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'Everything at stake' with NBN, says visionary


Matthew Hall

Resisting change could be catastrophic, says the founder of a high-profile international think tank.

All aboard? Broadband visionary likens the NBN to the railways.

All aboard? Broadband visionary likens the NBN to the railways. Photo: Bob Finlayson



The implementation of an effective national broadband network is critical to economic development and the federal opposition must not fear it, the founder of a high-profile "intelligent community" think tank has told IT Pro.

Louis Zacharilla of the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum warned that failure to make the most of implementing the NBN in Australia would be the equivalent of ignoring railways in the 19th century.

"I get the fear and the resistance," Zacharilla co-author of Broadband Economies: Creating the Community of the 21st Century, said.

"Governments are dealing with public money and dealing with significant change. I don't declare bad intentions for the opposition [to the NBN]. I just declare them to be a bit fearful and a little bit too cautious.

"That is natural. That is human nature. We resist change. But if you speak with anyone who has had to overcome that resistance they will say to you, this is the right way to go – we just disagree about how to get there."

Zacharilla, whose forum anointed Communications Minister Stephen Conroy Visionary of the Year in 2012, spoke to IT Pro ahead of his address at this week's Digital Productivity Conference in Brisbane, hosted by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

The Intelligent Community Forum releases an annual list of "intelligent communities" highlighting regions around the globe that use communications technology to effectively boost their local economies.

No Australian community has made the ICF finalist list since 2004, when Victoria made the cut.

"Australia does not lack aspiration," Zacharilla said. "They know what is at stake. They know they should keep the talent at home, but they don't have all the tools yet."

ICF's work has received plaudits from New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg and government leaders in Taiwan, France, Finland, the Netherlands, South Korea and Afghanistan.

Toronto (Canada), Oulo (Finland), and Tallin (Estonia), were among the list of this year's top seven communities.

In implementing broadband, Zacharilla drew comparison with the economic development of cities in the US that elected to use riverboats as their main form of industrial transportation against those that saw the benefits of railways.

"Chicago, which was a backwater city, saw this thing called the railroad," Zacharilla said. "Chicago invested in it and even today has 10 times the GDP of the state of Missouri.

"Everything is at stake [with the NBN]. This is the new railroad. If your communities are not connected to it then it is difficult to put cargo on it."

A major focus for ICF is broadband development for rural areas. According to Zacharilla, efficient connectivity outside urban centres is a critical factor in determining wider environmental sustainability.

"It is not sustainable if we allow the trend to continue where people flee rural areas for economic purposes," he said.

"The smaller communities will lose everything and the big cities will not be able to take the people that flood in, especially in a place like China. All hell will break loose.

"If you can keep people where they want to be, embedded in their cultures, contributing to their towns and villages, looking after their elders and learning from their elders, raising their kids in the places where they want to but can connect them to a global society through internet and broadband, then it is a win-win." 



  • If you thought PRISM was a breach of privacy the NBN monopoly of voice, video and data telecommunications with it's 121 Points of Interconnection can be used by Australian government agencies to spy on all inward and outward telecommunications without any scrutiny or accountability to parliament. Look at the outcomes of the ACCC blocking 255 websites, we would not have known that until some businesses complained. Conroy has got what he wanted, total control of all voice, video and data in and out of Australia and the media have not raised this with the public. Is the media in cahoots with the ALP?

    Tony of Kureelpa
    Date and time
    June 13, 2013, 12:38PM
    • im afraid its already too late for that. its already happened and the NBN wont make a difference.

      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 2:26PM
    • @cos1. It may have already happened but the NBN makes it easier. The more we get herded into using a networked computer for every event in our day, the easier it is for the NSA to put us into the 'naughty' or 'nice' pile.
      Who's getting coal for christmas I wonder ...

      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 2:40PM
    • The answer to encroachment by the state upon individual liberties is not to stop investing in public infrastructure. By giving up on the political process you've put power into the arms of the unaccountables you rail against.

      The battle for our rights is a political process. You don't argue against roads because the cops can get to your house faster? Or telephones because they can be surrepticiously tapped? I hope not anyway....

      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 3:44PM
    • The only differences between Labor's NBN and the L/NP's FTTN network are the topology (and the resulting capex/opex required). The NBN itself has nothing to do with surveillance.

      If the govt. wanted to wire-tap someone they could do it today, regardless of connection type.

      The threat of wiretapping is not a valid argument against the NBN in any way, and should be treated as a separate matter - ensuring that fair and responsible due process is upheld in all cases instead (a warrant must be given for wiretapping that shows clearly substantiated cause for concern).

      That said, fibre optic is much harder to wire-tap than copper, because optic fibre gives off no electromagnetic interference; rather than clamp a induction coil around the wire, you would actually have to splice the cable in order to monitor it. It makes third-party tapping much more harder to carry out in this regard.

      Bryan R
      Reservoir VIC
      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 5:33PM
    • Tony of Kureelpa - do more research. We already have complete monitoring of voice, video and data in and out of Australia. ECHELON has been around for 40+ years. Plus the authorities has powers to access anything - they call it "lawful interception".

      The NBN won't change any of this, except allow people to use higher grade encryption.

      Your fears of monitoring are correct, but your paranoia about Conroy, the NBN and some secret plan is misplaced. It's already in place whether we get a Liberal or Labor NBN.

      Oleg Popov
      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 6:06PM
    • Would you rather have private enterprise completely monopolise the telecommunications market or have vital infrastructure in public hands? The government has no intentions of making excessive profits over the NBN - they'll make just enough to pay returns on the government bonds used to finance the project.

      Your claim that Conroy can accomplish data spying on a larger scale with the NBN is simply ridiculous, because government agencies can do that right now on private infrastructure. The media cahoot claim is also ridiculous - you don't need to be a rocket scientist to realise that the Murdoch media have been running smear campaigns against the ALP for nearly its entire existence.

      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 6:19PM
    • hey did the reds under the bed, ever come.
      just wondering, because the paranoia is still there

      Date and time
      June 13, 2013, 10:48PM
    • If you want privacy, a VPN or public HTTPS proxy service will cost you about $20 a month or less and secure your surfing etc with a 256 bit password that will take the NSA centuries to crack. The NBN (not the coalitions Fraudband) offers 100 and 1000 megabit connections, you won't notice any performance hit at all with VPN or a public proxy service, especially if the VPN/PROXY service are in the US. This is basically what the corporates do when required, it's no big deal at all.

      Date and time
      June 14, 2013, 8:13AM
    • All we hear from Gillard is how many billions it will cost us. We never hear by how much it will improve our kids education. When will you tell us this PM? 10%, 20%, 30% or the usual 0%?

      Date and time
      June 14, 2013, 11:42AM

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