This working week ended with a nice and sunny Friday afternoon in Melbourne CBD. Around noon the corner of Swanston and La Trobe streets was occupied by a rent-a-mob showing placards and signs with slogans claiming that most banks are charging fees left right and center. Or more sharp words to that effect. But there is now an everyday transaction bank account will actually pay you. The mob was handing out blister cards with a fifty cent piece glued on to anyone passing along, spinning the gospel of a bank account that doesn't charge any fees but pay you on transactions instead.
At the nearby State Library of Victoria another sort of crowd was gathering to attend an Industry Briefing staged by the NBN Co Ltd. Attendance was initially free for anyone taking an interest, but later limited to one person per organization to match better with the available space. There was a formal registration desk with four attendees, whom swiftly checked the invite lists and matched the incoming people with their respective name tags. Somewhere behind the marble library pillars the NBN Co Supremo Mike Quigley was visibly present, conversing with the guests and apparently keeping an eye on the proceedings.
The auditorium of the State Library filled up quickly. There were three NBN officials already manning the stage, apparently known as Christy Boyce - Head of Industry Engagement, Jamie Chard - Leading Technical Specialist, and Matthew Lobb - GM Industry Consultation and Engagement.
The briefing session started on the dot with the appearance at the lectern of a neat young lady, reading a nice welcome note from paper and outlining the audience microphone routines for question time. All well and good, but the otherwise routine introduction then took an unusual turn with an air stewardess style instruction on emergency exits and toilets, switching off all phones, what to do when a whoop-whoop fire alarm sounds, and what not to do unless instructed by auditorium staff. Awel, we're all frequent flyers these days so one more of these flight briefings didn't really dampen the mood of the audience.
The pace was then set quickly by Christy Boyce, presenting some more details behind the NBN Co consultation paper as published during December 2009. If you did not read this document as yet, please download it from the NBN website here. Christy continued by asking the audience to actively participate by raising issues and discussing solutions as much as practical. Written submissions are invited until 12 February 2010.
Jamie Chard provided some more insight into the network engineering aspects. Whilst prmarily offering a Layer 2 wholesale service, the network will still have to be Layer 3 aware for various reasons like multicast services, analogue telephone adapters, etc. Many of the details are still to be worked out. Network resilience will have an important place in the planning, looking for ring and mesh type redundacy wherever possible and practical.
Matthew Lobb presented a view to encourage Industry participation wherever possible and practical. All three NBN presenters made it clear that the project is very large. Many hurdles will be ahead. But all three presenters appeared to be in good spirit and well equipped to meet the challenges.
Question time started with the NBN Supremo Mike Quigley joining the forum on stage, cracking a joke on his Aunty asking him when the new broadband network will be ready. Well, that will be a while.
For well over an hour a lively question time discussion kept us all engaged. It seems that all the members of the NBN Co forum on the stage were completely at ease with whatever questions were raised and had no trouble responding promptly and accurately. Although some of the more sticky questions were quickly done with by referring the policy decision making process to the NBN Co shareholders, or deep technical issues to yet to be defined resolution processes. All expressed the view that many more interaction sessions with Industry will be needed and organised wherever appropriate. The project is very large and can only succeed with widespread support and Industry participation. Hence, Christy Boyce closed the meeting with the promise that many more briefing sessions will follow, but then more focussed on the very specific issues. Again, Christy asked to please provide as much input as practical on the NBN Co consultation paper and do so before closing date of 12 February 2010.
And on that note, the audience dissipated into the Melbourne CBD to celebrate the coming weekend. Knowing that "Broadbanding Australia" will pick up pace pretty rapidly now. Watch this space!