Posts Tagged ‘Helen Coonan’

More W-R-O-N-G-!

So, this is becoming a pattern:

  • The Australian reports something about Government communications based on anonymous sources.
  • The Opposition insists that the matter be investigated and explained.
  • The Government and corroborating sources (e.g., the Treasury Secretary, the White House, etc.) refute the original report.
  • The Opposition continues to insist that the matter be investigated and explained.
  • The Opposition looks foolish.

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Helen Coonan shouts, “hurrah!” – we’re ninth among OECD countries in broadband speeds. She is referring to this report.

Problems? Stephen Conroy sees some:

“These figures and this statement by the OECD that these figures are just based on departmental estimations demolish [Communications Minister] Helen Coonan’s claims that Australia has leap-frogged up the table,” he said.

“Helen Coonan has put in the fix, she’s knobbled the figures and it’s a disgrace.

“She’s got her own department to supply statistics that back up her claims.

“Helen Coonan needs to get out more. She needs to travel Australia, meet with the thousands of Australians to here how much Australians are crying out for faster broadband.”

Coonan’s office disputes this:

A spokesman for Senator Coonan has strongly rejected Labor’s claim, saying the Australian Bureau of Statistics provides the broadband speed data to the OECD.

Although the speed data in the OECD portal does not list its source, the broadband penetration data (on which we rank 12th) certainly says “Estimate: DCITA estimation in absence of official ABS statistics.” However, it is worth noting that the speed data is based on the average of the advertised speeds of 48 services. Many of the high-speed services (e.g., ADSL2+) have relatively low penetration in terms of the number of telephone exchanges and the number of ISPs in a given area that offer it. Furthermore, the advertised speeds are theoretical maximums, with actual speed declining as distance from the exchange increases. The end result is that while the ads might paint a nice picture, many people in many parts of the country cannot get the speeds they claim are available – which Senator Coonan doesn’t seem to care about right now.

Other problems? iTWire has some:

Australia’s increased broadband ranking was the good news. The bad was that, with FTTH presently stalled, we are falling even further behind the most advanced nations. The OECD reports that: “Operators in several countries continue upgrading subscriber lines to fibre. fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) subscriptions now comprise eight percent of all broadband connections in the OECD, up from seven percent a year ago, and the percentage is growing. Fibre connections account for 36 percent of all Japanese broadband subscriptions and 31 percent in Korea.” The figure in Australia was so low as to be rated zero!

There is also now lots of information on data prices including a chart showing average monthly data cap size in those countries that use this pricing model: Canada, Czech Republic, Portugal, Iceland, New Zealand, Australia and Belgium. Australia had the second lowest cap size (15GB) after Belgium (13GB) as against leader Canada with 65GB). Australia’s price per additional MB (in $US purchasing power parity) was way above any of the others, at $US.105. The nearest was Portugal at $US0.04 followed by Iceland at $US0.03. New Zealand came out quite well at $US0.10.

So, our broadband connections are expensive, have relatively low download allowances, and we are not developing the fibre infrastructure that is required to keep up with the world. To borrow an analogy from today’s festivities, we’re like a horse that’s running ninth as we come around the final bend with 500 metres to go, except that we’re five wide and the jockey has dropped his whip and stopped encouraging the horse.

Thanks for the pep talk, Senator Coonan.

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Senator Helen Coonan’s department is conducting a review of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) – the requirement that all Australians have access to basic telecommunications services. One of the key issues is whether the requirement stays with copper-based services or whether alternative technologies could be brought into the mix.

If you have an opinion about or interest in the issues, hit the review’s web site, read the documents and consider making a submission. You can bet Telstra will have made its submission.

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