“There is barely an aspect of our daily lives that is not touched in some way by the internet. The revolution in communications witnessed over recent decades has had a transformative effect on commercial and social transactions creating an information world without frontiers. We have found, however, that there is a very real risk that some people and businesses are being left behind, that inadequate access to the internet and all its benefits is actually afflicting their daily lives, prohibiting them from harvesting the fruits of the information revolution.”
A recent post by Delimiter outlined some high praise of the Australian NBN rollout by Chi Onwurah, one of the UK’s up and coming British Labour MPs. Onwurah has a background in the technological sector and as such is in a rare position among contemporary politicians; her understanding of telecommunications technologies is in-depth, personal and predates her political career.
In fact, Onwurah obtained a degree in Electrical Engineering in 1987 before moving on to an MBA. After this she was the head of Telecoms Technology at UK regulatory body OFCOM, where she focused on broadband provision, and has seen an array of positions and goals as a Labour Party MP.
Onwurah’s educational and career history brings to mind a quote by the now internet-famous Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium and Research Associate of Astrophysics for the American Museum of Natural History, recorded during one of his appearances on Real Time with Bill Maher:
My concern about congress, [and] I checked these numbers: 57% of the senate, 38% of the house, site law as their profession… law, law, law, law, businessman, law law… there are no scientists? Where are the engineers? Where is the rest of life represented here?
- Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson on Real Time with Bill Maher – Tyson begins speaking just after 11:45 in the video
While it’s true that an MBA would more likely cause Onwurah to list her profession as ‘businesswoman’, rather than ‘engineer’, the existence of any politician with an educated understanding of technologies, backed up by a history in managing their implementation, is always reassuring.
According to Delimiter, Onwurah finds the Australian NBN to be ‘Bold & visionary’, after meeting with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and NBN Co Chief Executive Mike Quigley recently for an update on the NBN’s progress.
The UK does currently have a national broadband plan underway, aiming at providing up to 24Mbps to most of the country within the next few years. Unlike the Australian plan, however, the UK’s rollout is dependent on both government and private sector installation and management. Furthermore, 24Mbps is quite slow compared to the initial 100Mbps and eventual 1Gbps of the Australian NBN.
Onwurah approves of the future-proofed nature of the NBN, as well as its government-centric management plans. After all, the best technology currently available for distributing broadband to large areas as efficiently as possible is fibre-optic cabling and the NBN’s current structure provides this all the way to the premises. In short, fibre-optics is the best future-proofed option we’ve yet come up with.
Something that Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson might find surprising, within the confines of his aforementioned quote as it applies to this specific context, is that despite Onwurah’s educational qualifications and interest in the Australian NBN, government-owned super-fast broadband in general and her expertise and experience in the field of telecommunications, one of the the Australian NBN’s closest competitor right now is the US.
President Obama is reportedly committed to providing ultra-fast broadband to a significant chunk of the US in the near future. The percentage of Americans covered will be significantly less than the NBN’s goal of 95% and upwards of Aussies; the FCC is specifically aiming to reach at least one community in each state by 2015.
Still, America has already seen its share of ultra-fast broadband with Google and other ISPs leading the way with experimental networks in some small communities.
Whether the NBN survives in its current format of fibre to the premises (FTTP) or ends up as a slower, yet cheaper fibre to the node (FTTN) network, Australia still seems to be beating two of its closest allies to the punch in terms of national broadband speeds and coverage.
As private internet use increases, internet products such as video streaming become more prevalent and as more businesses become reliant on fast broadband connections we’re going to need a more solid infrastructure to handle demand.
Not only that, but we may begin to see a more diverse range of specialties among our politicians, such as with the UK’s engineering-trained, telecommunications-experienced Chi Onwurah.
Technological literacy is becoming an absolute must for any person who spends their time in the public limelight. Politicians and celebrities who demonstrate their lack of familiarity with the digital age are being ridiculed more often and such faux pas can easily lead to a drop in confidence from the younger voting public. As such, it makes sense that politicians who can really talk the talk when it comes to newer and even current technologies may start seeing an increasing support base in the future.