Why Fibre to the Node technology for the National Broadband Network is a crappy idea. A guide for non-geeks and alcoholics. With dick jokes and overwrought analogies.
Lately, it seems that when it comes to politics and technology, technical merits don’t matter. Politicians only seem to care about technology to the extent it allows them to distribute pictures of their privates.
So if we’re trying to engage our political masters on issues important to us, why should we constrain ourselves with such things as logic and reason, if our politicians don’t?
Perhaps we should take a leaf from the sordid playbooks of politics and advertising. Perhaps we should pay less attention to such things as logic and facts, and more to spin and hyperbole.
Because it’s not as if we’re going to persuade an apathetic public to care about our abstract technical issues with mysterious acronyms and jargon. Whether we’re trying to persuade politicians or the public, we need to work out a way to communicate that is effective for an uncaring and non-technical audience.
With that in mind, here’s my attempt to explain — for a non-technical audience — the differences between Labor’s superior Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) NBN, and the Coalition’s crappy Fibre to the Node (FTTN) alternative.
Why Fibre to the Node is stupid: a non-technical guide for non-geeks and alcoholics
Let’s say you want to get drunk. Really, really drunk. Because your ADSL doesn’t work. And Telstra won’t fix it. And even your analogue phone line is a crackly mess of static because the copper in your street has degraded to buggery. And Telstra won’t fix it. So you have decided to get drunk. Really drunk.
Not that I’m condoning alcohol consumption as a way of dealing with ADSL problems. But let’s say we’re living in an alternative fantasy universe where Australians drink responsibly. (Because only in an alternative fantasy universe would Fibre to the Node be an acceptable technical solution to our outdated, half-assed, patchwork broadband infrastructure.) An alternative universe where boat people are not an issue, because any boat people that do get here are so shocked by our crappy internet that they fuck off to countries with decent upload speeds, scoffing at us primitive Australians still using copper networks for internet connections.
So you’re at home and you want to get drunk. But you’re out of booze. And it’s a long way to the nearest bar or bottle shop. And you don’t have a car. And public transport doesn’t work because the Liberals are in power.
Imagine a Booze to the Premises system, where you can get any kind of alcoholic beverage — and as much as you want — delivered right to your home almost instantly, 24 hours a day, no matter where you live. Pretty great, right? So that’s the idea of universal FTTP technology. It will allow us to quench our thirst for data downloads quickly and efficiently — no matter what time, day or night, or what the weather is like.
So ideally, if you’re really, really thirsty, you’d want Booze to the Premises. But what if you were stuck with Booze to the Node?
Booze to the Node also promises delivery of alcoholic beverages, but it’s much like the promise of a degenerate alcoholic — forgotten the next day. Deliveries takes much longer — sometimes ridiculously long — and sometimes they don’t arrive at all.
What’s worse though, is that your booze won’t be delivered to your home — it can only be delivered to a big ugly box at the end of the street. A big box with lots of lights and electrical equipment inside that uses huge amounts of electricity and therefore contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
Worse, everyone in the area has to get their booze delivered to the same box. So there is a limit to how much you can order at once. The more people getting deliveries, the less each person can have delivered in one go. And once your order arrives at the big ugly box at the end of the street (if it does arrive) you have to walk down the street to get it.
“But that sounds silly!” you say. “Surely, if they can deliver booze to the end of my street, then wouldn’t it just be better and easier and more practical all round to go that little bit further and actually deliver it right to my home?”
What could have been an efficient system of getting drunk on conveniently home-delivered booze in the comfort and safety of your own home, turns into a time consuming walk down the road, only have to carry all those heavy bottles back home yourself, and all at the mercy of the weather. If it’s raining, things will get slippery and packaging will soak through, making it likely at least some bottles will get dropped and break on the ground. All that expense and effort and nothing to show for it! What a waste! You’ll then have no choice but to order more booze and go through the whole process again!
But it gets worse. In addition to the inconvenience of having to walk down the road to pick up your order, the trip itself is likely to be quite unpleasant, because the streets are full of cranky ADSL users. They are angry and driven to the brink of insanity because their internet connections keeps dropping out. It seems no one can do anything for them. Telstra certainly won’t do anything. And even if there was someone to call for help, it unlikely the phones will be working because the phones use Telstra’s copper network, which Telstra won’t fix.
So these disgruntled ADSL users just roam the street, plaintively wailing for help, asking strangers if their ADSL is working and frantically questioning them about their distance from the exchange. Sadly, there is no choice but to venture out and try to avoid them. They will get in the way and slow things down, and if there’s lots of them around at one time you may have to go a different way (even if it’s longer), or just wait till another time. But these angry ADSL users are essentially harmless. Just ignore them and hope they go away. That’s what Telstra does.
Clearly, Booze to the Premises is the vastly superior option, and it’s what the majority of Australians would prefer. But it’s not what we’re going to get.
They’re trying to screw us.
Being screwed is bad enough. What’s worse is that we are getting screwed by egotistical, hypocritical politicians who seem to think the internet exists mainly so that they can distribute pictures of their genitals.
There must be some way we can distract our politicians from taking photos of their privates long enough to explain our desire for a modern, reliable broadband network? There must be some way to make them understand that we want our internet the way we want our booze: reliably supplied, readily available, whenever we want, wherever we happen to be living, and in quantities suitable for binging.
Anything less would be un-Australian.