In his first appearance before a Senate Estimates Committee yesterday, the new head of NBN Co, Dr Ziggy Switkowski, got into an interesting argument with Greens' Senator Scott Ludlam about the need for future internet speeds. Dr Ziggy Switkowski at one point responded with "what's significant about a gigabit?"
Ziggy Switkowski reiterated the well-worn Turnbull point that the average household doesn't need 100Mbps right now, adding that the aspirational target of 1Gbps download speed is arguably insignificant right now.
Ludlam said that the significance of a gigabit, or even 100Mbps, is as significant — if not more so — than the change from 56Kbps dial-up to broadband was 10 years ago.
This is an issue where you can see both sides of the coin. While it's unfathomable for us as geeks to think that people wouldn't have a use for 1Gbps download speeds and beyond in the future, it's unfathomable to others that we'd need that right now.
Switkowski told the panel that in 1995, we wouldn't have been able to predict what would have been used online in 2005, and in 2003, he wouldn't have predicted what we use today. 10 years is a long time in bandwidth terms, and building a network for something we think we'll use can be disastrously wasteful if the market decides to use bandwidth differently going forward.
That's why Ziggy would prefer to have a network like fibre-to-the-node that can be adjusted and changed going forward, "almost annually", he adds. Whether that will turn out to be more expensive in the long run remains to be seen as yet.