Thursday, August 26, 2010

Can we have our 21st Century public infrastructure now?

Flagman standing behind his train to flag oncoming trains at a small siding between Laguna, N[ew] Mex[ico] and Gallup, N[ew] Mex[ico]. Sant Fe R.R., Santa Fe trip (LOC)

How refreshing to read an article about the NBN that links the roll-out of this infrastructure to broader economic and social policies.

Throughout the whole federal election campaign punters were subjected to red-herring analysis showing us how much it is going to cost us to get broadband in our home - $150 p/m!! $5000 per household!! We'll be broke!! All misleading, all missing the point.

When rail lines are built what unit of measure do we use? Is it cost per user? But what about the vital role rail plays in moving freight? Perish the thought the miners would be without rail line access to ports (well, that's a whole other infrastructure argument). When a (public) road is built do we measure it by how many mums take their kids to school on it? No, because these roads are also used by public transport, businesses, workers, and so many more people.

Fibre-optic broadband connectivity is the 21st Century's vital public infrastructure, it is not just another Foxtel or Bigpond. With even a casual look past this scaremongering it is pleasing to read commentary that actually identifies the following iniatives:
  • The linking of all schools to the network 
  • The Smart Grid/Smart City project in Newcastle 
  • Telstra and NEC have signed agreements with medical organisations to deliver e-health services to 17,000 GPs and 28,000 retirement villages (and through them to patients via broadband-based monitoring services) 
  • Medicare services will be provided to regional Australia, including video-based medical consultations.
Finally an article that shows that the economic benefits of the NBN will be spread throughout all industries, and more importantly throughout an individual's life (not just their home internet connection).

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