Friday, August 20th, 2010

Moorebank Intermodal and the Election

I spent a couple of hours last Sunday at the first rally protesting against this totally stupid idea of setting up a major freight terminal in the middle of a residential area. Prior to the speakers actually taking to the stage to have their say I spent about half an hour talking with the labour candidate for tomorrows election while a photographer from one of the local papers took lots of pictures (none of which made it into the paper as the editor preferred one showing a part of the crowd with someone holding up a poster supporting the Liberal party in the foreground). The plan for the intermodal was actually developed initially by the Liberal partyin 2004 and the Labour party only inherited it and continued with it when they took over in 2007. So both parties are actually in favour of this stupidity. Both local candidates are opposed and have promised to fight against their party view on this issue. So this issue doesn’t appear to offer any opportunity to choose between the parties.

The one area where the two parties seem to differ the most in their policies is with regard to their broadband plans. The current technology is stretched to the limit with little room for any way of providing any faster internet access. Current connection speeds on the fastest plans can be anything up to 24Mbp while around 5-6 Mbp is more typical for most people located further from the exchange. The only practical way of providing faster speeds is by getting rid of the copper lines and replacing them with something that can handle much higher speeds. The obvious choice is fibre optic which is easily capable of 1000Mbp+. The Labour party have already started rolling out this solution in Tasmania (where the first rollouts came in 10% under the budgeted cost). Their proposal is to cover 93% of the population with fibre optic and using wireless and satellite at 24Mbp to cover the other 7%. The Liberals are proposing to save money by not implementing the fibre optic solution but instead supplementing the existing system with additional wireless. They claim that this will be a cheaper solution but their calculations have neglected to take into account that in order to give everyone access to wireless at 24Mbps they will need towers on every street connected together by fibre optic as if they only put a tower in every second street the radio frequencies they’ll need will mean they will have to shut down all the TV and radio stations so as to use the entire radio spectrum for this new purpose. Even then the cost of the fibre optic plus topwers will really work out far more expensive than the Labour solution to provide a system less than 1/50th the speed. If that policy were the only point of difference between the two parties then Labour would deserve to get 1000% of the votes at least since a 21st Century solution is far better than an 18th Century one .

Of course that isn’t the only consideration. Another difference also connected with the internet is with respect to filtering of sites. The Labour party wants the ISPs to implement a filter to block certain sites. Unfortunately there are a couple of things wrong with this. The blocked sites once thwey realise they are blocked can set up proxies to allow access past the filter. Once a proxy gets blocked they can add another and so on. So the sites the filter is intended to block will not be blocked for any length of time. Instead the sites ending up getting blocked will be any that are accidentally included on the list and which are not supposed to be blocked to start with. Also once you have censorship like this in place it is a far more minor step to extend it to block (or attempt to block) other things. This filtering will slow down everyone’s internet access and have very little effect apart from that. The filtering on your home computer to protect your children from harmful sites will be as necessary with the ISP filter in place as it is now but it will be less effective because of the blocked sites setting up proxies that will mean that the worst of the porn will no longer be able to be blocked at home because the proxy to get it past the ISP filter will also get it past the filter on your computer. By implementing this the Labour party will be reducing the protection that their proposal is supposed to be increasing. The Liberal party plan of assisting people to implement home filtering (as they did before the 2007 election) is the much better alternative to resolve this issue as at least it will help rather than hinder..

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