Aged 19 and hating the NBN

by on 12 April, 2011

Being in Generation Y and not wanting with the NBN has so far made me an outsider amongst people of my age. The advent of super-fast broadband has become for my contemporaries the greatest gift any government could give them.

As a student of politics and a keen reader of economics, the NBN really didn’t resonate as highly with me as it did for my friends. Whenever I make my opinion known among them, I was told that I was being elitist.

Why is NBN so tantalising a policy for young people? The answer is Mum and Dad will pay for it, and I will be able to play, download movies and see friends’ facebook photos faster than ever before. Of course this is exciting and even I can see the appeal, but it’s no wonder the NBN was adored by my Generation. And the adore it despite the fact that it will be Government owned, expensive and deliver nothing substantial to Australian battlers.

The fact that the NBN was to be a nationalised corporation should have had alarm bells ringing. The private sector would have provided the equivalent service, albeit later rather than sooner. This does not fly with Gen Y. We are the Now Generation. The desire for downloads completing now is the same desire for super fast broadband now.

When the NBN finally comes online, Australians will have one choice when it comes to broadband. What complicates the matter further is that as Labor becomes increasingly steered by the Greens, the chances of the NBN ever being privatised become smaller and smaller. If anything, this should be the greatest fear of the Australian people, especially those who praise the Internet as the greatest platform for free speech. There can be no greater a dissonance than the Government owning the Internet.

The Internet is the technological equivalent of a perfect free market: there is no regulation. The details of Stephen Conroy’s Internet filter are frighteningly sketchy at best – a worrisome prospect. Julian Assange would have found it very difficult to leak any cables if the Internet was controlled by the very Government he sought to incriminate. Young people cannot see the connection between “Government owned” and “inefficiency”; we’re too young to remember Telstra being the only telecommunications company in Australia.

We want our iPhones to be faster. We want the Government to make this happen. Generation Y cannot comprehend how much extra tax they’ll have to pay because of the NBN. And I say that because an age group that largely doesn’t pay much tax currently, finds the idea of more tax hard to fathom. Tony Abbott’s slogans wash off us, seen as the banal and cranky mutterings of a conservative who mispronounces modem.

The fact remains that private enterprise will always be superior to publicly owned utilities at delivering services. This member of Generation Y will not entertain any statements to the contrary. Friends of mine who retort “But corporations only care about profits” have completely missed the point. The profit-motive is the precise reason why the NBN should be privatised sooner rather than later. It will ensure quality of service and most importantly, constant improvement of facilities to compete with other companies.

There is no guarantee that the publicly owned NBN will endeavour to improve its services. Competition will not be an issue because there simply won’t be any. If or when the NBN is privatised, there will still be a single company owning all of the optic fibre in Australia.

The apparrent benefits of the NBN for regional Australia, lower income erners and education becomes the argument Gen Y uses to try and sound mature, as if they really care about people who can't afford broadband. Contrary to popular belief, the NBN will do absolutely nothing to improve the quality of life of the average Australian.

It is not plausible to suggest that rural families who cannot afford to send their children to superior boarding schools, will be able to afford a private tutor communicating with their child via live video feed (all day, mind you), using an expensive form of high speed broadband. This is the deluded fantasy of this shoddy Labor Government that will never be realised. If hospitals require a faster transferral of large information, which obviously is in the best interest of the patient, then the Government should absolutely upgrade those facilities. Yes, that would cost a considerable amount of money, but not anywhere near $43 billion.

Labor’s assessment of people’s “need” for super fast broadband is misguided and hugely irresponsible. Gen Y have swallowed the propaganda as expected and voted for the broadband. Spending $43 billion, in a now unarguably two-speed economy, when our country has been hit with two devastating natural disasters, is a wasteful depravity committed against the Australian public.

Thomas De Angelis is a 19 year old Law Student from the University of Notre Dame


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