right conservative). The term "liberal" in Australia is therefore rather ambigious a lot of the time.

      The new broadband network is being proposed by our current Labor government.

      • For me, Liberty is more of a right wing concept. So if the Australian Liberal Party were a right wing party it would make sense for them to use that name.

        I don't understand why Liberal refers to left wing politics in the US. That makes little sense to me.

        • For me, Liberty is more of a right wing concept.

          Which is very odd. Do you say that, just because of how you want to define right-wing, rather than what right-wing actually means?

          So if the Australian Liberal Party were a right wing party it would make sense for them to use that name.

          Again, very odd, because liberalism is not strictly a synonym of "liberty" - although liberalism includes the ideas of freedom and rights, it connotes more about progressivism and reform.

          I don't understand why Liberal refers to left wing politics in the US. That makes little sense to me.

          Of course it makes little sense, when you have so little understanding of the terms. Liberal does not refer to left-wing politics, either, and outside of a few random anarchists and socialists th

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jyx ( 454866 )

        two major political parties in Australia are the Labor party (left-center) and the ironically named Liberal party (right conservative).

        I'd say that labor would be center-right and Liberals would be center-right-right.

        Considering that current PM got in by saying 'we will do exactly the same thing as the liberals, but with more kittens!' means we had a choice between a party with conservative economic policy, tough (but fair) border protection, tuff on crime tuff on the cause of slogans - OR - a party with conservative economic policy, tough (but fair) border protection, tuff on crime tuff on the cause of slogans, but we are heaps differe

    • You may not see it in a decade. I, on the other hand, will be using the new NBN within 18 months thanks to their idea of beta testing on Tasmania. I'm looking forward to it.
  • Don't follow us (Score:5, Informative)

    by labnet ( 457441 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:31AM (#29906621)

    Goodness, the $40B broadband plan will be a disaster.
    Lets see.
    About 10 Million possible connection points (Business + Households) with say 25% takeup (after they will still be competing with ADSL/Cable which is already > 10 Mbits/sec to most)
    Thats $16k per connection. Lets assume cost of capital (6%) + maintainence(4%) is 10%/annum.
    So it will cost $1600/annum or $133/month before we add any data costs.

    So USA, don't follow our example.
    Our dear leader K.Rudd is intent on sending us as broke as you.

    • Now consider what the bandwidth of the NBN will be used for. TV, Telephone, Internet, Video Calls, remote diagnosis by doctors, huge benifits for schools, library's, research institutions, small/medium/large businesses and more.

      The NBN will form the backbone of Australian communications for many many decades to come. The return on investment will take many years, but this is a long term project that will eventually be extremely profitable as well as hugely benificial to all Australians.

      I work in the
      • We don't need an NBN to deliver telephone (at a whopping ~30kbit/s), or internet or video calls, "remote diagnosis by doctors" is a bit of a creepy thought even if it really did need far more bandwidth. And the little TV I watch I get via satellite or radio, why waste money delivering broadcast content packet by packet to each individual?

        Huge benefits for schools/libraries/research institutions like what? Do people go to libraries to use the net? Would they after they've had super-expensive broadband sho
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by fabs64 ( 657132 )

      What the hell?

      All of that nonsense relies on the absurd assumption that the NBN will be some side by side competitor with the existing ADSL network.
      FTTN refers to running fibre lines to the very nodes where the ADSL network currently has copper, do you really believe we're going to keep maintaining the copper wires sitting next to the fibre?

    • Re:Don't follow us (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chuck Chunder ( 21021 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @01:15AM (#29906847) Homepage Journal

      So it will cost $1600/annum or $133/month before we add any data costs.

      That obviously isn't true because at that price no one (who had an option) would take it up. Whatever it costs to build access to it will have to be priced according to what the market will bear. Obviously that means someone (presumably the taxpayer) taking a hosing but that's where infrastructure usually comes from.

      Australia is probably a worst case scenario for internet access. We have a low population density, our population centres are vast distances apart, our absolute population is pretty low and we don't have a lot of neighbour countries

      With that in mind I don't think our access is all that bad. I can get 100gigs of ADSL2+ for $50 a month which isn't too bad.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dakameleon ( 1126377 )

      Wait, are you assuming it'll need to pay itself off in a year? That's not how long term projects work. I'd suggest it's probably going to be targeted for 20 - 30 year return period, so you'd be looking at a far different cost base.

      The reason the government is doing it is because they're the only ones that can take a 20 - 30 year timescale. It's called building infrastructure, and it's what governments are supposed to do with our taxes.

  • Prediction (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BitHive ( 578094 )

    Dozens of dittoheads will pan this without even considering that it's worth talking to people who built national broadband networks so that we don't repeat their mistakes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kestasjk ( 933987 ) *
      We're in the process of making the mistakes right now. Our new broadband plan is like a beautiful locomotive gliding through the air in super-slow motion, but if you have some foresight you can see you're watching a train wreck in slow motion

      This is from the same guy who threw millions at stopping internet bullying with a mandatory nationwide blacklist of disgusting sites, then leaked the list of disgusting sites. Just the other day he released confidential figures revealing the confidential value of our
  • by retech ( 1228598 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:59AM (#29906781)
    Foolish man Obama looking to Oz and NZ when South Africa has it all wrapped up. No infrastructure, no data lines, hubs, switches or routers to support. They just use data pigeons! Not only are they cheap, they're as fast as broadband and they appease the tree huggers!
  • by macemoneta ( 154740 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @01:05AM (#29906801) Homepage

    As a town in Minnesota [] discovered, all you have to do is threaten to roll your own. Suddenly 50Mb/s for $50/month is available.

    The problem isn't technology, population density or land area. The problem is that local government provide a monopoly (or oligopoly), so there is no incentive to truly cut margins and invest in infrastructure. Stop that, and companies will find a way to keep getting that check in the mail.

    • by MikeURL ( 890801 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @01:24AM (#29906897) Journal
      Sounds a lot like a Public Option.
  • The problem with Internet access in the USA is the local mono/duopolies. There is no reason whatsoever why Internet access should not be the fastest and cheapest found anywhere in the world in the dense population centers. Although many people will say: "but what about the rural areas" -- the reality is that most people live in densely populated areas.

    So, what to do about the local mono/dupolies? The obvious place to start is to allow cities to build their own last-mile connections to houses and rent these

  • by Raidion ( 1568981 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @01:17AM (#29906863) Journal
    There has been several cases where Broadband quality has been drastically improved when the local governments get fed up with the slow speeds and move to install new networks of their own. The Telcoms either jump to provide better service or the residents get better service from a local government run Telcom. It's a win-win situation: nothing like a little competition (especially in a near monopoly) to shake up the status quo and get the results we want.
  • by The Dancing Panda ( 1321121 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @01:21AM (#29906889)
    What am I saying, this is slashdot, bash away before thinking about it...

    But honestly, Nowhere does it say "Obama has hired Austrailian Telco Analysts", or "Obama is modelling the effort after the Austrailian effort". Looking for inspiration means asking around and picking up ideas. Just like a software engineer who goes to Google to look for inspiration. The bad ones just copy and paste, but the average and above just look at the other results and try to mold a better solution. I would say this is allegorical. We'll see what happens.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Most bashing here is ideologically driven and the bashers don't need real points to argue when they've already decided what the one true path is and who isn't on it.

  • We need to be taking our examples from better sources, so this calls for drastic measures before it is too late. We must declare war on Japan, then immediately surrender to them. They will have no choice but to occupy us to ensure a safe recovery from the war, especially with reconstruction. When the Japanese realize our horrible internet situation, they will declare a humanitarian emergency. This should secure us UN funding to upgrade our networks while ATT and Comcast have sanctions imposed against them.
  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @02:40AM (#29907273) Journal
    Long long ago, Australia worked out that nobody would wire them up.
    So they rolled out their own. Not too private, not to public.
    Just pay for the wire, make a profit to pay back cost and future needs.
    Jobs for life, cheap local calls, $ for anything else, early with pure digital networking.
    A big Bell, but you could make calls, send faxes, enjoy dial up and pay huge amounts for data services.
    Then Australia sort of got a bit lost/crazy with its cash flow in the 1980's/90's.
    We where going to be pulled into the 20C and had to sell it all, sort of.
    So on top of this sold off, own it all Bell giant, all other isp's had to make a profit.
    They also controlled the pipe/s out of Australia and ran an ISP.
    So for a decade Australia was in telco hell, for profit and gov backed, brainwashed into thinking every packet was golden as we where so far away and unique due to population density.
    Australia now has another pipe to the outside world, but still has the old cartel pricing, why change a good thing ;)
    Our federal gov has basically said they will roll out optical and out flank the existing Bell copper, exchanges, lawyers ect.
    What is a greedy cash crazed Bell to do? Lobby, bribe, PR smear, grass roots astro turf?
    Well that does not work as they are pure evil.
    What can the US learn?
    Roll your own optical and set a few 10's of telcos free on top.
    Let the ISP's pay a basic access fee to keep the network working and then sell any mix of services they like.
    From all you can eat, no tech support, to pick up on 3rd ring to a real person for $$$.
    Connect your schools, hospitals, tv, radio, universities and enter the 21C with something useful. Understand what John D. Rockefeller was taking about when he said 'Competition is a sin." and nail your demands to a town hall doors.
    Roll your own and take back your local community from the optical barons and then get your local data to an area where you can play the telcos off against each other.
  • by IchBinEinPenguin ( 589252 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:33AM (#29909295)
    or China if you want to learn about Internet censorship.
  • Broadband Solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sadler121 ( 735320 ) <> on Thursday October 29, 2009 @10:51AM (#29910405) Homepage

    The problem with Net Neutrality is the last mile. Thus instead of adding more regulation in the form of Net Neutrality, the government needs to address the issue of government granted monopolies on the last mile. Once that is addressed, Net Neutrality issues will fade away. But Net Neutrality can be used as a stick to get more competition in the last mile.

    What needs to happen is the Federal government needs to tally up how much tax payer money has gone to the telecoms, add interest, and then tell the telecoms that they need to pay back X billion dollars, once they have done that, they will own outright their own network. The money paid back to the government goes into a fund available to other ISP's that want to lay their own fiber.

    Local municipalities would build, if they haven't already, a pipe in the right of ways in front of every house, going to every house. This pipe is what competing ISP’s would use to lay cable in, instead of having to dig separate trenches themselves. The local government would charge a minimal maintenance fee to any ISP who wants to lay cable in the pipe. The telecoms would also pay the same fee, even if they are not using the pipe, which would be for access to the right of way in front of, and through people’s property. This way the construction and maintenance of the pipe is guaranteed without any higher taxes.

We all like praise, but a hike in our pay is the best kind of ways.