Melbourne academic and telecommunications specialist Mark Gregory has joined InnovationAus.com as a columnist. His views will appear regularly.
Dr Gregory is well known in the industry for his passion about the role of ICT, and especially of telecommunications, in creating a better society. He is a trenchant critic of the way the NBN is being implemented, frequently taking NBN Co and the Government to task over their downgrading of the original all-fibre network.
In his first column for InnovationAus.com, he railed against the recently announced decision to move 1.2 million households off HFC (the hybrid fibre coaxial inherited from Optus and Telstra) to FTTN (Fibre-to-the-Node).
“The Coalition Government made a raft of NBN related promises in the lead-up to the 2013 and 2016 Federal Elections that it has failed to achieve, and it is well aware that the bad news could become a tsunami over the next three years. So it is not hard to see why NBN Co has been directed to take steps to stop the flow of bad news, and to ensure that a rosy picture was presented in the lead-up to federal elections.
“In the past week, NBN Co has announced that it will reduce the HFC rollout by 1.2 million premises due to an increase in the cost to remediate the HFC network. As a result, the total number of households that will now receive the obsolete and inferior FTTN has jumped to more than 50 per cent of Australia’s 12 million premises.
“NBN Co should be condemned for sitting on this information in the lead-up to the last federal election. The disclosure of the HFC cost blow-out and shift to more FTTN was predicted well in advance by Australian experts.”
Dr Gregory’s comments, and the stridency with which he expresses them, are indicative of his desire to see Australia wired with a high bandwidth network, and his disgust with the way the NBN has become a political football since it was first announced in 2009.
He has written dozens of articles exposing the hypocrisy, misinformation and broken promises that have marked the project since its inception.
Dr Gregory says his views are not based on politics, but on his sincere belief that a true national broadband network would be of immense benefit to Australia. As a lecturer in network engineering at RMIT University his views are solidly based in an understanding of the technology.
“If I have evolved into a social policy commentator,” he says, “it’s because of my background in the technology. What’s happening to the NBN now is false economy – we will end up paying much more, and Australia will be worse off, because of the short-sighted decisions we are taking today.”
Dr Gregory’s technical training dates from his days in the Australian Defence Forces and his time at Duntroon, where he studied electrical engineering. After 12 years in the Army’s RAEME (Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers), he left with the rank of captain, subsequently receiving a PhD in telecommunications reliability at RMIT University.
He is extremely active and well-known in the telecommunications community. He is a member of TelSoc, and editor of its Australian Journal of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy. He is also General Chair of the International Telecommunications Networks and Applications Conference (ITNAC), a major conference held annually in Australasia under the auspices of the IEEE.
In recent years Dr Gregory’s interests have extended to telecommunications and data security. He is not aligned with any political party and over the years has provided specialist technical advice to politicians from all the major parties and to public servants, which is in keeping with his open and frank approach.
InnovationAus.com welcomes him as a columnist and looks forward to his contributions.