*Pic: Underwater Internet cable coming ashore. Image from here ~ http://www.wired.com/2015/10/undersea-cable-maps/#slide-2

Why should the Tasmanian Government fork out $20m to connect to the Global Undersea Digital Cable? [1]

Haven’t we got satellites that will serve us just as well?

Yes, we have satellites in space, with a recent one sent up by the NBN company to service outback Australia and Queenstown.

The SF film ‘Gravity’ surprised movie fans with a cascade of space junk that killed astronauts and wiped out the International Space Station.

Unfortunately, the movie was based on fact, as there is a huge volume of space junk above Earth flying in all directions at high velocity.

Space junk can be smaller than a nut, a dead satellite, or a discarded rocket section.

The Australian Government has committed $150m to the effort to help solve the space junk problem, by using lasers to nudge junk out of orbit and back to Earth. [2]

With satellites being sent into space all the time, the volume of space debris is ever increasing and sometimes an old satellite simply blows up. [3]

Should a couple of dead or living satellites crash into each other, it is feared that the debris flying like bullets could be the cause of a space junk cascade that turns into a maelstrom above Earth, which nothing will be able to get through for hundreds of years.

Imagine a world without satellites.

Whether we like it or not, forking out $20m is an essential business insurance policy, allowing Tasmania to stay competitive in a global market, should our eyes, ears and voices in the sky be lost.

If we are not up to speed with the global Internet, we are not in the race when it comes to the World Wide Web, where speed is critical.

It is an exceptionally sad indictment on human folly that we have done space development on the cheap, filled it with junk and with no clean-up plan.

What were we thinking of?

It would also be folly to run Tasmania’s Internet connections on the cheap and expect to compete globally.

We will be thankful if we wake up one morning to find the satellites are all gone, but we had the sense to invest in the global underwater digital cable, which would allow Tasmania to keep working.

People living in Queenstown would be left in the dark, as NBN thinks satellites will be good enough for them.

If the Tasmanian Government is wise and makes this critical infrastructure investment, we can only hope the politicians will pile the pressure on the NBN company to deliver World-class fibre to every city, town, home and business on the island.

It is great news that NBN is going to double the speeds of fixed wireless connections, but this will still be a lot slower than cable. [4]

Meanwhile, can we demand that the World gets a whole lot smarter about cleaning up space?

We may miss the satellites when they are gone.


[1] ‘Tasmania weighs up $20m underwater cable network investment’
Rosemary Bolger, 11 Dec 2015, ABC News Online

[2] ‘New Australian research centre to remove space junk, save satellites and spacecraft’
Carl Smith & Chris Kimball, 11 Mar 2014, ABC News Online

[3] ‘USAF satellite blows up in Earth orbit: Mystery ‘temperature spike’ explosion adds 43 pieces of debris to region around our planet’
Jonathan O’Callaghan, 3 Mar 2015, Daily Mail

[4] ‘NBN doubles fixed-wireless speeds’
Corinne Reichert, 6 Dec 2015, ZDNet