iiNet chief executive Michael Malone has called for those commenting on the National Broadband Network to return to judging ideas on their “technical merit”, instead of letting politics cloud the national debate.
Malone last night took out one of the Australian telecommunications industry’s biggest gongs, picking up the award for Communications Ambassador of 2011 at the ACOMM awards hosted in Sydney last night by the Communications Alliance and newsletter Communications Day. The executive has been an outspoken member of the industry for several decades, and has been in the industry limelight over the past several years a great deal, on issues ranging from the development of the NBN, copyright infringement and the Government’s mandatory filtering plans.
The event last night at Sydney’s Sheraton on the Park hotel was attended by a ‘who’s who’ of the sector — including Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, Liberal MP Paul Fletcher, Internode chief Simon Hackett, AAPT chief David Yuile, Exetel chief John Linton, NEXTDC chief Bevan Slattery, chair of the ACMA Chris Chapman and many more.
In a recorded speech accepting the award, Malone told the audience that “unfortunately”, ideas regarding the NBN were being judged by who put them forth, “rather than on their technical merit”. “I’d like to see a return to that,” he said with regards to discussing ideas on their technical merit — a statement which was greeted by a number of expressions of support from the audience.
“We do live in interesting times. As the National Broadband Network begins to roll out around the country, it’s important we all step up and insist the right technological solutions are implemented on the NBN regardless of political influence,” Malone said in a separate statement issued today.
The creation of the initial NBN policy back in late 2007 and other events such as the appointment of outspoken former Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull to the role of Shadow Communications Minister have resulted in the telecommunications sector being vaulted into the national debate on a permanent basis, with fiery NBN discussions regularly taking place in Federal Parliament and through the press.
However, the different sides of politics have been unable to agree on the merits of different kinds of broadband technologies, with the Opposition favouring wireless and cheaper substitutes for the NBN such as fibre to the node and HFC cable, and the Government insisting on the benefits of rolling out optic fibre to most of the nation.
In recent weeks Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been engaging in a war of words with the Coalition, claiming Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would demand the NBN fibre was physically ripped out of the ground if he took government. Turnbull has described the claims as “ludicrous”.
As he was not able to be present to accept the award, Malone invited rival and friend Hackett, who was a finalist for the same award, to accept it on stage in his stead. The pair have known each other for several decades and have collaborated on countless industry initiatives in that time — while competing for customers on the retail front.
Hackett told the audience he had discussed what to say with Malone and agreed he would utter a quote from renowned gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” he said, referring to the classic line from Thompson’s article Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl.
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