No plan is better than this one

Image

What the? So I walk into Camera World and some flash, well-fed salesman called Malcolm comes up to me and…I buy a 12 megapixel camera over a 20 mgegapixel camera do I? In Dick Smith I buy Windows 98 rather than a MacBook with hyper vision or whatever, a cathode tube TV rather than a 3D plasma. Why? Because its cheaper? Because they have them in stock? Because the salesman is a con artist?

Something is disconnected in the Illiberal mind from the cybernetic world of continual progress that – like or love it – we accept as the constant upgrade cultural norm. Or as Lyotard said: “The true goal of the [post-modern economic] system, the reason it programs itself like a computer, is the optimisation of the global relationship between input and output, in other words, performativity.”

What Bull and Bott offer is lack of performance! Totally in contradiction to what and how people choose techno stuff everyday: the latest and best, not last decade’s rejects. Our whole freaking economy is based on people repeatedly storming Harvey Norman for the latest gee-whiz junk. And people will vote for them being sold a second-rate system! Do the words “laughing stock” not mean anything?

This article is from The Conversation 10 April 2013.

By Peter Gerrand, Honorary Professorial Fellow in Telecommunications at University of Melbourne.

“The superfast broadband of the order of 100+ megabits per second (Mbps) and into the gigaspeed bracket is de rigueur for any nation purporting to be a developed and advancing economy.” – Phil Ruthven, “A Snapshot of Australia’s Digital Economy to 2050”, IbisWorld, June 2012.

The Coalition should firstly be congratulated upon launching today a detailed, closely argued policy proposal on their alternative vision for the National Broadband Network and how it can be implemented “faster” and at less cost than the current NBN.

Malcolm Turnbull has moved the Coalition light years – or at least several million fibre optic kilometres – from the Luddite criticisms thrown up by the Opposition during the 2010 federal election campaign. And today, with his party leader Tony Abbott, he has released a coherent policy five months in advance of the 2013 election, in contrast to the Opposition’s broadband policy release just three days ahead of the previous federal election, on 13 August 2010.

That said, it was sad to see the number of debating tricks employed in launching his national broadband policy.

There was the conflation of the government’s NBN policies mark I (2007) and mark II (2009), and the selective omission of the “externalities” in the rollout of the NBN — (particularly the long negotiations with Telstra and the business-model-changing interventions of the ACCC) — in order to trash the reputations of both NBN Co and the government, in failing to meet rollout targets announced in either 2007 or 2010.

And there is the claim that the NBN, as a “government-owned telecom monopoly”, somehow inhibits retail competition. In contrast, the Australian telecommunications industry recognises that it has only been through part of the current government’s NBN policy — the structural separation of Telstra and the positioning of the NBN building blocks as wholesale resources available to all retailers on equal terms of usage — that will allow totally equitable retail competition in the supply of broadband.

There was also Mr Turnbull’s claim that in choosing the cheaper FTTN (Fibre to the Node) option, rather than Fibre to the Home (FTTH), the Coalition is following world’s best practice. This political delusion – not shared widely within the telecommunications industry – was recently burst by independent journalist Stuart Corner’s article in the Telecommunications Journal of Australia, “The politics of speed”, where he found that “82% of investment in FTTX (FTTH or FTTN) in 2012-17 in the world’s developed countries is estimated to be in fibre-to-the-home (FTTH)” – i.e. only 18% of that investment is destined for Mr Turnbull’s preferred FTTN.

These debating points must be debunked because they are part of a smokescreen that portrays the current NBN as being needlessly gold-plated, incompetently managed, and ridiculously tardy in meeting Australia’s real needs for broadband – none of which I believe to be true. The reality is that we now have the chance to compare two policies pitched at different timescales of infrastructure need and use – and there are arguments in favour of both approaches. But we need to remember that, under both policies, there will be a world of difference between the timelines set in politicans’ election promises and the hard engineering realities of managing any project of such massive scale.

Let me briefly compare the essential differences between the two policies. First, timescale. The current NBN is based upon meeting bandwidth needs, in the case of the lucky 93% with FTTH, for perhaps three decades beyond the rollout completion in 2021. (Just as the copper access network rolled out by the PMG in the 1950s was intended to last – and generally did last – for a further 50 years.)

The current NBN’s vision satisfies two key drivers. The first is the need for Australia to grow its digital economy, as the only likely growth sector that can complement, and ultimately overtake, the mining industry. The Ibisworld report, from which I have quoted above, lays out a well-argued scenario in which by 2050 some 20% of the national GDP will be generated by the digital economy – if it is underpinned by ubiquitous high-speed broadband.

The digital economy is already a larger employer than the mining industry, and it has the advantages of providing a much greater diversity of highly paid, high-value jobs, which can be teleworked virtually across Australia – given enough access bandwidth.

The second driver is the inexorable historical growth in telecommunications access rates, which has been exponential since the 1950s – see the attached graph from Rod Tucker’s 2010 article, “Broadband facts, fiction and urban myths”.

Rod Tucker (2010)
Click to enlarge

This exponential growth prediction, which is the telecommuncations industry’s equivalent to Moore’s Law for computing, continues to get empirical support – for instance, Google is currently trialling 1 gbps applications in Kansas City.

The current NBN policy is predicated upon building the major infrastructure – the network infrastructure – only once, and its lasting for decades. For this reason, the current NBN policy must be seen as being far more future-proof than the alternative policy. Optical fibre, already capable of supporting bandwidths in terabytes per second, is considered to have a lifeteime of 40 to 60 years. (A caveat is that the new satellites to be launched in 2015 to support the 3% of homes in remote areas will probably need to be replaced in 15 to 20 years. The fixed radio technology supporting 4% of premises can be replaced or upgraded much more cheaply, but should last a good 20 years without upgrades.)

If the current NBN policy is predicated upon providing international competitive advantage to Australia over several decades, the Coalition’s NBN policy can be fairly categorised as a more cost-effective catch-up across Australia of the bandwidth that most households need now, in two stages.

Firstly, within the parliamentary term ending in 2016, their plan aims to universally match the 25 mbps “bar” now set by NBN Co’s fixed radio technology, announced two months ago (an impressive doubling of the previously planned 12 mbps download speed, due to improvements in radio technology). In a second stage, to be completed by 2019, they aim to provide 50 mbps minimum access speed to all FTTN and FTTH premises. This is an excellent aim for a cost-effective short-term (six year) plan.

However, in many cases, the proposed new FTTN technology intended for use in 71% of premises will not reach this speed in areas of low copper reticulation (British Telecom’s solution in the UK requires the use of two pairs of copper per house connected, which is not universally available here), or in areas of ageing or particularly water-prone copper cables (a frequent situation).

The Coalition’s solution is to provide FTTH in these exceptional cases. Without access to their business plan, one cannot see if they have factored in enough cases to affect their budget.

Four quick points in conclusion. Firstly, the Coalition has minimised the likelihood of any rural backlash by basically leaving the current NBN plan intact in rural areas. Secondly, it has not (at the time of writing) released its estimate of the cost of paying Telstra to maintain in working condition the copper network that will link its new FTTN cabinets to customer premises. There is reason to believe that the Coalition will have significantly underestimated this.

Thirdly, the Coalition has behaved extraordinarily like the Gillard government did in 2010 in building an investment case for the NBN that fails to factor in the real benefits to the nation’s GDP, such as to the digital economy – let alone attempting to “capitalise” the benefits of social inclusion through facilitating universal broadband access.

Instead, the Coalition’s proposal reads like an engineering investment case alone – an impression reinforced by Mr Abbott’s statement today that his NBN, unlike the current one, will provide “a real commercial return”. Given all the cherry-picking that their NBN policy will allow to private developers, free at last to directly compete with the NBN’s access infrastructure wherever they can make a profit, there is good reason to think that the Coalition’s NBN will, as a result, inevitably operate at a loss.

Lastly, the Coalition makes much ado about saving taxpayers’ money through reducing the scope and scale of the NBN. In fact, the only taxpayers’ money saved would seem to lie in lower interest payments made by Treasury in the period before the NBN breaks even – in a period of historically low interest rates. These savings need to be offset by the loss to the economy of all the construction jobs associated with FTTH – the most labour-intensive part of the current rollout.

Further reading:
A tale of two NBNs: the Coalition’s broadband policy explained

http://theconversation.com/the-coalitions-nbn-policy-is-a-triumph-of-short-termism-over-long-term-vision

Published in: on April 10, 2013 at 1:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Habermas and the public sphere

The critical analysis of Jurgen Habermas, dropped nonchalantly into a variety of conversations, remains little understood, even by academics. The public sphere at the centre 0f his thesis was by definition inclusive, but entry depended on one’s education and qualification as a property owner. The idea of a neutral social space for critical debate among private persons is a wonderful ideal, but it is not as it seems, or as routinely presented, anywhere available. To test this, try avoiding marketing, or any publicity via advertising, for even one day.

Television formats such as Q&A simply do not qualify as a public sphere, except as a street market of second-hand views, shopped by disingenuous hucksters and self-interested parties, keen to sell their opinions or build their brand. For some strange idea of balance, dumb ideas are casually represented as viable alternatives next to brilliant ideas. No wonder the “public” are often represented in qualitative research as confused. Many comments, found tagged to articles  on the power relations of the media, do however, perhaps more by instinct and intuition, get Habermas’s point regarding the manufacture of consensus by media institutions functioning as publicity machines for this or that powerful interest group.

RUPERT RULES OK2vintage

This is particularly true when people say how much they seek to avoid the mainstream media. This is the only attitude to have: avoid it, it is bad for you. Habermas argues that mass media is sublimely powerful. It attempts to manipulate and create a public where none exists, and to manufacture a consensus that “this” is what is real and on your mind, beyond anything else “you” could invent for yourself.

The sincerely believed nonsense spoken in the UK by Murdoch editors, that they were merely doing what their readers wanted, is the clearest recent example of the all-pervading invisible veil that sits over and obscures this manufacturing process. It even fools those who work within the factory. The same can be said for the knee-jerk reaction of local media landlords to planned media oversight rules. They sincerely believe they have our interests at heart. In other words, they know how we feel.

As nice bourgeoisie, we would like to see ourselves as open and benignly public, and would hope our opinion is well-considered and personal. Yet the central takeaway from Habermas is that “public opinion” is difficult to define or measure. All the group behaviour methodology in the world cannot nail it down, except as a series of possibles, not any exact thing. One thing is certain, it is being made for you, if you cannot think of it for yourself. This does not mean humans are dumb agents, incapable of original thought, but it does mean the manufacturers of consensus are gifted manipulators. Do not look into their eyes.

Published in: on March 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm  Comments (1)  

Sheldrake and the delusion of science

I have no way of knowing if Sheldrake is right. But he is clearly a scientist, exploring areas of interest, not a pseudo-scientist, or a spiritualist, or fantasist. As a meditator, I grapple daily with the place of consciousness. It is of the universe, not a deviation from it. Science will soon come to that same conclusion.

Published in: on March 19, 2013 at 7:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Sheldrake and consciousness of science

http://youtu.be/JKHUaNAxsTg

A troubling indictment of orthodoxy in scientific debate. I have no way of knowing if Sheldrake is right. But he is clearly a scientist, exploring areas of interest, not a pseudo-scientist, or a spiritualist, or fantasist. As a meditator, I grapple daily with the place of consciousness. It is of the universe, not a deviation from it. Science will soon come to that same conclusion.

http://youtu.be/OqaATPAnTZQ

TED Blog

UPDATE: Please see our new blog post Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake, a fresh take, which replaces the x-ed out text below.

To discuss the talks, view them here:

The debate about Rupert Sheldrake’s talk
The debate about Graham Hancock’s talk

After due diligence, including a survey of published scientific research and recommendations from our Science Board and our community, we have decided that Graham Hancock’s and Rupert Sheldrake’s talks from TEDxWhitechapel should be removed from distribution on the TEDx YouTube channel.

We’re not censoring the talks. Instead we’re placing them here, where they can be framed to highlight both their provocative ideas and the factual problems with their arguments. See both talks after the jump.

All talks on the TEDxTalks channel represent the opinion of the speaker, not of TED or TEDx, but we feel a responsibility not to provide a platform for talks which appear to…

View original post 2,293 more words

Published in: on March 19, 2013 at 6:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Habermas and the mediated public sphere

The critical analysis of Jurgen Habermas, dropped nonchalantly into a variety of conversations, seems little understood, even by academics. The public sphere at the centre of his thesis was by definition inclusive, but entry depended on one’s education and qualification as a property owner.

The idea of a neutral social space for critical debate among private persons is a wonderful ideal, but it is not as it seems, or as routinely presented, anywhere available. To test this, try avoiding marketing, or any publicity via advertising, for even one day.

Q&A simply does not qualify except as a street market of second-hand views, shopped by disingenuous hucksters and self-interested parties, keen to sell their opinions and boost their brand. For some strange idea of balance, dumb ideas are casually represented as viable alternatives next to brilliant ideas. No wonder the “public” are often represented in qualitative research as confused.

Many comments, to articles on the power relations of the media, do however, perhaps more by instinct and intuition, get Habermas’s point regarding the manufacture of consensus by media institutions functioning as publicity machines for this or that powerful interest group. This is particularly true when people say how much they seek to avoid the mainstream media. This is the only attitude to have: avoid it, it is bad for you.

Image

Media cut-up courtesy Metta Bhavana. Created in GIMP.

Habermas argues that mass media is sublimely powerful. It attempts to manipulate and create a public where none exists, and to manufacture a consensus that “this” is what is real and on your mind, beyond anything else “you” could invent for yourself.

The sincerely believed nonsense spoken in the UK by Murdoch editors, that they were merely doing what their readers wanted, is the clearest recent example of the all-pervading invisible veil that sits over and obscures this manufacturing process. It even fools those who work within the factory. The recent knee-jerk reaction from local media landlords to mild alterations to media oversight is a further example of the self-made concept that they know what we want and are defending something precious, namely our right to swallow what they consider public opinion.

As nice bourgeoisie, we would like to see ourselves as open and benignly public, and would hope our opinion is well-considered and personal. Yet the central takeaway from Habermas is that “public opinion” is difficult to define or measure. All the group behaviour methodology in the world cannot nail it down, except as a series of possibles, not any exact thing.

One thing is certain, it is being made for you, if you cannot think of it for yourself. This does not mean humans are dumb agents, incapable of original thought, but it does mean the manufacturers of consensus are gifted manipulators. Do not look into their eyes.

Published in: on March 19, 2013 at 3:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Breaking Bad, Breaking Really, Really Bad…

Breaking Bad, Breaking Really, Really Bad...

High on the future

Published in: on March 19, 2013 at 3:22 am  Leave a Comment  

The manufacture of consensus is the central role of the bourgeois media.

Australians For Honest Politics


PM Julia Gillard: “Well, the first thing I would say is, don’t write crap, can’t be that hard.” National Press Club 18/07/11

By @Thefinnigans
Source: The Bisons
The ides of March

AFHP:  This is the updated list of blindfolded journos and commentators, courtesy of @Thefinnigans, updated to the moment 

The Finnigans has collated this incredibly long list of failed commentariat predictions since 2011. Let’s not forget that this is the product the media is selling to us as quality insider information with context. In the 24 hour news cycle you can say and publish whatever you want and you get rarely held to account for your work, shoddy as it may be. Just last Thursday, the twitterverse went into overdrive over this quality false rumour:

How come they never explain…

View original post 1,438 more words

Published in: on March 19, 2013 at 2:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Worpress too complicated: click and go to blog

http://culavadalla.blogspot.com/

Published in: on November 28, 2010 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment