Early Impressions at the Broadband Future Event

The Broadband Present

The Chair (Paul Twomey, ICANN) warned the 200+ delegates at the outset not to overload the Wifi network with video downloads. On the one hand, this seems ironic at a conference on broadband. On the other, Mike Quigley (Chair of NBNCo) leveraged off that to explain why the NBN is being designed as fibre-optic to 90% of the population, with wireless only where cable-based services are economically infeasible.

There was a much-less-cramped second hall, with a feed of the video from the main hall. But it wasn't advertied anywhere, and the Conference Help Desk didn't know it existed, andd the screen was single-feed rather than split between video of the speaker and the slides (but hopped between them).

There was limited access to power-points. And there were reports of users being frequently kicked off the Wifi network. (Once I'd read the instructions, it's worked fine for me).

So the Broadband Present was less thrilling than the 'Broadband Future' under discussion. Or, to put it another way, yes we'd a like Broadband (Christmas) Present.

Keynote Content

The Conference could be depicted as a celebration, a ra-ra event, a promo for the NBN and NBN Co, a rev-up for companies active in the space, and social networking for IT industry execs (and consultants. I've had 6 valuable mini-meetings so far).

To be fair, a moderate number of individuals in the policy and community spaces were invited. (I was invited not in any of my eBusiness and info infrastructure consultancy and research roles, but as Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation).\

I'm uniformly bored by keynotes at events like this. However, the lead speech from the PM was to-the-point, well-conceived and nicely delivered. (I don't find him as boring as the media try to suggest).

Mike Quigley's presentation of what NBN Co is up to actuaally offered useful content in an accessible form.

A presentation from MS and two from Google were blessedly short. If the whole of that time had been given to Vint Cerf, we'd have got more depth and value. Australia Post was given a leading slot but did little with it. Nick Gruen's brief presentation on Gov 2.0 was more in line with what's needed.About the NBN

The messages are:

Policy Aspects

There are some areas in which policy matters will come to the fore, although perhaps only in the five parallel sessions. But applications in support of eHealth and carbon emissions reduction have been oft-mentioned already, and there's an eCommunities stream.

For the most part, the event seems to be dominated by major players, and public interest perspectives are likely to be a bit muted. NGOs appeared mostly as session chairs rather than as contributors. The Smart Infrastructure stream rapporteur is from Google; the eHealth rapporteur is the CEO of NEHTA (inviting Fleming to continue his single-minded, control-freak behaviour); and the eCommunity rapporteur is from Intel.

In short, it's entirely reasonable for the drivers for the event to be from industry. But the exposure offered to US corporations has been too great, and the scope for questions, scepticism and warning-shots-over-bows appears to be restricted to the parallel streams and chatter-space.

I think most policy-oriented people would actually speak quite positively - I, for one, am in a positive frame of mind about the subject-matter. But they would put some key considerations on the table that are in danger of being overlooked.


Given that I was invited in my APF role, I should say something about privacy.
The notion's barely arisen so far. It doesn't need to be centre-stage, but it will need a few mentions, because:

A couple of notes that I made in the sessions so far:

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