In article published on Business Spectator, Mark Gregory has made a confused and illogical attack on the MyBroadband website. Gregory misunderstands the approach taken to identify areas with poor access to broadband services.
The study assessed the availability of broadband infrastructure and impediments to accessing services over that infrastructure. The two main reasons premises use dial-up or ISDN services (which Gregory claims were overlooked in the study) are the existence of pair gain systems and long distances from the exchange – both of which were measured, and contributed towards ratings of broadband availability for each area considered.
The use of local area ratings is important as the analysis does not attempt to break down individual data points for the millions of houses in Australia that have a fixed-line connection. That would be possible – but it would take many years to undertake and wouldn’t be all that useful anyway.
The whole point about broadband upgrades is that they occur on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis, not house-by-house.
But Gregory’s assault on logic reached new heights when he claimed that an area with any level of access to Fibre-to-the-Premises should receive an ‘A’ rating for quality. The problem with that approach is that as soon as one house in a local area or Distribution Area (which typically contains 200-1000 households but sometimes as many as 5000 households) receives an FTTP connection, then the whole area’s quality would be assumed to have improved.
In other words, hundreds of households would receive a higher quality ranking (and hence would be seen as being in no need of prioritisation) just because one house was getting a great service.
So the broadband quality rating is dependent on the availability of each technology within a local area – and this was made quite clear in the broadband report (available online here) which explains how the rating system works:
In the case that Gregory used – 158 Brunswick Road, Brunswick, Victoria – he states: “the ratings were FTTP ‘C’, HFC ‘A’ and ADSL ‘B’. Hang on to your seats! The overall fixed broadband quality rating was ‘A’. How is this possible?”
It’s possible because there is good access to HFC (available to 80-100 per cent of the area), FTTP is only available for 40-60 per cent of the footprint, and ADSL (available to 80-100 per cent of premises) has an estimated median speed for the area of 16.46 megabits per second. The overall quality rating is based on the combination of the highest quality service that is available to each premises in the area.
I understand this rating system is complex. But that is not a reason why it should be dropped altogether, as Gregory suggests.
An alternative course of action would be for academics explaining complex policy issues to actually read detailed reports produced by the government before bagging them.