Conspiracy theory of the week

Tags: Government Stupidity, conspiracy

Australia's National Broadband Network has always been an embarrassing joke. Fifty billion dollars to provide 25Mbit/sec if you're lucky. Once upon a time it was going to fibre to the premises. Now it's fibre to the node with existing copper to the house, which sounds like a reasonable economy measure but isn't because most of the copper is not up to spec on account of being designed for analog telephones and then corroding in a damp hole in the ground for fifty years. If you are more than 200m from the node you won't get the nominal speed. At 600m you'll get 60% of nominal on brand new copper, and at 800m you'll be lucky to get half. If you have old shitty copper - like about half the country - good luck getting even a quarter of nominal.

The plan calls for a maximum distance of 800m from the node. Yes, they're planning to fail.

It gets worse. On the basis of max 800m, the distance between nodes is 1600m. But if you're 800m from the node as the crow flies and your copper loops the other way round the block, you're 1200m of copper away from the node. You'll be lucky to get 10Mbit/sec. And this is common.

The old phone network was powered from the exchange, with every exchange equipped with standby power, so it worked during a power blackout. The new improved network will fail if there's a power outage at your house, at the node or at the backbone. So basically if there's a blackout anywhere it will fail. Fifty billion for no speed improvement and a drop in reliability.

Here's where we get to the conspiracy: nobody could be that stupid. Not even a committee. So they must be up to something. What could it be?

Switching over to NBN is compulsory. As shitty as reliability and performance will be for taxpayers, ASIS and ASIO (equivalent to CIA and NSA) will have backup power and a direct tap on the backbone. The whole point of the exercise is to make it practical to centralise monitoring of all domestic communications.

As conspiracy theories go it's pretty good. It matches all the observed facts. It satisfies a previously unmet security obligation to our allies. And it explains the otherwise unbelievable. The problem with conspiracy theories (they really ought to be called conspiracy hypotheses) is that Occam's Razor applies in the following form: Never ascribe to malice what can equally be explained by stupidity or incompetence.

But it would be fun to address parliament and ask: "So, are you spying on us or are you really truly dumber than dogshit?" 

Maybe someone should.

1 Comment

  • David said

    "because most of the copper is not up to spec on account of being designed for analog telephones and then corroding for fifty years"

    What rubbish. Most of it has only been corroding inside gel joint seals (which seal the water INTO the joint) for 35 years.

    Anyway, the question won't get asked.

    If it does get asked, the answer will be something like, "I have received no information that suggests this will be happening" (which is code for two things - firstly I didn't ask, and secondly, if I did it was flat out stated, not suggested).

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