OPINION: The NBN is a battleground and it's about time

LABOR is throwing down the gauntlet about the absolute bloody shambles that is the National Broadband Network.

After the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government started the nation-building project, it has been dismembered and ignored by the major parties as Australia's online speeds became an embarrassment.

Now we have Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull - the man who oversaw the NBN mess for the Coalition - now crowing about Australia being a nation of innovation, of experimentation and start-ups.

We can't hope to lure or hold on to Australia's best talent if we can't even offer a reasonable internet connection to our homes and businesses.

Now Labor is attempting to resuscitate the initial dream of the NBN: to deliver faster internet.

The new policy would give 2 million Australians not yet on the NBN access to high-speed cable internet to their homes.

That means not relying on the rotting copper network that should have been pulled from the ground a decade ago and destroyed in a cleansing fire.

Labor reckons they can do this without spending significantly more than the government. This is the government that promised to deliver their slower NBN for $29 billion but blew the budget out to $56 billion, more than double.

Who knows if it's possible. It will take time for the newly-announced policy to be properly examined.

What we do know is that the NBN is now being taken seriously, and is now a proper election issue - finally.

Less than a week ago, when quizzed about the NBN, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said 25mbps is "good enough" for regional Australians.

This hides the fact that upload speeds are so much slower.

Does that matter? Well, upload speeds affect how quickly you can send projects, images, video or large files via the internet. And if it's not fast enough, it's simply not possible.

You can test whether that's true by asking How Fast is the NBN.

The NBN is perhaps the most important piece of infrastructure for Australia this century. It will set us on the path to compete or to lag behind.

The world is developing driverless cars, yet we're to understand that we don't need to go faster?

The speed of our internet will make a difference with how we communicate with our children from the aged care home, from the hospital bed, and from the other side of the world.

Try having a video conversation with your grandchildren in a rural area and tell me that the NBN isn't important to Australia and Australians.

Don't let Canberra tell us what's "good enough".

Owen Jacques is a journalist with Australian Regional Media

You can follow him on Facebook

Topics:  editors picks opinion

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