NBN: “The destination is worth the journey” – Simon Hackett

It is unsurprising that Internode co-founder, Simon Hackett, was invited to the hallowed halls of the NBN board at the end of last year. In his 20+ years of internet industry experience, Hackett has been no stranger to the challenges of bringing connectivity to regional Australia.

By Alex Choros and Charlie Brown

It is unsurprising that Internode co-founder, Simon Hackett, was invited to the hallowed halls of the NBN board at the end of last year. In his 20+ years of internet industry experience, Hackett has been no stranger to the challenges of bringing connectivity to regional Australia.

"When I was running Internode, we invested a lot of capital in building broadband networks in regional South Australia in particular," said Hackett, "I reckon we would have been lucky to break even over the course of doing it". Hackett knew there wasn't a "natural business case" to take broadband to rural Australia, but wanted to do so anyway.

"These days I guess you'd call it corporate social responsibility, but I just felt like we had the capacity to do this and the capability to do this," said Hackett, "so we reinvested some of what we earning in the city to make the stuff work in the bush, and we did it because I wanted us to do it."

Considering this, it should come as no shock that Hackett believes "the destination is worth the journey" when it comes to the NBN. "It's much better that we have a new national broadband network than we don't," said Hackett, "I'm a huge proponent of the fact that we need to build the thing, even if we build it in multiple stages rather than one perfect flash."

When the NBN was announced, it was compared to the Snowy Mountains Scheme, the hydroelectricity and irrigation complex constructed in south-east Australia between 1949 and 1974. Despite the grandiose nature of the claim, Hackett agrees with it: "it is that big, it will take that long to build".

"Unfortunately, but unavoidably, one of things a new internet network can’t deliver at internet speeds is the building of itself," he added. "The new way the network is being framed is more complex than the old, so that adds its own challenges".

As such, Hackett says that Australian's expectations need to be managed, and the question of "is it there yet" needs to be addressed; "managing people's understanding of the fact it's a huge project involves real people going out to real streets".

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