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Australia’s Troubled National Broadband Network Delivers a Fraction of What Was Promised

The newly elected government will inherit a floundering AUD $51 billion broadband network that’s providing slower service to fewer properties than planned

3 min read
Photo of technicians installing a portion of Australia’s National Broadband Network.
Too Little, Too Late: Technicians install a portion of Australia’s National Broadband Network, which is behind schedule and over budget.
Photo: NBN

On 18 May, voters in Australia’s federal election will determine whether the Liberal-National Coalition will remain in control or the Australian Labor Party will win the government. Either way, the new leaders will have to contend with the National Broadband Network (NBN), a lumbering disaster that began as an ambitious effort by the Australian government to construct a countrywide broadband network.

When the NBN was first proposed in April 2009, the government aimed to build a fiber-optic network that would deliver connections of up to 100 megabits per second to 90 percent of Australian homes, schools, and workplaces within eight years. A decade later, however, the NBN has failed to deliver on that promise. NBN Co., the government-owned company created to construct and manage the network, now expects to deliver 50 Mb/s connections to 90 percent of the country by the end of 2020.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
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Carl De Torres
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When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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