The following is an open letter to both the “Liberal”/National party of Australia and the newly-appointed Prime Minister. In the interests of keeping this as civil as I can, I will refrain from the usual derogatory terms I refer to any of these entities by. Except one that I have already used. Explanation will be forthcoming.
Dear Mister Tony Abbott and the LiberalInNameOnly Party,
Before I begin, I will congratulate you on your recent victory in the Federal Elections. I know that campaigning and waiting for results is not an easy thing.
I would like to tell you that your victory was deserved and well-earned. I cannot, however, in good conscience do so. I have been a Labor party voter during the phase of my life when I bothered with voting. My parents remain Labor party voters as far as I am aware, and so too is my sister, who now has three children that are likely to be Labor party voters in sixteen to eighteen years’ time.
This context should help you understand my meaning when I say that you did not win this election. The Labor party of Australia, through bad decisions such as putting in place a candidate that I was happy to see ousted from their leadership the first time around, handed it to you.
We could sit and argue about our political persausions until we both get blue in the face. I will have plenty to say to you in future concerning other issues. But right now, after reading one petition, I wish to put forth my perspective concerning Australia’s Internet infrastructure and what needs to be done to improve it for the future.
This is where the derisive term, LiberalInNameOnly, comes from. In order to understand it, one must first understand the difference between what liberalism really means, and what it seems to mean when your party is in power.
From Steve Kangas’ short FAQ on liberalism, I offer the following:
The definition of “liberalism” has changed continually throughout history, and even today it means different things to different people. One of the more fundamental definitions is that liberalism is openness to progress and change. By contrast, conservatism attempts to conserve the traditions and received truths of the past. Liberalism has also been defined as generosity, tolerance, open-mindedness and willingness to give.
The emphasis was added by me, and for a reason. That reason has everything to do with both parties’ stated plans for Internet infrastructure.
Mister Abbott, Australia is one of the few first-world countries left where there are significant amounts of communications hardware based on the copper wire. The copper wire may work as a conductor of electricity, but its limitations as a communications facilitator became painfully clear when 2,400 bit per second modems were being superseded.
As dial-up modems reached stated speeds of 4,800 bits per second or more (all the way up to a “whopping” 57,600 bits per second), the extra data traffic began to push the copper wire past points of both tolerance and breaking. Disconnections at random intervals were both frequent and unpredictable, making it a small wonder that cable modem and asymmetric digital subscriber lines have become the standard in today’s Internet.
Simply put, mister Abbott, in today’s world where almost everyone is connected to a network and trying to communicate through it, attempting to extend this nineteenth-century technology’s use into the twenty-first is not only ludicrous, but also a direct contradiction of what the word “liberal” really means.
A liberal government would recognise that technology which dates back to the year 1820 has no place in the communications infrastructure of 2013, and tear it out. A liberal government would replace such technology with optical fibre, cabling such as that which was commonly used with cable modems (hybrid fire-coaxial, aka HFC), or other solutions that are not nearing two hundred years in design age. A liberal government would even fund its scientific community or armed services to experiment to find solutions for the future.
I hope that now, the context of LiberalInNameOnly, as I like to refer to your party for many reasons including your apparent attitude to communications infrastructure, is clear. If we reverse the already-given definition of liberal, we come up with a deep, almost pathological desire to conserve the past both in ideas and in execution. This is the definition that the LiberalInNameOnly party has been meeting throughout my lifetime. It also happens to be how most people define the word “conservative”.
Mister Abbott, there is also something of a difference between how liberal individuals and conservative individuals see the purpose of government. It seems that conservatives believe government should be used to support the wants, needs, and whims of a small elite in business, with the rest of the society left to fend for themselves. Liberal folk, on the other hand, would believe that a government should protect the rights and wellbeing of all of the individuals in the society it governs, regardless of wealth or perceived merit. Under this definition, mister Abbott, the name of your party is made a lie by the stated intentions concerning the National Broadband Network.
The reason that most citizens who are truly Internet-literate want Fibre To The Home, or FTTH going forward, is because they are Internet literate and understand the implications. Fibre To The Home delivers speeds far in excess of what is presently available, and if delivered to every house in Australia, will finally allow Australia to take the copper phone wire out, to consign it to the history that it has belonged in for most of my lifetime. To do something liberal, in other words.
FTTH will also allow Australia to finally have what the Japanese or parts of Europe have considered a basic service for decades. Have you ever seen what they have in terms of communications technology in Japan? I have had it described to me by first-hand observers, and it brings to mind a quote from the INXS song Need You Tonight, which reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100. In this song, Michael Hutchence sang that the twenty-first century is yesterday. This quote is pertinent, mister Abbott, because what Australia is erupting in protest in order to get rolled out before I turn fifty, the Japanese already consider history.
Keeping up with the Joneses may be a poor argument on an individual level when it comes to purchasing new televisions, new computers, or new cars. However, on a national level for communications infrastructure, it is one of the best arguments of all. Australia continues to fall further and further behind on so many grounds that it often makes one embarrassed to be living there.
Right now, I am sure that the surprise and wonder of having been voted into office is still lingering. But in years to come, you will be in a position to look back on your Prime Minister-ship. I cannot think of any Prime Ministers from my lifetime who can say that they pushed this country forward into the future. I can understand if you do not wish to be the first. But think about it pragmatically. Were you to put down a FTTN (Fibre To The Node) solution, someone in future is going to tear it out and put a FTTH solution in its place.
You have been given rule of a country with a population that is far too spread out (and not just in my opinion). Since they would all consider it abhorrent to be made to move into a more centralised location (something that nature will force us to do soon anyway), that only leaves improving communications. Not just for those who can afford to pay exorbitant prices, but for everyone.
In statements made by myself and the general electorate prior to this election, you have been called every name under the sun, and your fitness to govern a nation under such conditions called into just about every question imaginable. Geoffrey Rush once said during the opening scene of a Coen Brothers film that he was happy to be proven wrong about a mutual acquaintance of his character and that character’s wife.
Well, mister Abbott, you may consider this one of a number of occasions where I would be very happy indeed to be proven wrong by you.