Good to see TC CEO Allan Freeth out and tearing at the dogma that comes from the broadband ideologues – his point seems to be forget fibre to the home (FTTH) concentrate on Fibre to the node or Fibre to the business.

I gotta say I agree – I’ve had so many people preach at me about instant 10% productivity gains with widespread fibre rollouts that it makes me shake to hear – where’s the empirical evidence I say?

No – the real issue to me is that my buddy – who runs three or four good sized SMEs, can’t get DSL at his house on 30 minutes from Christchurch – let’s forget pipe dreams about Fibre to the home and concentrate on a dual strategy of allover coverage of reasonable DSL and targeted fibre to particular areas that justify it.

And for those that want fibre and aren’t in a targeted area, the Canadians (did I mention my soft spot for Canadians – have a solution – a great partnership between homeowners and the telcos – nice)

Rant over.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

8 Comments
  • I totally agree. FTTH would be nice and all, but getting full speed DSL available everywhere – or close to everywhere – would be a lot more use to the country as a whole.

  • Great quotes of our time:

    “guitar bands are on the way out” – DECCA records, failing to sign the Beatles

    “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,” – Thomas J Watson , IBM (yeah, disputed, but bear with me)

    “Spam will be a thing of the past in two years’ time.” – Bill Gates, 2004

    “main result of faster broadband links to the home may be more downloads of pornography and movies” – TelstraClear

    FTTH to the home is not about a 10% productivity gain. It’s about changing expectations, opportunities and potential for NZ. So we don’t have an idea what will come of it precisely – that’s kinda the point. A transformation somewhere, or an NZ Nokia (go Xero!), is by definition not going to be planned or known about until well after it’s happened!

    Comments like, “what or earth would people do with FTTH?”, or, “they’ll just use for downloading porn!” are patronising, short-sighted, and unfortunately what we might expect from a company like TelstraClear.

  • @Mike – I’m not saying that FTTH is a bad thing – just that a prioritisation debate needs to occur. A company like Xero that needs good fast fibre can locate in cherry picked locations that have it. For now the priority should be on getting everyone at least some sort of DSL connection

  • @Ben – my comments not really directed at you, but at paternalistic comments about why on earth would people at home need fibre, and if they did have it, they’d only use for frivolous stuff. Both of which I’ve heard in the debate.

    Leaving aside the obvious riposte that one of the key “transformers” of Wellington in the past decade has been Peter Jackson and you just *know* that as a kid now he’d be downloading movies and reverse-engineering how they were made, it’s the “mired in mediocrity” nature of such comments that get me. Do we really want people leading this debate who have such low expectations of what we’re capable of?

    And, again, we don’t know what’s going to happen from something like FTTH. But my expectation is that it will be transformative in at least the same scale that highways, shipping lanes and air travel has been in the past two centuries.

    Much of the debate has been like whining that people will only use a road to go visit their grandmother.

  • Greg,

    Its a multi-billion dollar bet though. I’m cynical, i admit it. Freeths comments are too. There is a good deal of nascent potential from FTTH

    The roading analogy has some challenges tho. There were existing businesses to take advantages of the new links, we don’t have many of those. The speed of change was less. You competed locally, then regionally then nationally then internationally (michael hill?), now you are straight into the international arena…

  • @Mike Don’t you see your argument as a variant of the “build it and they will come” argument? What if they don’t? Would you put your own money into a FTTH deployment in Takaka, without checking the RoI?

    I agree we will find innovative uses for ubiquitous high bandwidth, but I don’t agree that we know them now. Mandating high speed connectivity for some nebulous future is a triumph of ideology over reality. Filling a need before it can be identified isn’t a very good idea in the general sense, and in the technology world means you can build something that is several generations out of date before it is finished. Sometimes it is better to start later.

    We may find that we prefer FTTH for low-latency connections for some remote working apps in the future, for example. Or maybe we won’t. We haven’t discovered the “killer app” for faster mobile data yet, other than the Internet in general, and there may not be one.

    I fully support laying fibre for new houses and subdivisions. I think we should at least mandate that. I just can’t get my head around spending millions to lay it to existing homes that can get 10+ Mbps another way (wireless sat, xDSL, etc).

    @Ben Have you or your buddy talked to any of the providers that are installing their own Cabinets and DSLAMs? It has to be economic, so either your buddy pays more or gets more friends around him to be interested. We’re at the point on the curve where the deployment resources are quite constrained so low-to-no payback sites will be at the bottom of the list. Other than that the 2-way satellite works, but has other tradeoffs (rainfade and latency I guess).

  • In the main, I agree with Mike.

    What this country does not realise is that for the last 50+ years it has sat on its backside and taken it easy. This includes not investing in anything, or taking risks.

    Any ambitious fibre-based rollout (FTTN/FTTC whatever) is a stab at our future requirements. Other “smarter” (better educated, richer, with higher levels of investment, R&D, etc.) are already doing it. Yet NZ is full (almost) of people who want to want living proof of anything before they take a step forward. Where’s the risk in that? If there’s no risk, there’s little reward because everybody will have it.

    @Bwooce: Takaka? Own money? You are drawing a false parallel between an individual’s decision-making process about personal investment and a country’s future collective investment in digital infrastructure.

    To paraphrase somebody who had far more foresight than all of us collectively, if we knew what the future looked like then it wouldn’t be the future: it would be now. If you can’t get your head around that, and the fact that we have to plan for situations we can’t see clearly, then take your views, your pumpkins and dungarees, and head back to the farm (this comment not intended for anybody in-particular … self selection will be fine :O) )

  • @Bwooce – I think it’s more important than “build it and they will come”.

    Being online changes things. Being online in numbers changes things. Being online with no worries about speed and capacity changes things. We don’t know how and what it changes yet as we’re just at the start, but what’s happening is as least as important as the invention of the printing press. The changes that will occur are at least that profound.

    As a country, let’s enable these changes to happen more rapidly.

    And re paying for fibre to Takaka – they would be waiting a looooong time if I had to put my (non-existent) money into it 🙂 But I would pay more taxes for it to happen.

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