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Why the ABC should steer clear of talking about the NBN

The ABC is considered by many to be top dog when it comes to intelligent discourse on the more serious topics that concern this country. Yet, when it comes to technology, the ABC often shows that it has no clue at all.

A case in point occurred on 22 September during the morning radio show in Melbourne. The host, Jon Faine, normally brings in two people to talk shop about events during the week for half an hour; it probably saves him from having to think up a way to create fresh content for that time.

Under the name "The Wrap" (which I propose is better called The Crap), Faine and his guests talk about the news of the week.

The guests are always politicians or as close to that as one can get. On the day in question, the two who were in the studio were Georgina Downer, a political hack of no small proportions and daughter of Alexander (yes, the stockinged one, the man of AWB inquiry fame), and Jane Garrett, a former minister in the Victorian Labor Government.

The job of these two people is always to defend the respective viewpoints of the parties they represent. On the day in question, it was no different.

(As an aside, it is difficult to understand why politicians are given so much air time by the public broadcaster; they get enough time to spout their views elsewhere. It is sheer laziness that prevents people like Faine from inviting members of the public who have a broad spread of viewpoints. But that would take some hard work.)

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But I digress. The discussion between Faine, Garrett and Downer did not catch my attention until a caller raised the issue of the NBN and the glorious mess it has become.

Given that the Coalition Government has created the current NBN mess, Downer piped up, first blaming the mess on Labor, and then saying that in any case it was not of much import as 5G would soon be introduced, giving the public much faster speeds.

But what does 5G have to do with the Internet? How does one use a mobile connection for one's broadband needs with the data quotas that are available? Was Faine aware that 5G also requires an extensive fibre network to be built?

Only one Australian provider, OVO, has taken on the task of trying to fill the void for fast Internet by offering people 100GB of data for $69.95 (it was $100 at first).

Faine was unaware of this so he let Downer's uninformed comment go through to the keeper.

Garrett knew as little as Downer so when she was asked for her take, she made some general comments and let the matter go.

Any listener would have been left with the impression that once 5G arrives, broadband speeds in Australia would be akin to manna from heaven.

Instead of this kind of misinformed conversation, why doesn't Faine just avoid talking about technology at all?


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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