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As part of their election campaigning, the Coalition yesterday released their $6billion broadband plan for the next eight years. To say the very least, it’s a bad policy, filled with either technical errors or misrepresentations, and does nothing to situate Australia as a major player in a digital economy. Earlier today I spoke with Travis Collins on RTR FM’s Morning Magazine about the Coalition policy.[audio:http://www.tamaleaver.net/cv/2010_Aug_11_Lib_BB.mp3]
It’s fair to say that the coalition’s approach to broadband is one of contempt and ignorance; you only need to watch our potential Prime Minister, Tony Abbott struggle to give any meaningful answers about the policy on last night’s 7.30 Report to see this is an area in which no significant thought or time has been invested. The ad hoc patchwork policy proposed simply milks a tiny bit more out of existing cables and infrastructure, with no long-term planning, no long-term development and a completely unrealistic assumption that private industry will want to invest in national fibre-optic infrastructure. As Mark Pesce clearly argues, there are speeds that can only be achieved, maintained (and, if needs be, expanded) using fibre; wireless and existing copper cables just can’t stretch much further, but the massive investment needed here is surely a national government priority. We don’t expect private enterprise to fund the national roads; the government invests in these because it allows traffic to move across the country. I would argue that the best way to understand our broadband needs are the same: get a high-speed network in place, and the investment, innovation and development will come. Without it, innovation will stall and Australia’s position in the digital economy will be one of weakness and embarrassment.
Industry responses to the Coalition’s plan have been unanimously negative, with the only kind comments being for the one element that replicates a section already in Labor’s National Broadband Network plan. Indeed, David Braue’s recap on ZDNet of the Coalition’s last 24 hours of broadband discussion makes it crystal clear that they have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to broadband, the internet, or most other things to do with telecommunications in Australia. What is clear is that the Coalition’s plan would ensure Australia has one of the slowest internet capacities of any Western (and many other) countries today and for many years to come. Sure, their plan is cheaper, but not buying things that you actually need is never a good policy.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I still think the time and energy Senator Conroy has wasted on an ineffective and unwelcome national internet filter is incredibly disappointing, but Conroy has already back-pedalled substantially, deferring the filter until a review of the Refused Classification ratings system in Australia. (And, implicitly, setting up this, or the likely senate balance of power going to the Green’s, as a way of saying he did his best on this promise, but was blocked by others.) In the meantime, the NBN is the best thing Conroy has worked on, and the current Labor NBN plan is a million times better for Australia, ensuring speeds that allow Australians to participate in the best, brightest and fastest developments online, rather than living in the slow, crawling digital backwater which could see Australia at the mercy of a new new tyranny of distance, lagging behind in the international digital economy.
Links through April 5th 2010:
- Google Buzz Privacy Reset Coming Tomorrow [Mashable] – “In an effort to address mounting criticism of the privacy issues surrounding Google Buzz, the search giant is going to ask all Buzz users to confirm or change their privacy settings. In an announcement that will be coming soon, Google will admit that they “didn’t get everything right,” which has resulted in serious privacy tweaks since its launch. However, many users weren’t affected by these changes because they had activated Google Buzz before the privacy updates. Now in a renewed effort to correct its gaffs, the search company is going to ask all Google Buzz users to confirm (or change) their Buzz settings. This will be gradually rolled out tomorrow, but the result will be that every user will be prompted with a confirmation page the next time they click the Buzz tab. […] The page isn’t anything new — it’s really just the Google Buzz settings page. However, Google’s taking a step in the right direction by giving every user a big opportunity to change their privacy settings.”
- When office affairs take over the bedroom, the lounge … [The Age] – “Many workers are caught in an insidious technology trap of being permanently online. Some people are checking emails around the clock – to the detriment of their private lives – and never feel they have left the virtual office, research suggests. Melissa Gregg, of Sydney University’s department of gender and cultural studies, conducted interviews with 26 employees in information industries who did at least some work from home. “This study was designed to pick up all that extra work that goes on outside the office, which is generally sold to us as this new freedom to be in touch with work when it suits us,” Ms Gregg said. The participants believed checking and sending emails from home did not constitute work. Yet emails were constantly invading evenings and weekends, potentially affecting family relationships. The study showed that workers were checking email at night in bed and as early as 6am before children woke so they could focus on “real work” in office hours.”
- Chatroulette Piano Improv’s Merton on YouTube Takedowns, Ben Folds and What’s Under That Hoodie [NewTeeVee] – A new interview with ‘Merton’, the guy behind the Chatroulette PianoChatImprov videos. I found it particularly interesting how people gave (or refused) permission to be recorded: “NewTeeVee: How do you now go about the process of getting people’s permission to use them for videos?
Merton: What I do is as soon as they come on the screen, I very quickly paste a little message into the text area that says “I may be recording this. If I have your permission to possibly post this video online, please say yes and give me a thumbs up.” We consulted an attorney about how to word it. And if people say no, I assure them that I’m not going to put them on YouTube and we then both relax and I still play music for them. That’s some of the purest interactions I have because we’re both off stage all of a sudden and we just relax and have a really nice time with it.”
- Results From Dungeons & Dragons Online Going Free: Revenue Up 500% [Techdirt] – A freemium success: “Last year, we wrote about the decision by Turbine to turn its formerly fee-based Dungeons & Dragons Online MMO into a free offering, that had reasons to buy built into the game. At the time, we noted that the early results looked good, but over time they’re looking even better. Reader Murdock alerts us to the news that DDO was able to get 1 million more users and boost revenue 500%… all by going free.”
- Government goes to war with Google over net censorship [The Age] – “The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has launched a stinging attack on Google and its credibility in response to the search giant’s campaign against the government’s internet filtering policy. In an interview on ABC Radio last night, Senator Conroy also said he was unaware of complaints the Obama administration said it had raised with the government over the policy. The government intends to introduce legislation within weeks forcing all ISPs to block a blacklist of “refused classification” websites for all Australians. Senator Conroy has said the blacklist will largely include deplorable content such as child pornography, bestiality material and instructions on crime, but a large and growing group of academics, technology companies and lobby groups say the scope of the filters is too broad and will not make a meaningful impact on internet safety for children.”
Links for January 27th 2010:
- Terms of (Ab)Use: US and UK Consumers Dance to Different iTunes [Electronic Frontier Foundation] – Further illustration of the insanity of different national licensing agreements: “For example, as with many TOS agreements, the iTunes U.S. Terms purport to allow Apple to terminate any part of the service, including access to any music or other content available through iTunes, at any time without warning. The U.K. Terms step back from that extreme position. In particular, the U.K. Terms do not allow Apple to affect a user’s access to content already purchased. Furthermore, before terminating a user’s access to iTunes, the U.K. Terms require there at least be “strong grounds,” rather than mere “suspicion,” to believe the user has violated the agreement, and also obligates iTunes to provide notice of any planned modification, suspension, or termination to the extent possible. In other words, the U.K. Terms provide customers at least some guidance as to the grounds for termination, rather than leave them to worry their access to iTunes can be terminated at any moment for any reason.”
- Australia Set to Introduce Internet Filter that Could Block Access to Thousands of Anime, Comics, Gaming (ACG) and Slash Fan Sites by Mark McLelland, University of Wollongong [Guest Post: Confessions of an Aca-Fan] – Guest post by Mark McLelland looking at the implications of the Australian government’s forthcoming ISP-level internet filtering legislation on slash, anime, manga sites and thus fans in Australia. Outlook: poor.
- After Three Months, Only 35 Subscriptions for Newsday’s Web Site [The New York Observer] – So, how’s that paywall going? “In late October, Newsday, the Long Island daily that the Dolans bought for $650 million, put its web site, newsday.com, behind a pay wall. The paper was one of the first non-business newspapers to take the plunge by putting up a pay wall, so in media circles it has been followed with interest. Could its fate be a sign of what others, including The New York Times, might expect? So, three months later, how many people have signed up to pay $5 a week, or $260 a year, to get unfettered access to newsday.com? The answer: 35 people. As in fewer than three dozen. As in a decent-sized elementary-school class. That astoundingly low figure was revealed in a newsroom-wide meeting last week by publisher Terry Jimenez when a reporter asked how many people had signed up for the site. Mr. Jimenez didn’t know the number off the top of his head, so he asked a deputy sitting near him. He replied 35.”
- Google Doodle For Australia Day Missing Aboriginal Flag [SMH] – “An Australia Day artwork by student Jessie Du will be viewed by millions on Google’s home page today but one feature of her original design is conspicuously absent – the Aboriginal flag. Jessie’s Australia-themed version of the Google logo beat thousands of other entrants in the search giant’s Doodle 4 Google competition […] Jessie, 11, is a student at Rydalmere East Public School. Her entry fashioned the letters in Google’s logo out of native Australian animals, such as the kangaroo, koala and emu. The central “o” in the original design was the Aboriginal flag but this has been edited out of the final version that adorns Google’s home page today. The discrepancy caused much consternation on Twitter, but a Google spokeswoman explained that the editing of Jessie’s design was due to a copyright dispute. The designer of the flag, Harold Thomas, who owns the copyright to the flag, refused to give Google permission to reproduce the design on its website…”
- Stop pining for life on Pandora and come back to planet Earth [Telegraph] – Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson on Avatar: “It is a feature of powerful military empires that they like to romanticise their victims and luxuriate guiltily in the pathos of their suffering. Think of the Roman crowds pleading for the lives of captured barbarians in the amphitheatre.[…] And I can’t believe that many of these gloomy post-Avatar Westerners, when they really think about it, would want to up sticks to Pandora and take part in Na’vi society, with its obstinate illiteracy, undemocratic adherence to a monarchy based on male primogeniture and complete absence of restaurants. The final irony, of course, is that this entrancing vision of prelapsarian innocence is the product of the most ruthless and sophisticated money-machine the world has ever seen. With a budget of $237 million and with takings already at £1 billion, this exquisite capitalist guilt trip represents one of the great triumphs of capitalism.”
Links for January 18th 2010 through January 19th 2010:
- Android Karenina [Quirk] – What a great idea of a mashup novel! "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters co-author Ben H. Winters is back with an all-new collaborator, legendary Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, and the result is Android Karenina—an enhanced edition of the classic love story set in a dystopian world of robots, cyborgs, and interstellar space travel."
- New law could block access to anime, manga and slash fan sites in Australia [fanthropology] – A look at what Australian’s proposed Internet Censorship laws could mean for slash, manga and anime fans: in short, not good!
- Call for study of threat from "offline" filesharing [The Guardian] – Anyone remember pre-internet “piracy”? Time to scan USBs and harddrives at customs 😛 "Policymakers urgently need better information on people’s attitudes to copyright law, according to a report out today warning that friends swapping hard drives and memory sticks could pose as great a piracy threat to media companies as online filesharers. The Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property (Sabip): "There’s a whole big question here around what is happening offline digitally, the swapping of discs and data in that world. There’s a lot of it going on," said Sabip board member Dame Lynne Brindley. Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, said existing research did not give a clear picture of consumer behaviour. While there was some data on the proportion of people buying counterfeit CDs, DVDs and video games – estimated at between 7% and 16% of the population – Sabip was concerned that more needed to be known about other copyright breaches, such as hard-drive swapping …"
- Seven launches online catch-up, PLUS7 [TV Tonight] – "Seven today launched its online catch-up portal, PLUS7. The site offers legal streaming of Seven shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Home and Away, FlashForward, Private Practice, Heroes, Castle, Better Homes and Gardens, Parks and Recreation and more. As with the ABC’s iView, the site does not require a show to finish downloading before being available to start play. The site includes “mid-roll advertising” to show advertisements mid programme, much like commercial television. A spokesperson previously told TV Tonight they expect around 3-4 ads per show. Titles will remain online for between 7 – 28 days depending on rights. So far no ISPs are yet on board for unmetered content. The site can be viewed at au.tv.yahoo.com/plus7." (As expected, Plus7 is geo-locked, so only visible inside Australia. Sorry Brits, you’ll have to wait for Home and Away!)