NBN? No big deal, says Armidale



blog Sometimes you just have to laugh. Laugh hard, and laugh long, because otherwise you would cry. While many Australians in metropolitan areas are intensely frustrated by their lack of competitively priced high-speed broadband access, due to a lack of ADSL2+ ports at their exchange, premises a long distance from the exchange, or simply because their copper telephone line is relatively unreliable, many residents and businesses in the early rollout zone of Armidale in rural NSW have had the NBN’s fibre for some time. The only thing is, according to Business Insider, most of them couldn’t care less. A choice paragraph from the site’s article on the subject (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“A lot of the – there’s no real nice way to say this – a lot of the nerds and geeks are excited, but the majority of people just don’t care,” says Armidale local Dave Martin, 29.

On the one hand, I can’t help but be a bit cynical about this article. After all, if you interview people who work in a local fish and chip shop or a newsagency, of course they’re going to tell you that the NBN hasn’t changed their lives. They don’t need fast broadband for their job. However, on the other hand, this apathy in Armidale towards the fact that they have amazing broadband is also emblematic of a wider problem with the NBN — it is being rolled out first in rural and regional areas where less people care about fast broadband than residents of metropolitan areas do. Armidale has less white collar workers of all kinds, and these knowledge workers are the sorts of people densely packed around the CBDs of major cities like Sydney and Melbourne who are prepared to pay top dollar for the best broadband. At the end of the day, there’s a lot of crazy political maneuvering which has gone into the NBN rollout that has obscured its real technical outcomes; and this article demonstrates that perfectly.


  1. I’ve never understood the logic of rolling out the NBN to rural areas first (apart from vote buying). I run a small consultancy working with online projects and all my staff work from home and need high speed access to our servers online. Ask us how excited we would be having NBN instead of ADSL2…

    • I think we largely have the independants to thank for that don’t we? I seem to recall them negotiating that rural areas would be targeted more quickly as part of the minority government they formed.

      Regardless, its certainly not wise when building a business to start in the areas where there is the least amount of interest, and the lowest amount of people to actually become customers :)

      • Agreed. It’s sad, really. Even if we had rolled out from the middle of CBDs like we probably should have, you’d have people in the outer suburbs and the regions missing the point and agitating with “they’ve got good enough internet already, what about the rest of us who can’t get a decent connection?”. These people would be absolutely right (I’d probably count among their number), but at the same time their proposed solution is wrong. So it’s inherently a political problem, and we can either choose between a political reality or a technical reality. But who’s calling the shots? The politicians. What can you do?

      • Regardless, its certainly not wise when building a business to start in the areas where there is the least amount of interest, and the lowest amount of people to actually become customers :)

        That very true in a business sense, but that’s not all the NBN is. The rural area’s need it to help slow down things like the loss of younger people to cities and to help businesses out there to connect to the world directly. The social aspect of the NBN is just as important as it’s business case IMHO and I’d be behind it even if it wasn’t planning on paying back the $30.4b that taxpayers are borrowing for them.

        • Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree. In fact the ubiquity of Labor’s NBN and the social benefits a ubiquitous high speed network would introduce to the country, is its biggest overall benefit in my opinion. In stark contrast to the coalition’s capitalist plan, which will see a horribly uneven mixture of technologies deployed across the country (or leave people on dated tech like HFC), allow competition from other providers (which will no doubt only be interested in competing with NBNCo in the big cities), and only IT geeks and the wealthy will opt to pay the $3-5000 to upgrade from FTTN to FTTP. When you combine all those factors its going to result in the biggest “digital divide” between rich/poor & country/city we’ve ever had.

          However in terms of getting as many people connected to the NBN as quickly as possible, to start raising revenue – it was always going to be difficult once regional areas were given priority. The government’s hand was obviously forced by the independents, so you have to wonder how the take-up rate would differ if NBNCo had been able to to stick to the original rollout.

    • I remember a large part of the rural rollout was the fear that if it started in the urban/suburban centres first, political will would crumble by the time it got around to rural areas, and those people would miss out because ‘saving money to help the budget’.

      • I remember it as similar as well. The argument put forwards was something like the rural areas always being forced to play catchup, and were in general the areas most in need of a tech upgrade at the time.

        City areas had “good enough” to do, and if the rollout was done in those cherry picked areas then nothing would change. The best connections would still be ahead of everyone else, and the worst connections would continue to play catchup.

        I also remember the Opposition claiming that it was a white elephant and that nobody needed it. To me its ironic that we fast forward a few years and those areas “not needing it” are the ones crying foul that they didnt get it first on logistics grounds.

        • +1

          The time it will take to roll it out, and the time it will take folks to get used to it and integrate into their lives and how they work, wont happen overnight. that’s the problem with projects like this, people aren’t willing to wait and see the benefits, they expect them “yesterday”.

          • It partly because of the way, the NBN was sold. The mistake was to describe it in terms of faster internet. Had it been sold as the communication infrastructure for the 21 century, the discussion would have been vastly different.

          • True, it’s one of Labors big failings IMO, they don’t actually sell anything, they just point to policy and expect average Aussies to be able to work it out themselves (pretty foolish attitude if you’ve ever worked in IT support, you can point people to “tier zero” all you like, but it’ll only cut down on a small percentage of calls :o))

  2. Rolling out to the country was supposed to help fight the digital divide. Bit of a shame some people are squandering this opportunity.

    • It’s the end of the election cycle…

      My theory is their pushing in all the positive articles now that everyone has practically made up their minds and it will literally have very small impact/influence but then it will boost their figures for being “impartial” at the end by pointing out and saying – “hey look at the numbers guys! we did have positive articles! so we’re still impartial!”…. leaving out the fact at that late stage at best no one is reading anymore and at worst it’s labelled as “election propaganda”

  3. The counter to this article would be Kiama- a town similar in size to Armidale and similar “rural” setting. It has seen 70% takeup on the NBN before copper switchoff. I was down there today again- it’s always been vibrant and fun, yet tranquil town. But seems even more vibrant now (maybe it’s just cause I know they’re all sitting on the connection quality I want ;P)

    I think Armidale is simply predominantly conservative thinkers/workers- my Father is from there originally and I think he’d agree. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but it shows through on this sort of scenario of the NBN.

  4. I wonder if the response would have been the same if those working and studying at the University of New England had been asked.

  5. I have to agree, having recently gone from 50Mbps to 100Mbps you don’t really see that much difference (though the HD movies are now playing without “buffering” every 3 minutes!! and I don’t get the dropouts I was getting in games when the wife watched one :o))

  6. Really, they came all this way, and randomly selected people? Didn’t do any sort of a quick check? It is not like we are hard to find… We are all over the area, and seriously, she couldn’t find a single NBN connected person? Wow… Please, feel free to check us out. I’m kinda embarrassed about this town https://www.facebook.com/groups/ArmidaleNBNUsers/

  7. Tell that to my mate who has it… he loves to rub it in my face every now and then =P

    Oddly enough he was one of the few people who said it was “expensive” and “didn’t want/need” it coz it would cost him 3-6k to connect. And he works in IT… Then again his source of info at the time was News.com.au xD

  8. Funny, because if they asked the Armidale residents on the CSIRO aged care trial, they would have found that the NBN had revolutionised their lives. Balance, eh?

    • The Armidale NBN Users Group is hoping to combat exactly this kind of mis information, poor information and crap journalism. We meet every Thursday at the Grand, we run a website, a Facebook site, a Twitter account and all of us are involved in being proactively talking about our REAL experience with the NBN.
      NBN Users Groups might not be the most powerful weapon in fighting FUD, but we are trying.
      Any one wants to chat, make suggestions you would be most welcome to.

  9. Aaah, this old chestnut. It’s funny, the Canberra times ran an article that says the complete opposite. Vox pops are a sad way to prosecute a case. They really show nothing other than what that specific person thinks.

    The evidence is there that the NBN (as is) is supported by the general population (http://www.smh.com.au/it-pro/government-it/voters-prefer-labors-nbn-20130415-2hv8i.html).

    Reality is, what the average person thinks doesn’t matter one bit, in fact, they are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. The key is to deliver services that the top 25% of users are willing to pay for. Who cares if 75% of users only get a 12/1Mbps connection, techies, geeks, bleeding edge users, & business (the 25%) will ensure that the NBN is profitable.

    I’ve seen at least 10 articles written very similarly ” SAYS NBN NO BIG DEAL”, it’s one of the oldest FUD tricks in the book.

    • A survey of 100 locals found that 95% thought it wouldnt help their nursing home at all…

      • In other words, a survey of 100 locals found that 95% didn’t know what they were talking about.

        • Sorry guys, it was a joke. Figured the “wouldnt help their nursing home” part would give it away. Focus on specific groups that are the least likely to get a benefit, and of course the results are going to be skewed in their direction.

          You dont ask a fishmonger whether the mining industry deserves handouts (OK, #badexample), just as you dont ask the unemployed where the budget should be directed.

          You know the answers are going to be anomolies to the greater responses. As someone said, if you asked the Uni students, the response would have been completely opposite.

    • Couple of things with Sydney Park Village.

      One, it has a fiber backbone running down the road next door. Very small detour to the area in question, cost is minimal.

      Two, the bulk of the buildings are less than 10 years old, all are less than 15, and well maintained.

      Three, they were built with near future needs in mind, and as fiber was already an expected player at the time, it was factored in with ducting and the like. I know, I lived there in the late 90’s.

      Oh, and four, the residents arent pooly off. The bulk of the owners arent scratching about for cash… They can afford to pay the premium now, rather than wait.

      In short, Sydney Park Village was a best case scenario waiting to happen. Its one of the prime examples I think of when looking at how MDU’s need to be addressed actually. There are no issues like bad copper, ducting issues, asbestos, etc getting in the way.

      Personally, it would have been an ideal candidate to try FttB as an option for MDU’s. Its also the sort of development that will get a node of its own in a FttN rollout. It ticks a lot of boxes, and has plenty to offer when looking at solutions to what will be a massive problem on both sides.

    • Sounds like an argument in favor of FttP not FttN.

      We are told no one needs more than 25mbps yet they are hyping 93mbps down and 40mbps up?

      pro FttP article on The Australian? I am surprised.

    • More like a failure of him to sell his policy, otherwise they’d have waited for their “free” connection to 25Mbps bliss :o)

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