We don’t need to be a backwater

by Perry Gretton

Chattanooga was once described as the dirtiest city in America, and with good reason. It was so polluted that people drove through town with headlights on all day long. Yet it has now been twice voted by Outdoor magazine as the best town ever. How did that come about?

The short answer is the Gig. This is what locals call the fibre-optic network service, a broadband service 50 times faster than the national average.

Installed by the Council in 2010, the Gig is available to all its residents and businesses. It has attracted start-ups needing high-speed broadband delivering up to one gigabyte per second downloads. Businesses from outside the area have relocated to take advantage of the technology. Amazon.com has set up new distribution centres and Volkswagen’s head office has moved there.

With the old manufacturing plants shut down and pollution-free industries taking their place, Chattanooga has become a desirable place to live and work, with a cost of living lower than many US cities.

Thirty-five thousand Central Coast residents commute daily to Sydney

Thirty-five thousand Central Coast residents commute daily to Sydney and elsewhere because suitable employment opportunities are unavailable here. Imagine how different it would be if many of them could work locally: more time for themselves and their families; lower travel costs; better health… All without being less productive than before.

To achieve this requires two things: a guaranteed fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) service in Gosford, Wyong, and other sizeable conurbations, and the promise of low operating costs for new and relocated businesses.

While the second requirement can be achieved by some imaginative thinking on the part of our state government and local councils, the first cannot be met at present.

Fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) is being installed by NBN instead of FTTP in towns such as Tuggerah, Gosford, Terrigal, and The Entrance.

FTTN cannot offer the 100 megabits/second speeds of FTTP

FTTN cannot offer the 100 megabits/second speeds of FTTP, nor come close, despite what the Government claims. (There’s a strong belief in the telecommunications industry that FTTN will be dropped in favour of another technology (but for ideological reasons, it won’t be FTTP). However, the suggested technology will not be available for some time yet, so NBN will continue to roll out an inadequate solution.)

It is difficult to reconcile the Turnbull government’s claim that it’s driving innovation with the current rollout of the NBN. But then that’s not the only area where innovation seems to be thwarted by the government’s own roadblocks.

The Central Coast isn’t Chattanooga, of course. For a start, we have twice the population, are a region, and our infrastructure ownership is different. Nevertheless, we both have the same challenge to face, namely that of providing a place where people are happy to live and work.

The alternative is to remain as dormitory suburbs.

Further reading: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/30/chattanooga-gig-high-speed-internet-tech-boom