New PM may have run internet provider OzEmail but his National Broadband Network is a shambles

As expected, the onion-chomping and malapropism-prone Tony Abbott became too much of a national embarrassment and was shunted aside for the slicker and less abrasive Malcolm Turnbull.

Turnbull has been dubbed "Australia's first tech Prime Minister", having held the communications portfolio, and there's some truth in that.

A lawyer whose career has spanned journalism and banking, he has some experience of the tech sector, having spent a few years at the helm of internet provider OzEmail in the 1990s.

In grappling with political issues involving tech, Turnbull often refers to New Zealand because we dealt with many of the problems before Australia even started debating them and actually solved a few of them.


For instance, he thinks we got it right with the anti file-sharing amendment to the copyright act and wants Australia to head down that particular rabbit hole, too.

If by getting it right Turnbull meant that the New Zealand anti file-sharing law stopped messy, expensive and privacy-invading court cases like the recent Dallas Buyers Club one, in which a US movie studio wants to compel Australian internet providers to hand over details of subscribers suspected of illicit downloading, he's got a point.

Even though it's hardly fair that internet account holders are fingered on dubious grounds by rights holders for uploading and downloading copyrighted content, the process the New Zealand law put in place meant that comparatively few people have been fined.

Also, the Copyright Tribunal fines haven't been the silly sums seen in the US where rights holders have made a business out of threatening internet account holders and shaking them down for money.

In that sense, New Zealand definitely dodged a bullet. There's more affordable and easily available content now, and rights holders have more or less given up on hounding internet subscribers; the Copyright Tribunal isn't exactly busy these days.

Turnbull's tech credentials are tarnished, though, if you look at the dog's dinner he's made of Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN), pretty much by doing everything the opposite of how it's being done here.

The NBN started off under Labor as fibre to the premises, in a similar fashion to National's ultrafast broadband (UFB) network. Under Turnbull, though, the NBN has become a "multi-mix" technology network, using a mishmash of existing copper- and cable-delivered broadband with some fibre thrown in and satellite and fixed-wireless for remote areas.

Turnbull's NBN has a modest speed target of 12-100 megabits per second over fibre, which won't be attainable on the copper parts of the network unless NBN deploys fibre to nodes really close to subscribers and adds new technology that requires plenty of power to push high bitrates.


The idea was that Turnbull's mixed-tech NBN would be cheaper than Labor's fibre network, and deployed faster, and who needs speeds above 25Mbit/s anyway?

Now, the cost has blown out to up to A$56 billion ($63 billion), and it's far from ready. Meanwhile, our UFB is trucking along with 200Mbit/s and even 1Gbit/s plans, and the Government wants to relieve Chorus of the burden of maintaining the obsolete copper network.

There was, of course, no good reason to redesign the NBN into the awkward mess it is today. Even the political justifications were weak because people want better broadband, not worse, but the "tech Prime Minister" ignored all that.

It's unlikely that Turnbull's successor in the comms portfolio will be able to reverse course and get the NBN back on track to become a worthwhile investment for the Australian taxpayer.

In other words, if Australians want better broadband, they need to not only look across the Tasman for inspiration, but also move over here.

We're Giving Away a Microsoft Surface 3 computer!

Microsoft Surface 3
Microsoft Surface 3
Surface 3 has the looks and performance to turn heads. With its 10.8-inch full HD touchscreen display and thin, light frame (620 grams), it's just the right size to slip under your arm or in your purse and take anywhere.

The winner will receive a Surface 3 ($799.00 value) and a type cover ($199.99 value).

See Entry Form at the bottom of this page:

OrbitSound Spaced360 portable speaker

OrbitSound's Spaced360 is "old tech" as it came out last year, but I thought it warranted a quick mention as the design is extraordinary, though not to everyone's taste. I like it, but a friend asked if it was a large-scale model of a heart bypass valve or similar.

Its three tubes serve a purpose, however, housing the AirSound technology drivers and bass speakers, nine in total, which is amazing considering how small the device is.

OrbitSound reckons its use of spatial audio channels to create a 360-degree sound space is superior to normal stereo speakers.

I wouldn't go that far, but considering its size, the Spaced360 sounds pretty good with noticeably clearer mids and highs than the Logitech Ultimate Ears Megaboom, which isn't too bad itself, sound-wise.

The bass is pretty good too, and OrbitSound says the Spaced360 has a 75 to 18,000 Hertz frequency range.

Part of the good sound may be attributed to OrbitSound putting the high-quality and low-delay AptX Bluetooth audio codec into the Spaced360. The UE Megaboom only supports the standard default Bluetooth audio Low Complexity Subband Coding codec, or SBC.

Your Bluetooth device has to support AptX, though, and you'll find it in new Macs, iPhones, iPads and Samsung Android devices. Bluetooth devices have to be within 10m of the $500 Spaced360 whereas the UE Megaboom can be up to 30m away.

While OrbitSound incorporated near-field communications for easy pairing, there's no handy smartphone app such as the UE Megaboom's that'll let you turn the speaker on and off, as well as changing volume and equaliser settings and updating the firmware.

Battery life is decent at seven to eight hours, but the charger with a small plate and a pin is awkward to use. There is a USB port, but that's only for firmware updates.

Those flaws apart, it's the best-sounding portable speaker I've come across.

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