news Billionaire software mogul Mike Cannon-Brookes last night stated that there was “no debate” about Australia’s need for “gigabit fiber”, in comments that come in direct contrast to controversial statements made on the topic last week by the chief executive of the National Broadband Network.
Labor’s original Fibre to the Premises model for the NBN would have been capable of delivering gigabit broadband speeds to almost all Australians. However, the Coalition’s replacement Multi-Technology Model will see those speeds drastically cut down, with the Government only focusing on entry-level broadband speeds such as 25Mbps and 50Mbps for many areas.
However, the current Coalition Government and the management of the NBN company believe there is no immediate needs for the higher speeds.
“There’s been no case made or evidence made that there is any benefit from having a speed higher than what we can get now in many of our cities, at least, from ADSL 2+,” then-Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in 2011. “If I connect your house with one terabyte per second speeds – the sort of speed you might get over a transcontinental cable – it would be of no use to you. There’s nothing you could do with it.”
The Member for Wentworth has made similar statements several times over the years since.
And last week, NBN CEO Bill Morrow reportedly said briefings with the team behind the Google Fiber project in the US, which provides gigabit speeds, showed broadband users didn’t want Fibre to the Premise infrastructure or the gigabit speeds behind it.
During last night’s Q&A broadcast, Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes — who recently became one of Australia’s richest people after the company floated on the Nasdaq in the US — noted he disagreed.
“If you want to avoid a two speed economy, you need a one speed internet. Fast. Gigabit fiber. No debate on that,” Cannon-Brookes wrote on Twitter.
The comment was immediately forwarded around and re-tweeted by supporters of Labor’s model for the NBN.
Cannon-Brookes also noted he supported Michael Biercuk on the Q&A program. The University of Sydney associate professor and quantum physicist was outspoken on a range of issues on last night’s program, including his belief that FTTP was the only realistic option for the NBN and that it was time the public demanded an honest conversation from politicians about the infrastructure.
Cannon-Brookes is believed to be influential in the Federal Government’s formation of technology policy. His fellow Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar, sits on the Innovation and Science advisory panel established by Turnbull as Prime Minister, and Cannon-Brookes is often publicly engaged in political issues relating to tech and innovation policy.
However, not all technology sector commentators agreed with Cannon-Brookes’ sentiments about gigabit fibre.
For examples, James Coffey, regional manager of strategic alliance at software as a service vendor Salesforce — a similar company in many ways to Cannon-Brookes’ own Atlassian — noted that the NBN came at a cost. “You of [all] people know efficient use of capital is important,” he said.
And investor and entrepreneur Steve Baxter — known for deploying a swathe of fibre-optic cable around Australia as part of his previous company PIPE Networks — noted on Twitter that he had significant problems with the NBN company being a monopoly, as well as with respect to its charging model for retail ISPs.
“NBN is re-monopolisation. nothing good ever comes from it. Behavior we see now polite, wait for future,” Baxter wrote. “Panel turned into an NBN farce … When the debate starts as fibre [versus] copper — if you say fiber then you’re a dummy there never is much honesty!”