Previous pieces that link the NBN/Smart-Internet with "Negawatt" programs are now more relevant:
- Smart Internet+Smart-Grid: making money and reducing carbon footprint
- Smart-Grids and Carbon Trading: Enough for an economic Negawatt scheme?
I think "the Negawatt" is a Big Idea that's been 25 years in the making - and only now are all the pieces assembled to enable it, plus there are strong enough economic, social and political forces demanding it.
I'm not sure if the Abbott Opposition could successfully argue against saving money and increasing Productivity and Economic Efficiency, especially for "the smaller end of town" and against creating a widespread economic base for Energy-sector investment/returns - but they've surprised everyone before, possibly including themselves, so I'm not going to speculate on that here.
Can we have a "Smart Grid" and other "Smart Internet" facilities without the NBN, especially without Fibre-to-the-Premises?
The difference between a Turnbull-style pseudo-NBN, opportunistically built from heterogeneous, diverse components, and a majority "pure fibre" NBN is reliability and operational costs.
It's the same as the difference between Microsoft and Apple computing products.
Ten years ago Microsoft was King of I.T. and dominated the market with Apple an irrelevancy.
Since then Apple has come along with multiple game-changing inventions that haven't just redefined the world of computing, but of entertainment and work practices. Along the way they've become one of the largest, most valuable companies in the world.
Ten years ago, nobody would've backed a high-concept, premium-priced product strategy because Microsoft had 'conclusively' proved "Cheap and Cheerful" is what people wanted. Today, everyone should understand the power and desirability of the Apple model in every Industry, not just Technology and Entertainment.
Rudd/Conroy and the ALP may not have been aware of the antecedents or potential of their "Do it Right, First Time" approach to a National Network, but today which approach are investors backing with either wallets: Microsoft's "Cheap and Cheerful" or Apple's "Great Design"??
"Cheap and Cheerful" is all well and good until you need to absolutely rely on it - say for healthcare or energy production. These same factors applying for retail software products translate to National Networks.
There are very powerful reasons people are migrating in droves away from Microsoft platforms and avoiding their new offerings (e.g. Win 8 Mobile): too much pain, too complex, underwhelming performance, features, security, administration and considerably lower "value for money" in the mid-term. What you save in upfront costs you outlay more than ten-fold in making it work for you.
Perhaps a pseudo-NBN might work, but without a unified common infrastructure the technical barriers to entry are high, potentially insurmountable, and the market-access problems with considerably less than universal access will result in a needlessly crippled industry: exactly like Cable TV.
Our multiple overlaid mobile phone and ADSL2 networks demonstrate exactly what our incumbent Telcos will do if left to their own devices: not just "not co-operate", but actively work towards disparate, incompatible systems.
Without the prospect of universal and guaranteed market access, no sane investor is going to enter the sector, rerunning the Cable TV debacle. Which denies Australia access to an emerging sector it desperately needs economically and which builds on one of our finest traits: inventiveness.
Australian markets seems to foster monopolies and duopolies - the reasons why don't matter.
We are stuck with it, like we are stuck with Coles and Woolies, Optus and Telstra and just a few brands of petrol. Without a common infrastructure, we are guaranteed to replicate the same set of fractured Telecomms enclaves we've seen for the last 25 years of deregulation.
A Turnbull pseudo-NBN will create a balkanised network with crippling access fees and incompatible or conflicting network access software from which we'll never recover, rerunning our Cable TV experience and preventing us from realising a profitable or useful "Smart Grid" and a host of other New Century Industries.