issue today is about equity of access to technology. We live in a vast nation.
Roughly 7.692 million square kilometres. Our population is not evenly spread
across this vast nation with 66 per cent of Aussies living in our capital

challenge for any Federal Government is to balance the cheaper delivery of
services in an urban area with the equity of service desire across the nation.

demonstrate what I mean, we should jump back to the nineties. Those were the
days when you accessed the Internet via a telephone line using a modem. We all
became accustomed to the screeching noises made by the equipment plugged into
our computer. The Internet Service Provider (ISP) plans were based on time not
data and the term “dial-up” became mainstream. I really can’t remember how much
was typically paid per hour to connect to the Internet but it wasn’t much and
some providers offered a daily rate of a few dollars.

the cost of the phone call.

that is where the disparity occurred. In any of the capital cities you could dial
up all day for the cost of a local call and just pay your ISP for their
charges. In regional areas, it was different. Very few regional locations had a
local ISP therefore every call to your ISP was a long-distance call. There was
no such thing as a plan that had capped STD calls so the most significant cost
for a user in Dubbo was the phone call.

discussed this issue with our Federal Government at the time and gave them my
brilliant idea. At the time, there was a focus on trying to build more ISPs in
regional Australia but I had a much simpler solution. Don’t spend large chunks
of government money on infrastructure. Spend slightly smaller chunks of
government money on subsidisation. The only issue was the cost of the phone
call so I lobbied the Government to introduce a free phone call for regional
users. I wasn’t successful but a couple of years later Telstra introduced a new
plan. It went halfway there – it gave users of the service a toll-free number
to call for their Internet access but at a dearer rate to use the ISP. Not
perfect but it was a subsidisation and it made sense.

all those years ago you would think that we have learned the lesson and
wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes with the NBN.


Australian Government is currently in the process of launching the Sky Muster
satellites. The cost of this infrastructure is in the order of $2 billion to
start with plus the running costs. It has an estimated life of fifteen years.
We are told this will service 200,000 people. That is $10,000 per person just
to launch.

I am seeing is that many people are unhappy with the latency; speed and data
limits from pieces of equipment sitting 35,786km above the equator so in areas
where mobile service is available – even if only just available – many users
are choosing to use mobile broadband despite the fact that this often comes at
higher prices. There are obviously locations where there is no mobile service.
I would prefer to see special mobile broadband pricing or subsidies for users
that can’t access other forms of NBN. $2 billion buys a lot of subsidisation –
or maybe even put up a few new mobile phone towers!

those in areas that are definitely not going to receive mobile phone reception,
there are over 1,000 active satellites in our sky at the moment so I am quite
certain that the owners of those satellites would welcome more connections to
their satellites. Once again, a government subsidy to these users would seem
like a better solution than spending our money on infrastructure.

only we could learn from the past…

Mathew Dickerson

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