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Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications
05/05/2011
Role and potential of the National Broadband Network

BONE, Mr Richard, President, Western Australian Internet Association

MAXVILLE, Ms Valerie Ruth, Private capacity

[15:38]

CHAIR: I now welcome representatives of the ICT Industry Collaboration Centre of Western Australia to today's hearing. Do you have any comment to make on the capacity in which you appear?

Ms Maxville : We are in a transition with the ICT Industry Collaboration Centre of Western Australia going to a different form, so what has happened is a lot of our member associations, like the Australian Computer Society and AIIA, have already presented. In that sense it was not quite the right thing to come in and do another presentation for them. So that is why I am appearing as a private individual.

CHAIR: I should advise that although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath the hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. We do not have a written submission from you. Would you like to make some opening comments about your view and what you would like to contribute to the terms of reference and then we will have a question and answer session.

Ms Maxville : We looked through the terms of reference point by point, but one of the things we feel is that the NBN in itself is not enough. There needs to be a lot of work to get the community ready for it, business ready for it and educators ready for it, so incentives to encourage the innovation required would be good.

It is interesting that a lot of the things we are talking about are possible now. It is about the change in focus, to make people say 'This is going to be our primary way of doing work or a very important way of delivering services' that will get people moving on it. It is not that you do not have the ability to videoconference now or to have your e-commerce solutions at this point. I work in the education sphere as well and, from my perspective, it is the amount of training that will be required—even teaching my dad how to use his computer. There is a lot of the population in that demographic, and they did not grow through computers. I had a computer from the age of 13, so it is a different perspective. There are a lot of people that will be left behind and they will not know what they do not know. So it is a huge undertaking to get people ready for this change, where the expectation is that for certain services you need to use your broadband connection.

Mr Bone : Certainly, one of the things that I looked at when we were asked to appear was the principle of the NBN as distinct from the implementation that is being adopted by NBN Co. and I think there are potentially a number of ways to achieve the principle. I see that principle as being a high standard of internet connectivity for all Australians, so ubiquitous access. Further to that, as Valerie mentioned earlier on, we are well aware that the AIIA, the IIA and ACS have made national submissions and so we have not sought to reiterate what they have said, which is very similar to our view, but rather have looked at the things that are specific or perhaps more relevant to Western Australia and, certainly, my association is based here. The landscape here is a little bit different, as you would realise. We are the largest geographic area and so there are some challenges here that will not be the same as in other parts of Australia. We went through each of the criteria and made a few comments on them. Would you like us to cover those now, before questions?

CHAIR: Is each of those criteria from the WA perspective?

Mr Bone : It is, yes. We do not have a huge amount of material to cover there. We could certainly attend to it in questions afterwards.

CHAIR: If there are particular aspects of the experience here, as a state, for each of those criteria that would be useful to us.

Mr Bone : With regard to the delivery of government services and programs, one of things that you notice if you live in WA is that you are in a different time zone. My personal experience, for example, in dealing with the Taxation Office is that it is a challenge. I run my business through the day and I get home to find the ATO hotline has closed down. So the ability for the ATO and other federal government agencies to engage with the internet would certainly help to provide the service to Western Australia to a greater degree than it would to the Eastern States. Having said that, there is certainly ample opportunity for the government to engage in the internet today. Organisations like Centrelink and the ATO really have quite rudimentary engagement with the internet at the moment and they could do much more.

CHAIR: That is interesting because we have had evidence that the ATO is one of the leading organisations in government departments. That may just be off a low base.

Mr Bone : Yes. Perhaps part of the difference is that from my professional perspective I am in the process of taking people to the leading edge of engagement with the internet. I have six business activity statements to complete every quarter and a range of dealings with the ATO and, yes, they are not fully engaged. Whilst they might have spent a lot of money on it, it is still very difficult to get any form of engagement. They take three or four weeks to respond to an electronic message. To me, that is not engaging with this sort of technology. Telepresence is the opposite extreme to three or four weeks to respond to an email.

Ms Maxville : I think the recurring theme is going to be about training and support, because we have people, certainly in Western Australia, who cannot get to an agency; they are not going to be able to have access. At the moment, they are only using the phone help line. So that will make a bigger difference to our population. But, at the same time, from the work perspective, it is one thing to be responding to emails and being able to time that, but if you are looking at telepresence as people talking to you, that is actually in your space and you cannot multitask around it. In the workplace, that will make a big difference. If we are expecting people in Centrelink and the tax office to be able to deal through telepresence with all the people, that is actually an increase in the amount of time it will take, because they cannot be thinking of it while they are doing other work. It is synchronise time. While that is good for some things, it will impact on the way they do their jobs. I think what has been happening is that they have probably been distancing themselves further and further from people by being able to do things by email and by telephone, and that will be a big change in the way that the work is done. But it would be a big gain for the Western Australian population to be able to talk to someone and get that feedback. Far more information can come from a conversation with someone face-to- face, which it will be to an extent, than via email, which can take iterations to get a solution.

CHAIR: It is a really interesting point. It is something I have put to people on a number of occasions concerning all these wonderful new applications. Particularly in the local government area a lot of stuff is talked about. We are very conscious, as MPs with a public contact role, that between email and online generated mail and so forth there is this expectation that there will be all this contact; but, at the end of the day, you are one person, and so your capacity to do all of those things is limited. It is interesting that you raise the point in terms of the people in Centrelink and the tax office and so forth. Are we setting an expectation that people will get more face-to-face contact, or are we saying that it will only replace those cases where people have to have face-to-face contact anyway but they will have to travel into the city to meet with someone? Do you have a view on what might be a constructive model and what we should be thinking about in that area?

Ms Maxville : I think they would be able to look at when they think it is required to have that face-to-face meeting and bring someone in. That would probably be a guide to which times it would be. But there is also the record keeping. Once you used to have letters and you had to keep a record and answer any letter; now you have to do that with email. If it is somebody coming in via video conferencing, does that mean it is something that you have to record? Does it have the same status? All of these different modes of communication are going to impact on the way people work.

CHAIR: It is very interesting point. The time zone thing was really interesting too. That has not been raised with us previously but—

Mr Bone : It is specific to WA.

CHAIR: Exactly. Although, there is the Queensland experience, which is not quite as dramatic in terms of the amount of time.

Mr Bone : Three hours in summer for us, which is a big issue. The call centres really are closing down. Whereas they may have been open to 6 pm or 7 pm on the east coast, they are gone by the time it is 7 pm here.

CHAIR: You might have a niche market in WA that could provide call centres with extended hours when the eastern state ones are shut down.

Ms Maxville : There is some of that for the WA call centres.

CHAIR: Some of the businesses have said to us that being a southern hemisphere country we have a time advantage in providing services during the shutdown night hours of the northern hemisphere.

Mr Bone : We do have customers who do that. They do an overnight service, but they have a full working day to service a customer in an overnight scenario.

Ms Maxville : Some of the companies put their studios eight hours apart around the world. So anything that is not closed gets passed onto the next group, and they can have a 24 hour turnaround on developments. People have looked at Western Australia for that, because it matches very nicely with Europe and the US, which I am thinking must be the other one, as the three points on the globe to do that.

Mr Bone : On the issue of health, you have probably heard the story of the black spots, to which the answer is the ubiquitous access. Certainly Western Australia has its fair share of black spots, so that is obviously a concern where a telehealth solution would be rolled out but some people would not have access to it because they do not have the ubiquitous access. More relevant to WA, though, is the tyranny of distance. Even in a WA scenario, we may find that a health care worker might get assigned to Northam or somewhere from which they can still drive home on the weekend, but there are many parts of Western Australia from which you cannot drive home on the weekend and, if you are in an operational health role, potentially an employer will not pay for you to fly back on the weekend. It is very difficult to get people into the remote areas, and that seriously compromises the quality of care. In many cases, those people that are being compromised are Indigenous Australians and, as we are well aware, the standard of health for Indigenous Australians is very poor. So the ability to have a telehealth program in Western Australia is probably going to have more impact than it would in other parts of Australia.

It certainly requires commitment, though, as you know. I think the Minister for Health and Ageing has a number of initiatives on her plate at the moment regarding e-health legislation and the like, and certainly that is very much required. There is a lot that could be done today which is not being done, and it does need some legislative leadership there to help to encourage the private sector to invest in that space.

Ms Maxville : I think also that for the ageing population there is the monitoring in homes. I know there are people at Curtin University who are doing Smart Homes, looking at the way that people are moving around their houses. There are normal ways of moving around your house, but if there is a problem and the person involved might not move for a while then an alarm can go off. It is about those sorts of things—did they take their tablets? So that sort of monitoring would be possible, but then I think of the security and privacy issues that come with that. The independence may be enough to make it okay. But, with an ageing population, the interfaces to all of our software have to be so much simpler. My dad—I am sorry to bring my dad up—will not use text messages because he cannot work it out on the mobile, the buttons are too small and the writing is too small. All of those sorts of things are barriers to people in different circumstances. Again, there are people who will probably be using more of the government services and the health services, and that part of the population really has to be looked after. I think the other thing is specialists. Even in Perth, the waiting time for a specialist is high, let alone in regional WA, where there are not any of the specialists. So you have mental health problems and things like that where people cannot see anyone. So it compounds as these issues go along.

So we would look forward to seeing a way to do it, but—we were listening in the previous session—there should be studies to say what the value is and what we would lose in having it. Telepresence is great, but does it give you everything? We should get some specialists and some doctors to give their opinion on how it feels, what the difference is and how we can enhance those systems. Even though I am from the computing industry and I should be saying it is all great and will solve everything, I do not think it will. So there are other issues. It is not magic.

CHAIR: There is a danger of setting overexpectations.

Ms Maxville : Yes, I think that is possible, and we do like to get funding. The NBN is great, but there are things we have to be prepared for that will be new challenges that we have not met yet.

Mr Bone : Just coming back to this one, I know you asked the previous participant about examples. In the area of health, we have a customer that perhaps would be of interest in terms of engagement with the internet. They are providing a medical analysis service out of Western Australia, but their service is supplied around the world. Effectively, MRI images taken from locations around the world are transferred through a secure protocol to Perth. Perth basically processes them overnight and sends the results back overnight. So the internet, in that case, is being used to basically enable this company to deliver the service to the global market, and it is all being done electronically as well, so it is actually quite an innovative service. It is not invasive, which is nice and safe for the patients, but it is making good use of the internet. So those are the sorts of things that are possible. Interestingly, it is global market based, so you are able to access the specialists even on the other side of the world.

CHAIR: We have had evidence of people with very rare conditions being able to access specialists who deal with that and where there might be a limited number of cases in Australia.

Mrs PRENTICE: There were those support groups too.

CHAIR: It was certainly in a lot evidence raised in mental health issues. There is a lot of evidence around that. In the WA experience, Curtin University raised it several times that peer support and grouping of people in the mental health area are actually engaging. We have evidence that the two most resistant groups against walking through a door for mental health services are young people and men. With the tyranny of distance and the challenges the state deals with with remote workforces, being able to create those sorts of online peer support groups and engagement which may not be directly badged as mental health is great.

Mr Bone : They are making help available to people who feel that they may have or may know someone who has a mental health issue. One of the key aspects is to very quickly put them in touch with someone that can help them because if they sit at home and dwell on it then it is potentially a problem. If they reach out to the internet then we want them to take that next step and actually reach out to someone, get some help and get their problem solved. The internet is there and it certainly has the ability to do that. Obviously the ubiquitous access is quite important in that respect.

CHAIR: Richard, one of the other things that has been raised with us, which I would be interested in your comment on, was that it is not just ubiquity, it is synchronicity. If you are really going to make the capacity to deliver these services—whether it is education, training or health based services—remotely it has to be good quality video connection and not the tiny little screens that jump in and out, as you often get in the first generation, whether it is Skype or whatever. Valerie, regarding your comment on older people, we have had evidence that one of the biggest reasons that older people are taking up internet is because of Skype connections to family and so forth. Sometimes it seems that it is not technology but, as you say, how friendly the interface is and how valuable the service is. I would be interested in your experience and comment around that issue of the synchronicity issue.

Mr Bone : I will probably put a bit of a dampener on it. To a certain extent the plans that are being proposed by NBN Co are very similar in their technical structure to the DSL technology in that the ratio of download to upload speed is highly weighted towards the download speed. To have your synchronous communication, for example, my communication with you is as fast as you can send it to me so is limited by what your upload speed is. In that respect the telepresence type technology is going to be limited by the ability to have upload speed.

CHAIR: That is not the problem with the technology that is being rolled out, that is the service that is being sold on the technology. Is that what you are saying?

Mr Bone : It is the problem with the way the NBN is being implemented on the basis that the ratio is skewed towards download, because most people download. IPTV for example is a pure download service, there is minimal upload. But when you get into telepresence I have to transmit my image to you so I need to use the upload for that. A good quality upload will use three megabits per second where the NBN is proposing a five megabit per second upload speed, so it is going to use the majority of that speed purely for that one telepresence. If you are in a school environment and want to transmit five streams at the same time you would exceed the entry level capacity, so you would need to look at technology other than the standard NBN connection to do that. Having said that telepresence provides huge opportunities for multiple people to communicate at the same time. Many federal government agencies are making extensive use of this technology already because they realise that it lowers the carbon footprint and saves a lot of time and money.

Mr NEVILLE: In your collaborative centre, do you have a research facility as such?

Mr Bone : No. The Industry Collaboration Centre was about taking the industry associations and getting them together to collaborate on policy and on issues of significance to the industry rather than being fragmented. It was an initiative initially supported by the Western Australian state government, which at the time was a Labor government. They realise the benefit of being able to deal with the collaboration group rather than having to deal with in the order of 10 associations. Valerie mentioned earlier on that the Industry Collaboration Centre is now evolving into a new body which we are calling ICTWA. It is in a state of transition at the moment. Having said that, the subassociations are still relevant and I am here representing the WA Internet Association, which is one of the contributors. In answer to your question, we do not have research, no.

Mr NEVILLE: You have alluded to two things. One was, when we were talking about Centrelink, the advantage of having face-to-face interviews. I wonder whether the question has been tackled by your association and other like bodies with Centrelink. For example, are there studio booths in all Centrelink offices where, on a particular day or at a particular time, people can talk to a Centrelink officer who may be expert in a particular field. Let us say a person who may have cancer, a military veteran who was in the Maralinga exercise where there are particular difficulties and where expert knowledge of the field would be necessary. There is not going to be an officer in every Centrelink who would know about that, but if you could go into a booth every Friday or Thursday, if you do not have your own computer link—and we saw this face-to-face technology demonstrated at Melbourne University—you could get a ruling from that expert in that field on the spot. Has your association done any work in that field, to interact with government departments to bring them into that mindset?

Mr Bone : No.

Mr NEVILLE: It might not be a bad thing to start.

Mrs Maxville : There is a lot of work that can be done in terms of getting groups ready.

Mr NEVILLE: But if you speak for all these people in Western Australia, you have the right to put a point of view, have you not?

Mr Bone : We do. Potentially, Centrelink, for example, have their own agenda which is dictated by the minister. So we could approach the minister when we think there is an opportunity to improve the service. The bottom line is that Centrelink currently, from my point of view, are not highly engaged with technology. In regard to the terms of reference, the concept you spoke about does not actually relate to the NBN. Almost every Centrelink office in Australia will already have a very high quality of connectivity. If a consumer is required to visit the office, they could use that existing technology.

CHAIR: Part of the problem is your point about ubiquity. If as a government department you offer service and a whole lot of people cannot get ADSL—and there are people in capital cities who cannot get ADSL—then you immediately get, 'You're offering all this and I can't access it.' Is that back to your point about ubiquity being so important because these models will not develop while ever there is the potential to be criticised, that you are delivering it in a way that all people cannot access?

Mr Bone : That is right, and picking up Mr Neville's example, if that service was delivered through the NBN and we had a ubiquitous NBN so that every Australian got access, then everyone could access it from their home and that would be an NBN benefit. I want to take your example and say that it is a great idea and it could be done today out of existing Centrelink offices. That would the engagement and then the future will be, when the NBN comes, that it will also be available in homes.

Mr NEVILLE: But you are not getting a corrupted VoIP image if what Melbourne has told us is correct. You sit in a booth in life-size, person-to-screen contact, at high speed with good clarity, triggered by the voice and colour and the like. I suppose the same thing applies if you are a nurse in a bush nursing centre. This is one of the things they stressed to us in Melbourne. The standard of the picture, the colour definition—especially in medicine, where you are dealing with blood, bone and so forth—and, thirdly, the depth of field, for looking into a wound, for example, are available only through high-speed broadband.

Mr Bone : That is correct.

Mr NEVILLE: I just wonder if your association has needled some of these government agencies to start thinking that way, because you speak for all these other bodies in Western Australia?

Mr Bone : One of the issues regarding our associations and our role here in WA is that we have strong affiliations with the national bodies. The national bodies have far more resources. They engage with the ministers. The AWIA, for example, is very active in engaging with health and other agencies about what is possible using the internet and using information technology. They have the financial resources to do that, and they are based in Canberra, where they get access to the ministerial representatives. In WA it is a lesser part of our mandate. I am a volunteer. I have taken time off from my paid job to come here this afternoon.

CHAIR: Sorry—we should have asked you originally what actual businesses you are involved with individually, as we draw on your expertise.

Ms Maxville : My employment is with iVEC, which is the supercomputing and e-research facility in Western Australia. It is between the universities and CSIRO. I am the education program leader there.

Mr Bone : I am working as a senior consultant in a listed company that does software development, particularly software development in the internet space.

CHAIR: Okay. It just helps us to work out how technical to get with our questions!

Mr Bone : I also happen to be quite passionate about mental health. I am a director an organisation associated with mental health.

Mr NEVILLE: That clarifies my final question. Valerie touched on this when she spoke of how you might use broadband with aged care. You have this dilemma that a lot of people in aged care are not computer literate, but if they are literate or if they can be made literate then you can do a lot of home supervision by way of the internet. If we can now design touch screens for children and even more simplified versions for disabled children, why can we not do something similar for older people? The nurse who is supervising a particular person at home could engage with that elderly lady or gentleman, knowing that they would have sufficient skills to be able to carry out a limited number of tasks on the computer through a special program. Have you done any research in that field?

Ms Maxville : It is an area I was looking into a few years back. I know there are people who have done research into the user interface—a remote that can do everything and which is a mouse, so the computer is hidden. You have a screen that can do your television.

CHAIR: There is a manufacturer of appliances that they are currently putting in homes. It is a simplified box, is that right? It does not even look like a computer. Is that the sort of thing you are talking about?

Ms Maxville : Yes, that is the sort of thing. All the services that the person might be interested in can come through the television. It has simplified buttons. Most people have so many remote controls on their coffee table now that they cannot even turn the television on.

Mr NEVILLE: For example, the touch screen might ask the older person, 'Have you taken your morning tablets today?' or your evening tablets, or whatever it might be. I am just interested; are you actually in that field?

Ms Maxville : Yes. I was looking into that, and there are people I know at Curtin who have done some work in that area. It was actually discussed that having the screen talk to them might be confusing for Alzheimer's patients.

Mr NEVILLE: They are the sorts of things we need to be telling the government.

Ms Maxville : There are definitely possibilities there. Certainly the touch screens, which become very intuitive, would be good around the house. Also that needs to be connected to monitoring because, if they do fall, they are not going to be able to get that screen to ask for help. It would be a system and that interface would be the point they would get to when they are able.

Mr Bone : One point noted around the education side of things is that the Gillard government has adopted the one to one program for laptop computers in year 9. That is a fantastic program, but many schools are still not taking advantage of it, even though schools can avail their children with laptops at no cost effectively. The issue to a certain extent is to engage on top of the NBN. The camera, for example, is that thing sitting up there. People do not have those in their homes. To get a patient to be serviced by this fantastic technology someone needs to buy those. I suggest public hospitals need to buy them and need to buy the 42-inch touch screen and make them available to the patients who need them. As the NBN rolls out it would be ideal if there were a number of government programs that rolled out this sort of technology. People will not be able to afford to buy that for themselves; they need assistance.

CHAIR: Although the TV producers assure us that your TV will come with inbuilt cameras in the future. We already have 3D TVs in the home, which people thought were impossible five or 10 years ago.

Mr Bone : Yes, they certainly are. The point was around medical diagnostics. I have a camera in my computer but I am sure a nurse would be unhappy with the quality of the picture. The high-definition needed to make use of the full NBN is relatively expensive. You are right, it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation, like we heard in the last session. As the NBN is there we will be seeing more manufacturers roll out technology will make more use of it. In fact, a colleague of mine bought a new TV the other day and was amazed that it came with internet connectivity on the box.

Mr NEVILLE: When we asked people how they would see this happening one person said: 'In Canada they have the Canadian national railway. They really did not know what it could do until they built it.' I think we have to be a bit more sophisticated in this argument and be able to say to the government in our report that these are the sorts of things that can be done. We need people like you to tell us that rather than just the aspirational idea of what the NBN might accomplish.

Ms Maxville : It is interesting because the people who would respond are these people in the computer industry. I guess universities have responded as well, looking at the submissions. What we talk about at a WA level is starting to work with the other industries and help them along with thinking of what the possibilities are. In the research space I do the same thing. How do you get the humanities researchers to take up these advanced technologies? What can it do for them? There is a conversation that has to happen.

Mr Bone : On the issue of what is possible: many of these products do not need the NBN; they are possible today if only someone took the step to make use of them. What the NBN does is deliver ubiquitous access. Still the majority of Australians could make use of telehealth services today if only the health system were to adopt them. Is that fair for every Australian? No, it is not.

CHAIR: That was certainly the evidence of the manufacturers who we spoke to the other day. They said they rely on particular health services seeing the cost benefit of actually engaging with their products. That is a very pertinent point for us to take on board.

Mrs PRENTICE: This is a little off the terms of reference but you indicate that one of your association's roles is to provide information about careers. I wonder if you could identify for us where we have a need in specific areas for promoting careers so that we can enhance the rollout.

Ms Maxville : In terms of software development, our software at the moment is quite often not very easy to use. One of my beliefs is that games technology is somewhere that we can look at for how we should be developing software and the equipment that we are using. If you have DS or Wii or any of those games consoles, they do not break, they do not get a 'blue screen of death'.

CHAIR: They also don't have your credit details!

Ms Maxville : It does not need a manual, kids can play it before they can read, and it does not break. All you have to do is reboot. That is so different from your Windows machine that is going to get a virus on it if you do not have all your protections up within 30 seconds of connecting to the internet.

Mrs PRENTICE: In terms of careers, at the moment are courses taught through the technical colleges more than the universities?

Ms Maxville : More of the software development and software engineering is taught at the universities. At the VET level it can be very specific things, and also getting people ready for what I would call the trades of computing, such as the people that do the installations and put machines together. They are going to be the ones that will help people with the cameras. There is going to be a lot of in-house support required, because if this is in every home then you are talking about 20 million homes that need—

CHAIR: To, say, set up the TV and all the integrated technology.

Ms Maxville : And then fix it when it breaks. It means every house will need a network. It is probably going to be wireless now, but every time you add a new device to it how do you set that wireless up securely? Most people have got the defaults on and anyone can use it and steal it. There are all sorts of opportunities there just in terms of what the penetration of these technologies is going to be.

Mrs PRENTICE: Have you as an association identified those needs?

Ms Maxville : It has been a tough time for computing in terms of student enrolments in general. Since 2000 it has plateaued, but it is the bottom of the plateau. There has been a five per cent reduction in student enrolments each year since 2000.

CHAIR: I do not know if you were here for our conversation with Curtin about that. I was making the observation that if I want to look for ads in my Sydney based newspapers on degrees in game design and web design it is largely private colleges, well connected into the industry, that are rolling them out. Usually the TAFE based ones are still offering degree equivalents in that area or at least diploma-level courses. Is the university sector part of the reason the enrolments have stagnated or even gone backwards because it is still teaching to the old concept of ICT? We had a gentleman present to us in Wollongong who has got an international software company and employs 20 people who left at the end of the second year of his degree because it was too stultifying. He went out and established his own business in software development. So is the way it is structured something we should be looking at?

Mr Bone : I think it definitely is. I believe that now is the dawn of a major change in the way much of our community operates. In particular, if you look at things like the laptop program the government is sponsoring, children will have a laptop in school. Soon, within a matter of years, all children will have a laptop. Teachers will need to teach how to do that, so that means teachers colleges will need to teach that. That means that those teachers that have already been through teachers colleges will need to relearn how to teach the material on a completely different paradigm.

We have talked a lot about telehealth. That requires a major change in the way that nurses and doctors actually treat their patients, and that will happen over the next 10 years. Over that 10 years we will see the National Broadband Network rollout, which will provide that service to everyone. So I think the real challenge around careers and education is to be teaching normal business activities in the context of a connected world. That means everyone needs to be retrained. That is quite profound, actually. The children that are at year 9 now that got a laptop three months ago are going to have a laptop for the rest of their lives.

CHAIR: They will be a different generation.

Mr Bone : It is going to be different. Valerie mentioned she got a computer at 13 and people who were older than her did not have a computer at 13. Now the kids actually have them all day every day. It is really quite a profound change that is commencing now, and the NBN is part of that change. I think that is a challenge for education and, yes, the universities do need to wake up to that. They need to be teaching teachers how to teach the students in a connected world.

CHAIR: In the innovation space too it is interesting. Mike Symon made the point right at the beginning of the inquiry that the industrial and military sectors drove innovation and technology for many decades. Now it is the gaming and entertainment sectors that seem to be driving the innovation that is then being adapted. Whether it is universities and schools having a presence in virtual worlds or whether it is peer-to-peer game-playing for health rehabilitation, it is those sectors that are driving it.

Mr Bone : I think we are on the crux of seeing marketing driving it. An example of that is Google. Google is one of the most successful companies in the world. It is a marketing company. It does advertising, but its advertising is dramatically different from anything you have seen before. The traditional media company puts out the Wall Street Journal and says, 'Here's 200,000 distribution. Here's an advert.' Google advertises only to people who are interested in the product that they want to buy. And they only charge when you are sufficiently interested to follow that link. That is a fundamental paradigm shift, and that is driving a huge amount of innovation, especially as their funding then allows them to reinvest in new and creative ways to sell more things to more people.

Mr SYMON: Richard, I had a look at your website and you do peering services between members. How does the implementation of the NBN affect what you do there? Or does it?

Mr Bone : The background to peering is that there was one large wholesale provider of internet connectivity, being Telstra, and most other service providers needed to connect to each other. As a result, they had to go through Telstra and pay Telstra lots of money, so the peering network shortcuts that, so internet service providers do not need to go through each other. What has happened beyond that initial implementation is that we are seeing the biggest growth in corporations. Corporations are now taking advantage of peering. They are pushing their internal content out to their employees and to their customers, and those employers and customers are using traditional internet service provider plans. Because they are peering, there is a benefit to the corporation.

Corporations still, at this stage, would live outside of the NBN, but they would buy their own internet connectivity and they probably would not make use of NBN connectivity even into the future. So, in that respect, peering is very much a wholesale service whereas the principle behind the NBN is that it is largely a retailer or a to-the-premises type service. So peering will continue to grow and will continue to be of relevance to the internet industry in particular. In fact, as of this week we have announced a peering service running in Victoria as well.

CHAIR: What infrastructure are you using?

Mr Bone : We use our own infrastructure. The association has points of interconnect, which are similar to the points of interconnect that the NBN has got, and they allow connectivity between the service providers. That same sort of model will exist. Where NBN Co. will provide a service that connects the point of interconnect to the premises, back at the point of interconnect, to get through to another service provider someone has got to create that bridge. That is us. Alternatively you buy it from your upline provider, which may be one of the other fibre connectors, or you may have your own network.

Mr SYMON: So the NBN provides an opportunity for your association's members to increase their business, because it increases its reach, hopefully.

Mr Bone : The NBN is very good for the internet, because it will actually grow the use of the internet. As a result we would expect to see significant growth in demand for peering. It will come from corporations wanting to peer with their employees and customers, and it will come from the retail service providers wishing to peer with each other.

Mr SYMON: The other question I wanted to ask you about is: earlier on you spoke about upload speeds of five megs a second and I am wanting to know what that limitation is or where it is coming from. Is that just picking out a point on the pricing plan, or is that a particular service and you do not have anything above that.

Mr Bone : The reality of how the internet traffic works is that the majority of it is download. As a result the internet protocols that they use actually weights the download against the upload.

Mr SYMON: Especially on ADSL.

Mr Bone : Yes. If we consider that there is a pipe where you can send something in either direction—I am trying to simplify this—there is no sense doing it fifty-fifty, because then what would happen is that the up would be empty whilst the down was queuing up, trying to come through. Those who have studied internet activity have worked out that the protocols suggest that it should be one-to-five/one-to-ten, or somewhere in that order, so that you maximise the use of that technology. Simplistically, that is how you get 20 megabits per second out of a piece of copper—you skew it in the direction of a download, because people want to watch YouTube and they want to download files and things, and they do not really want to send requests up very much.

CHAIR: But I thought that with fibre that was not the problem.

Mr Bone : With fibre, the pipe itself is there but still, to get the throughput, in particular as you rollout a fibre connection to a suburb, you are still going to find that there is a significantly greater volume of traffic going into that suburb than there is coming out. As a result it becomes a bit of a cost-effective game. NBN Co. will be able to release to consumers a symmetric plan which provides the same connectivity up and down—

CHAIR: But it then depends what the sale on it is.

Mr Bone : That is right. Potentially, though, that would come at a premium cost. You can buy it today, but it comes at a premium.

CHAIR: Sorry, you can buy it today?

Mr Bone : When you choose to connect your business to either a fibre service, or even to a copper based service, you can choose to have the same upload speed as download speed, but your price will potentially be 10 times as much.

Mr SYMON: DSL is not cheap.

Mr Bone : That is right.

Mr SYMON: I was then going to say: that is on current usage, but as demand in households and businesses changes over the years—because everything at the moment is delivered to your door, as it were—and as we progress down this path, I suspect from what we have been hearing during the course of the inquiry that more and more content will be generated at the end of the line and sent back up. At the moment I think you are right: most comes down one way. But that does seem to be, not turning around but changing in the way people connect with the world; they are actually putting more of their own stuff out—and still taking lots in, of course.

Ms Maxville : It will get a little bit close at the videoconferencing—

Mr SYMON: My point is that people are now more and more doing their own home videos and sending them up. That is one example.

CHAIR: And gaming.

Mr SYMON: Gaming is a huge one. Sharon is very up to date with gaming and its usage. That is becoming more and more so, and I think there may be some evening out. But going back to the actual specifications, you are right: if you want to have uploads, you can have more upload—you merely have to pay for it. Is that how you would put that argument?

Mr Bone : That is correct. I would just make the point that under the initial plans offered by NBN Co. you will also still have to pay to get a premium upload speed.

CHAIR: NBN Co. is not offering plans. This is what I am not understanding. Are you talking about the retail products that are currently being offered by retail providers on the NBN Co. or are you talking about the wholesale structure of the price? That is the point on which I am a bit confused, Richard.

Mr Bone : The services that NBN Co. are offering have that ratio built into them.

Mr SYMON: So, if I got a NBN wholesale service—100 meg down and 40 meg up, for instance—I can get that and then I can retail it down the line?

Mr Bone : That is correct, yes. And the RSPs will not be able to change that ratio. NBN Co. would have to change that ratio.

Mr SYMON: And isn't also that a technical limitation at the GPON, so it is twice as much down as it is up?

Mr Bone : Yes, that is right. Just on that, I do not think it is a problem. I answered 'maybe' to your question on the change in ratio. I think there are a number of issues that NBN will deliver which will actually push the ratio even higher in the favour of download—for example, the move towards delivering television through the internet. Television runs at a very high bandwidth and will push that ratio up through the roof in the favour of download. And, of course, internet is about aggregation: whilst I am doing a download and Valerie is doing an upload, there are 10 other people doing a download and the fact that she is doing a 40-meg upload is irrelevant in the context of us other 10 all doing downloads at the same time. It all gets aggregated up. It is an interesting game.

CHAIR: Thank you. It has been very, very interesting. There are some fascinating perspectives, particularly around the issues facing WA. It has been very useful for us.

Mr Bone : That was the focus.

CHAIR: It was very, very useful. Any additional information you have undertaken to provide please send it through to the secretary of the committee. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence, to which you can make corrections of grammar and fact. Once again, thank you very much. We very much appreciate your attendance and the feedback you have given us. It has been very useful.