Wednesday, May 18, 2011

NBN & Armidale

I had not intended this to be my main post today, but I couldn't resist it!

In a post this morning on my personal blog, A blogging pot-pouri, I mentioned that today's mainland launch of the new national broadband network would be in Armidale. As I write, the Armidale Express is sending visual material around the Fairfax network, while the first mainNBN launch Armidale media coverage is going on line as in this Australian story.

As I watched the SKY News Report included in the Australian story, I realised that the Sky reporter (and many others)had probably never been to Armidale before and had no idea of the background.

The first photo from John Lindsay on Twitpics shows the launch held at the Presbyterian Ladies College. The caption reads simultaneous NBN choirs pulled it off.

This was not a small show in local terms. Armidale has had lots of PMs and ministers before, but this was a major local event.

Armidale is a major national educational centre. Education is the city's core business. However, it is a business that has struggled in the face of changing fashions and economic trends.

Declines in school boarding and the rise of boarding schools elsewhere, Government policies in Queensland that subsidised Queensland country kids to go to Queensland boarding schools, reduced the number of Armidale boarders. Inconsistent Federal Government policies towards tertiary education that favoured the big badly affected the University of New England.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Armidale lost a thousand jobs because of these collective changes. That's a lot. The population of the city has only just recovered.

Julia Gillard NBN launch Armidale This photo from Gordon Smith on twitpics shows Julia Gillard with the UNE VC (bald) just to the right.

To many in Armidale, the NBN became a critical vehicle that might assist the city to recover its educational prominence. The university, the schools, the chamber of commerce, the local newspapers, all combined to sell the concept. Not surprisingly, take up of initial connections was high, although only seven are in the full trial at this very early point. This will grow rapidly.

You will get a feel for some local reaction from this internode story.

To suggest as some commentators have done, that the launch was in Armidale because it's in Tony Windsor's seat is to completely miss the point. To a degree, the Government is in power because Armidale wanted the NBN and Armidale people convinced Tony Windsor that it was important.

Equally importantly, Armidale is a superb test bed site for the NBN. Not only does it want the NBN, it's a geographically contained location with a high technology base and key potential users in education, health and business.

If it doesn't work in Armidale, it won't work anywhere. If it does work, the NBN will have actual case studies to educate others.

I hope it works!                     


Stu said...

The NBN will be a game changer for regional Australia. Giving us access to High Quality communications, E-health, movies, tele-commuting and much more.

It will help to bridge the gap in access to services, culture, arts, movies between the city and the country.

For example in Canberra some theatre performances held in Sydney are simulcast. This could now occur in Armidale, meaning even though you knocked off work at 5pm in Armidale you could still make a 7pm showing of your favourite show in Sydney.

There are many more applications that will make the NBN indispensable in the future. We just have to keep the libs at bay who want to dismantle it as soon as they get in power.

Newcastle needs to be the next roll-out site with the steel river industrial park hopefully becoming the norths silicon valley.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Stu. Sorry for both the slow upload of your comment (for some obscure reason it was caught as spam!) and my response.

Interesting comments, but a question. Can you tell me a little more about the Steel River industrial park? I am interested in your concept of Newcastle as the North's silicon valley. I have a germ of an idea here.

Stu said...

Hi Jim,

The steel river industrial park is on the corner of Industrial Drive and the Pacific Hwy in the Newcastle Suburb of Mayfield.

I believe it was former BHP land that has been rehabilitated. It currently has a mix of industrial and technology uses with the CSIRO energy research division currently on site - here's the link

Being only 10 minutes from the CBD it is served with a vast array of amenities and is a great location for highly skilled workers who wish to live in and around the CBD.

Newcastle is full of engineering and computer graduates so a ready work force would be available. Also being so close to the city workers from further afield could no doubt be attracted.

However, government support is crucial.