The NBN Readiness Scare Background

As the NBN rollout continues, you can be sure that more and more people are relieved they got through the NBN readiness scare with little mishap. Or that they didn’t have to buy new phone systems or units supposed to be compatible with the fibre network connection. For businesses, the relief would really make a difference, because new business phone systems are expensive. 

An older phone network they junk in favour of this new system will be more money thrown on the table. Add ons and other unnecessary stuff have been selling like there’s no tomorrow for those businesses who were made to think like people under threat of nuclear Armageddon.

There is of course a big difference between the NBN and the Y2K scare at the close of the twentieth century. Y2K had people scrambling to protect themselves from a virus that would destroy the internet all over the world.

Yet the ongoing NBN related scare in Australia has worked out much like  Y2K. The main difference is the source and scope of terror — Y2K was sourced from real villains and the effect was global, while NBN affects only Australians. And the villains for Aussies, it’s sad to note, are companies and government officials they trust or used to trust.

The NBN rollout and how it’s been a tool for certain companies to stampede, bully or scare consumers into buying expensive new phone equipment is going to be badly remembered in Australian history. A lot of people have been scared or are still scared about losing home phones and internet connections — which is a really big thing in a large-sized country. The concern triples or quadruples for businesses who use business phones and internet as communication lifelines.

Comparing NBN to Y2K is Not Far Fetched

The comparison between Y2K and NBN is not far fetched. These days, many Australians still think it’s pretty scary to have a non compliant phone, but this in actual fact is a manageable thing. Those who use NBN readiness for their own purposes though have beat up on so many, drumming terror into them. They have turned the NBN rollout into a scare, an endemic one that is not likely to end soon. 

That the compared events are related to modern communication technologies, specifically the internet, should not be lost on us. What ought to have been a boon to business and consumer communications has turned into a foot-dragging, money-hungry, politicised monster. It has blighted hopes for what is probably one of the best (if not the best) government sponsored fibre optic systems in the world. 

Hype, Disinformation and Opportunism Surrounding the NBN

“NBN compliance”, “NBN rollout schedule pdfs”, “NBN internet”, “NBN finder”, “NBN availability”, “NBN updates”, “NBN compliant phones” have become the terror terms of this scary season of NBN readiness. This coming All Hallows’ Eve of year 2019 will surely have little NBN bugs and monsters trick or treating across the country. 

For adults, the reactions have ranged from nonchalant to fatalistic. On Smart On Hold’s Facebook page, the comments thread on one post turned up this beaut: 

“I could tell you not to get NBN but I fear you will not be given a choice, boys have decided to rip you off, and so they shall…[because]…you are sheep…You were promised fibre optics, [but] will not get it.

“Now you will buy what they tell you and pay what they tell you to pay for what telco decides to give you. Most likely obsoleted routers imported on the cheap…Enjoy…and yes, I will swallow it as well, hook line and sinker, it is not like anyone has other options.” – Dragan Margaritoni, Facebook User

This type of reaction is a common one. It also reflects opportunistic sales or marketing programs that readily distort facts and hype up on tech and its devises. No one should blame the tech, but should watch out for the technicians, including sales reps and the bosses who have been instrumental in creating the scare. A most basic thing to learn in all the hype and distortions surrounding the NBN is that there are good reasons why you don’t need a new phone for NBN compliance.

From FTTP to MTM to STW?

The apocalyptic spirit of Y2K is replicated by all the noise, fear and confusion that a normal Australian citizen “learning” about NBN is exposed to. These terms were once stable and neutral: FTTN (fibre-to-the-node), FTTC (fibre-to-the-curb), HFC (Hybrid Fibre Cable). These have been added to the original FTTP and, for those wary of the NBN from the start, they now work as goads and hobgoblins under what they see as the dark magic of the Multi Technology Mix (MTM) system. 

This may be the same people who have had the misfortune of believing all the telco sales rhetoric for NBN compliance. With that said, let’s review a little bit of MTM history.

The MTM system was tasked to add to the single FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) model that started the NBN. FTTP is fast and powerful, but really expensive to set up and run. MTM had good reason to come into the picture — it helps advance the NBN mission to provide more affordable access to the majority. 

FTTP was initiated by the former Labour government, while the MTM model was put up by the Coalition. Only Sky Muster, based on satellites for fast broadband access in remote areas, has remained relatively unchanged under the NBN banner.

Opposition to the new model has further made it more problematic, money-wasting and politicised. It hasn’t helped that a former NBN Co CEO has spoken up against it. In effect, according to him, the Liberal government has broken the internet in Australia. This is more of a political rather than practical statement, but it came as a bit of a shock to an already shell-shocked public.

Furthermore, according to Lifehacker, the NBN is now an STW, or a silent train wreck. Author Stephen Rose says that the company “appears to have lost its way”. 

The NBN Scare: Imagined and in Realtime

As we understand Mike Quigley and Lifehacker, doomsday is upon us. And Australians could be hanging on to an unworkable patchwork of old (and obsolete) phone cables, transition technology, and much too expensive ultra high tech. The Aussie taxpayer will be paying for the billions of added costs for the supposedly better changes for years to come. 

Unlike the Y2K scare, which only existed in theory and was never actualised, the NBN scare now has many casualties. For these, it is no longer a scare but a terror in reality. 

The casualties  include businesses who put up a lot of money for the promise of NBN readiness and are waiting in vain for ROI. This has further deepened the rift between fibre and traditional telco supporters that doesn’t bode well for national politics. Caught in the middle are the people, a confused majority. 

Beyond all the negativism, however, many still think there is hope, and they could be proven right. The fact is that rolling out fibre broadband across the length, breadth and political diversity of Australia is a huge job, one that is a long way from being finished. 

Again, we shall emphasize the fact that without the MTM model, the rollout would take a lot longer and would be many, many times more expensive, with many more casualties. MTM provides more and saner choices for all traditional, transitioning and new businesses.

With all the negatives that have grown around the network, no one now wants to admit responsibility in failed delivery or faulty objectives. The voice of Armageddon has gained some ground against the network, a single-issue extremism from a vocal minority. Behind them, though, are  the very obvious voices of telco sales reps setting fire to latent doomsday tendencies.

Does the Coming 5G Alternative Help? 

Our answer to the above question is “Yes” and “No.”

Yes, because 5G does provide faster speeds as compared to what MTM-NBN can deliver now. (However, this would still be a fact if the NBN were fulfilled by 100% FTTP. )

And No, because 5G is limited by its serving mobile connections. The signal for it will remain short range. It requires much more investments to achieve the overall coverage of NBN. 5G also has so many conditional signal issues that can stop it from working. For instance, both normal and heavy rains can not only dramatically reduce signal reliability, they can cut it off altogether. 

This is an extreme concern when dealing with such things as medical emergencies and other critical communications. All major weather events (from cyclones to earthquakes) will negatively impact the 5G signal. In comparison, MTM model NBN is built to remain solid throughout much if not all of the network in any sort of bad weather or naturally caused emergencies. 

Going Back to “the Lucky Country”

Under the prevailing atmosphere, many Australians may doubt that they are living in “the lucky country”. The origin of the term, though, as coined by author Donald Horne, seems spot on with what is happening to the country today. He wrote:

“Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people’s ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.”

In a completely Australian paradox, people bought his book and adapted his term to apply positively to their status. Now Horne’s words are haunting a nation that has come into its own in contradiction of his original indictment. It is painful to see how the nation is going back to being Horne’s lucky country.

The current NBN issues are an acid test of whether Australians have become totally free from the negatives in underdog mentality which leads to acceptable mediocrity in leadership. Its culture has come to the fore in recent decades, and it is not seen by outsiders as Horne saw it. This is a real positive: the nation is recognised as unique in taste and talent, and this has impacted the industrialised and developing worlds in a very positive sense.

The NBN is one such impact event, and no doubt many other states are learning from the Australian model as it progresses. Shall we give them a low opinion of ourselves by proving Horne right? Or do we prove him wrong and become the underdog heroes best exemplified by our most popular cultural icons in media? 

Desiderata: What We Desire

We, as a company, are closely tied to telephone use. In fact, without phones, we would not have our company Smart On Hold. To the best of our ability and understanding, we are trying to help customers and anyone interested with the NBN and its issues.

We welcome anyone calling our number and asking for help with his or her NBN problem. This article has been hard to write because of the scare issue. The way fibre broadband has been received doesn’t reflect too well on some sectors of Australian society. However, through all the drummed up fear and panic, ordinary Australians have remained civilised.

We want to mitigate the effects of the fear, to at least give back some equity to those who have been wronged. This should work out in a good way, since big telcos should now recognise themselves as run by humans for humans. Plus, the boost of breaking up huge blocks of near mummified parts of the economy into many smaller blocks will be great for tens of thousands of small or new businesses.

We want to contribute positively to the way fibre broadband is our chosen vehicle for economic progress. We should all contribute positively to this. Most of all, we’d like to hear other contributions, to continue the conversation, so that, even with the issues, something may come up as we communicate.

Our Say: There is Still High Hope for the NBN to Work Out

Our company promotes goodwill in business, and we will keep on promoting it for any client we serve. To us, we are still the lucky country in the positive sense, although this luck is being tested. We hope that those who have backed scare tactics will finally hear their critics and try toning down on absurd rhetoric and making it up to folks they have scared into buying unnecessary stuff.

This may sound so small in terms of the grandiose global and political issues. But then, we have never considered ourselves as the mighty of this world. We have grown as a people with a scaled down and ultimately humane perspective, and this has made us friends with many. We haven’t grown those qualities that have made supposedly great nations fall time and time again: pridefulness and inflexibility. 

So with the NBN — it remains a flexible medium through which people can cheaply access good, reliable technology. 

Citizens tired of the debates and the delays have answered in their own way. They are exploring more and better alternatives. 5G is one and a slew of other innovations that were born and even supported by the NBN rollout. If it takes long enough, Australia should become a recognised technology exporter in time. 

In fact, one leading phone company is already doing that. It has taken the lead in business phone technology globally. We are talking about Avaya, which used to be an arm of Bell Labs but has grown into an independent, authentic Australian tech exporter.

The above fact, and many other positive facts derived from what is currently happening with the ongoing NBN rollout, may, in the end, help the lucky country turn NBN problems into a state of positive grace through its own peculiar values. And the rollout would be remembered as having a downside like the NBN readiness scare that is far outweighed by the pluses it’s given Australia.