Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday Forum: the NBN and New England

Today's post on my personal blog, Frustrations over the NBN discussion, deals with the National Broadband Network, using Armidale as an example. If you look at my post, UNE's strategic positioning, you will get a further background feel as to why I think that this is such a make or break issue for parts of New England.

What is your view on the NBN? Do you see it as helpful for your area? How might we use it to pursue New England development?

Postcript One

In a comment, David Carse from Waterfall Way Designs put up a pretty good summary of the benefits as he saw them.  He also provided a link through to a post, What does NBN mean for your business?, explaining the benefits to his clients.

Postscript two: Issues Summary

While this post will remain open for comment, I now want to draw together some threads, adding from my own experience in running a business out of Armidale and as a consultant. As I did in the first post,  Frustrations over the NBN discussion, I am using Armidale as an example because I know it quite well and because the city itself already has better than average internet connections.

As a starting comment, if you listen to the discussions on NBN, you will generally find:
  1. A focus on the ordinary consumer. In fact, from a New England perspective, it is the business applications that are most critical since these provide jobs.
  2. An often implicit assumption or myopia that regional areas don't actually need fast connections because the type of business that demands them is not to be found there.
If you look at discussion to this point from David and in my original post:
  1. As a consultant, David finds existing connections mean that both video conferencing and VOIP (voice over internet protocol) are patchy and somewhat unreliable. This would fit with my recent experience with in-house video conferencing linking a Sydney head office with regional branches in Dubbo, Coffs and Tamworth. The links were jerky and kept falling over. 
  2. Both UNE and its students say that the existing system does not allow the University to provide the type of interactive teaching experience that distance students need.
Both of these are current examples where demands have out-run capacity.

We live in a distributed, data intense world. From my own experience, the types of applications that are constrained even in a place like Armidale include:
  1. Collaborative software development in a distributed environment.
  2. Bandwith intensive visual applications - games, development of other entertainment, certain types of courseware.
  3. Bandwith intensive data process and distributing applications.
  4. Collaborative distributed team working involving combined forms of media. 
  5. Use of cloud computing. 
  6. E-commerce or retailing activities requiring certain real time delivery, again where the traffic volume and speed passes a certain point. 
Many things come into play in considering this type of application. Scale is one. You start okay, but then run up against capacity constraints as you grow. As a consequence, you then move.

Armidale has lost a fair number of start-up businesses over the last twenty years because of locational issues. Had they not moved, or survived and stayed in Armidale, the city would have been a lot larger. Poor communications was only one factor, but an important one. In one year, my own business spent $46,000 on domestic air travel.

I will leave this post here, although comments are still open.   


David Carse said...

Should be a good forum Jim.

I am a small Armidale business, developing websites with over 40 clients in the community from a diverse range of industries. We have been discussing the possible benefits for business of the NBN.

NBN for the New England becomes part of the package I think to attract business and residents. The New England offers a Sydney businessman:
1. Reliable internet to access and provide services outside the region (Cloud computing).
2. Cheap industrial and residential rentals and prices.
3. Location between Sydney and brisbane for product distribution. Or if you have a service orientated business then online video streaming will enable you to perform a lot more remotely.
4. Lifestyle, natural beauty, no commute, great schools, airport, highway.

The New England then becomes known as an innovative business hub. A cheaper place to start a business and a great place to raise a family.

I think the tide is turning on industrialised business with people as cogs in a machine. Autonomous, affiliated professionals is becoming more common because of the independance, lifestyle and business prosperity it offers.

Here are my other thoughts on NBN for small business.

Jim Belshaw said...

David, this is a very good comment. I ahve to go to the city in a few minutes. I will respond when i get back.

Jim Belshaw said...

A professional question, David. Armidale's com connections are better than some other parts of New England. Just taking Armidale and the surrounding tablelands, what are the main things that you see that cannot be done with exiting connections?

David Carse said...

I find video conferencing and some VOIP patchy sometimes. For business it needs to be consistent and reliable.
Clients of mine that are in retail would like more video content to demonstrate their products and later on even do video conferencing for assembly and repair instructions.
So it is this rich media content we currently lack.

I agree with Tony Windsor's comments about Synergy. I think this is a unique infrastructure project. Roads and hospitals have relatively fixed purposes and cost/benefit analysis can be straight forward. If you asked me in regards to my car what "cannot be done with existing ..." I would have fairly limited options, as cars and roads technology advance slowly relative to the Internet.

It may seem esoteric to add "undreamed of applications" to the ledger, but I believe the Internet will continue to evolve and provide more benefits for business and consumers. But these "undreamed of applications" can only be nurtured and grow in a conducive environment.

Hope that makes sense, these conversations are best over a glass of New England red :)

Jim Belshaw said...

David, I look forward to the glass of New England red! Not sure at the moment when I will be in Armidale next.

Thanks for the comments. I am going to bring our further discussion up onto the main post with some added comments from my own experience.