The NBN finally grew up (beyond politics)

For a few years, newsfeeds, politicians and thousands of amateur opinionists provided a near-constant commentary on Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN). On March 31st, 2015, it came of age, but I heard negligible public comment. The NBN has outgrown its political-plaything status, and is now actually poised to start delivering on its promises.

So what’s the big news?

NBN Co launches Fibre to the Building technology (link) 

So, what?

Well, let’s step back a bit, and look at some of the benefits originally promoted:

  • High speed Internet access for all Australians
  • Tele-health, e-health, including video consultations
  • Tele-commuting, ie work from home (or where-ever)
  • Improved access to government and educational services online
  • Online business interactions


In terms of delivering those benefits, and achieving economies of scale, ubiquity is vital. Covering 10% of Australians might make a service useful. Covering 90% is very useful. The last 10% is where the real value lies. The premise of “virtually all Australians” being connected is incredibly potent, hence the word “national“.

There was much debate (especially between political parties) over Fibre To The Home (FTTH) vs Fibre To The Node (FTTN). In short, the then government insisted that only FTTH would be sufficient for future needs. Without the speeds of a fully-fibre connection, a doctor providing a video consultation wouldn’t be able to see when a patient is trembling.

Most of regional and rural Australia wasn’t to get fibre at all, but a patchwork of fixed-wireless and satellite services. Fixed wireless was initially announced to deliver 12Mbps/1Mbps throughput. Wait a minute, that’s much less than FTTN, and FTTN is insufficient, right? Satellite would be even slower. Also, wouldn’t these be the people with the greatest need for tele-health? How will the doctors see their patients trembling?!

Some readers might want to point out the FTTH acronym is outdated; I should now say “Fibre To The Premises”. But here exactly is my point:

Prior to April 2015, the NBN has not had the equipment, nor the installation processes, to deliver to:

  • blocks of units
  • business premises with more than one occupant
  • shopping centres

In other words, since the first customers were connected at the end of 2011, for more than 3 years, NBN has been primarily focused on one thing:

Houses in Suburbia

To my mind that means:

Politics trumping utility

Anyway, that was then. This is now. Early in 2014, trials began for Fibre To The Basement equipment, leading to the March 2015 announcement. Now, NBN can actually be delivered to a block of residential units, a block of business offices, a small mall or other situation where multiple small businesses share a building. Suddenly, a much bigger slice of Australia is reachable, or will be reachable as the infrastructure is put into place. Hooray!

Another political artefact

At a crucial time in establishing the NBN, Australia was faced with a hung parliament. In order to gain control, the Labor Party did a deal with the independent member for New England, Tony Windsor. Have a look at this NBN rollout map, overlaid with electoral boundaries at that time. Oh look, there’s some little towns with wireless!

NBN vs Electoral boundaries

Barraba and Delungra are covered, Bingara and Warialda aren’t.

Another positive development

In the face of earlier arguments, NBNCo looked to expand the range of technology for delivering the “last mile” connectivity. This is a good thing. Utilising more existing infrastructure (HFC), and FTTN options, means ubiquity can be achieved more quickly.


The NBN is expanding. It has come of age and can now begin its serious work. It will still take several years to get anywhere near the ubiquity that justifies the approach, and I wonder how many of its opportunities will actually be taken up. Ask me in 10 years.

No water?

Water. Oh, how we take it for granted!

Just 48 hours after fixing the washing machine, I was perturbed that it wasn’t filling with water. Well, it was dribbling very slowly. Blocked filter? No. No water at the tap.

I went outside to check the main tap, and saw a crew working across the road, and a lot of water in the gutter. OK, it’ll be a little while.

It’s surprising how many times I attempted to use water, in just one hour, continually forgetting that it was unavailable. We’re just so used to water always being there.

Less than a year ago, I was sitting near the pump in a village in India, talking with the locals. I say “the” pump because it was shared between many homes and perhaps hundreds of people. In this place, there was plenty of water if you’re willing to work the handle, and carry the water to where you need it. However, the water was contaminated in a way that causes people’s joints to swell, especially knee joints. This visit was not about water, but the organisers also conduct journeys to install water tanks and/or long life filters in places that desperately need it.

And here I am, noticing the inconvenience of just one hour without reticulated water.

Maybe now is a good time to donate a water filter to someone who needs it.

Getting clean water from… muck?

The Real Meaning of Peace



Originally posted on Morning Story and Dilbert:

There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures. But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose  between them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all.

But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in…

View original 113 more words

Mark Virkler + India Teammates share

Mark Virkler writes…

Nine of our readers from four countries responded to the invitation to join Steve Stewart and myself on a Journey of Compassion to India. As you will read below, their lives were greatly impacted! I highly recommend you prayerfully consider doing a Journey of Compassion with Steve. He does about six of these a year. It is a wonderful opportunity to minister to the truly needy, while personally increasing in this healing anointing.

Below are some amazing stories! My personal story is in my India blogs. Six days after returning to the U.S. I did a CWG seminar and a healing activation in the evening using Steve’s 7 Step Healing Model. At least eight people received healing as they were prayed for by various volunteers from the evening service. Praise God!

One had a swollen, painful foot released from pain. Another had a frozen shoulder healed (as we prayed 4-5 times for it). For the first time in five years she was able to feel sensation in her finger tips!

Click here for the full article, including testimonies from several team members who responded to Mark’s invitation.


See all entries on this journey: Related articles

little pictures

FramedThere are some things I will never see the same way again.

On a recent “Journey of Compassion” to India, there was a lot to see. Some of it is common to most of human history, though strangely alien in 21st Century Western living. Some things I have seen pictured, others mentioned in text where I can only guess how they looked. I now have new pictures in my mind.

Photography was limited out of respect, as we were there to give and serve, not to make spectacle of others.  I’ve started this list with things I saw, but ended with things I saw myself doing!

  • A man carrying a heavy load (Matthew 23:4). I’ve seen Indian villagers carrying great loads, hanging balanced on a pole carried across the shoulders, or in a basket on the head. The load could be lighter, but then they’d have to walk all that distance again..
    In the same village, some have motorbikes. A strong sense of caste, or social class, means the best tools often don’t  do the greatest work.
  • A fisherman sorting and mending his nets (Matthew 4:21)
  • SANYO DIGITAL CAMERABeasts yoked together to pull a cart. Steering is done by whip. If the beasts are “unequally yoked” (2 Cor 6:14), they’ll walk in circles, or the driver will be constantly whipping one side.
  • Visiting a village, and being welcomed into someone’s home (Luke 10:8-9)
  • Women covering their head to pray (1 Cor 11:5). Not just the fact of being covered, but the act of re-arranging a shawl or sari over the head.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Caring for the smallest in the flock (Isaiah 40:11).
  • Meeting someone at the well (John 4:6-7).  The wells I saw were metal pumps on concrete pads, and each village we visited had more than one, but they were still communal resources. We sat down in the village and talked with people as they came and went.
  • Going up onto the roof of a building to rest, sleep, pray, or sit in the cool breeze (Joshua 2, 1 Samuel 9, Matthew 24:17, Acts 10:9)


  • Going out into the streets and laneways, inviting all people, “come to the celebration!” (Matthew 22:9)
  • Being interrupted by children seeking a blessing (Matthew 19:13-14)
  • Being sent, two by two, to heal the sick and proclaim “The Kingdom of God is near you now” (Luke 10:1-9).SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Then I saw a bigger picture; a picture that contains:

  • Generous (though sensible) giving where there is need
  • Acceptance and love, regardless of caste
  • Broken families repaired and restored
  • Suicidal people rescued, finding hope and reason to live
  • God being honoured publiclyteam small
  • People working alongside each other, in spite of different cultures and personalities, valuing unity and honour above their own plans preferences
  • Compassion and care → lives being changed
  • Miracles → lives being changed
  • Invitation → Salvation → lives being changedsewing graduates
  • Literally doing what Jesus told his disciples to do

To me, it’s a picture of the Kingdom of God. It’s not complete and perfect, but it seems a much better illustration than anything I’ve seen before.

On the same journey, Mark Virkler wroteI have believed for 38 years there should be more to “church” than I had experienced. Now I have experienced the “more” and I never want to go back.

I have seen, I must concede, a transient picture as I visited villages in another country on a very short healthcare & evangelistic mission. How do I come home from that?  How can I remember, and find or build a similar picture in the place where, by God’s grace, I live?

See other entries on this journey: Related articles

Stepping out, jumping in, being pushed?

We often have opportunities in front of us that require just a little faith, a willingness to try something new, the courage to step out of our own personal comfort zones.  Some of these have the God-ordained potential to profoundly change someone’s life. Some can lead to our own maturing. Some can be the first step in a whole new adventure.

When Jesus speaks to people, he knows where they’re at:

  • To the weak and weary he says “I will give you rest. Take up my yoke.. my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
  •  To those who would follow: “Turn from selfishness, take up your cross, and follow” (Matthew 16:24)
  •  To those who recognised him: “I will make you fishers of men”  (Matthew 4:19) See what follows: “At once they left their nets and followed him. [James and John also] left their boats and their father and followed..” They must have recognised there was something much greater ahead, if they dared go.


We knew our “Journey of Compassion” with  Impact Nations would be challenging. It would present many opportunities, but first we had to commit the time and money, and surrender ourselves to a different life, albeit for only 2 weeks. We were warned of of long days, different food, potential illness, and lack of western comforts (like toilets). What wasn’t explicitly stated: we would be put on the spot, invited and expected to keep stepping out in faith.


SteppingAt an orphanage (additional visit, prior to Journey): “The children are all here. You can speak to them now.” Oh, we’re expected to address them as a group?

SteppingOn the first day, after orientation and teaching, clinic opening was delayed. “Go to the people who are waiting.”  No chance to watch someone else apply their field experience, just go heal someone. Um, ok.

SteppingOn the same morning, I was part of the prayer team tasked with walking through the village and praying, healing, evangelising. Those who know me know that I’m not a good conversationalist.  I don’t engage people easily without an existing common interest.  Seeing our group of four contained someone experienced in such outreach, I figured I could watch and learn before having to apply. No. We were split into pairs. My partner spoke Telugu so we didn’t need a separate interpreter, but then I couldn’t understand what he said as he greeted people and initiated conversation. Then he wanted me to join the conversation, and also to start praying for people. Take a deep breath..

Man can raise armPractise helps. Once you’ve prayed for a dozen people, and seen healing actually occur, it gets a lot easier. Fun, even.  Then comes the next step. Healing is a gift from our Lord, Jesus, the Son of God. He is also interested in healing hearts, and changing lives. I said I’m not a conversationalist; I consider myself a most awkward evangelist. Our next responsibility after compassion and healing is to tell the good news of the Kingdom of God. Take another deep breath…

Curious fact: people who have been miraculously healed are quite interested in finding out about the source of their healing. So are their friends and family!

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAOn Sunday, our small groups were distributed to various village churches. People would be called on to give testimony of what they’ve seen God do lately, to preach, or to explain the 5-step healing model we had been following. For me the choice was simple: 5-step model, as I wouldn’t have to decide what to talk about, just how to speak in terms an interpreter can easily translate. It’s still a role I hadn’t exercised in the church for considerable time, but in this place I found it a fairly easy step.

SteppingFor the following service, another group member was struggling greatly with this same step, having also held back for some years after a hurtful experience. We talked and prayed briefly, and are both joyful that she did step out, and teach.

It was in some ways a big decision to join this journey, but it was so clearly God’s plan. I am thankful for the many wonderful opportunities we found to put faith into action, and then to find that faith growing. The opportunities came thick and fast. We often addressed the challenges with “this is what we came for”.  There was usually encouragement nearby. I think I see why Jesus sent his disciples out two by two (Luke 10:1).

Now I hope and pray to keep hold of that faith, recognise the less-obvious opportunities in “everyday” life, and find ways to encourage others to take a step…


When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and tested your faith? If it’s been a while, perhaps you should join a Journey of Compassion !  

See all entries on this journey: Related articles

The dark place

This isn’t where I expected to start blogging. There are other things I’ve pondered for years and planned to write on. This isn’t one of those.

This isn’t a place I really understand.

This isn’t somewhere anyone plans to go, but some just arrive there anyway.

This isn’t somewhere I’ve been recently, though I have been there.

Now I’ve seen so many people from different parts of my life go there, I can’t help but notice:  depression.

A friend from school. A friend from uni. A friend from church when we were at uni. A more recent friend. A close relation. The son of someone I worked for. Some men of great faith. Some people who have taught me much.

Last year my manager, the CEO, passed away.  He’s known to have been struggling with depression and severe insomnia. His death was tied to a less-common sleeping pill he’d been prescribed. For some months he’d been looking unwell, but wasn’t at all responsive to staff asking about his well-being; at work he just brushed it off and got on with business.

From the growing number of people I see struggling with depression or having done so, I can’t see a common cause, nor a “type of person” that is or isn’t susceptible.

I’ve been there. First year at uni, living away from home and, trying for the second time in my life to establish a whole new circle of friends. I don’t want to go into details this publicly, and I really can’t say whether what I went through is even the same order of magnitude as the struggles of various people I alluded to above. Maybe I got off pretty lightly.

I do remember getting caught in a mesh of negative thinking, my brain going around and around going nowhere enjoyable nor helpful.  I remember it came and went.  I remember one day realising that it’s hard to make a sensible decision while spiralling around.  I then set it in my mind that when I’m down, I would not make potentially-stupid decisions. Those should be saved for a time when I’m not down.  That seemed to help, as it took a couple of links out of the mesh.

I’ve heard of antidepressants being prescribed excessively, and far too readily. I’ve also heard strong argument that drugs aren’t the answer. On the other hand, I know of / know some people, including someone I respect greatly, who have seen benefit, and my view has softened over the years.  Apparently the “right” way with antidepressants is to take them to keep out of the “dark place” for a period, while getting help and working through the issues.  That makes a bit of sense to me.

I suspect that in many cases, “working through” means, as much as anything, re-assessing values, priorities, and perspectives. Finding a reason not to be brought down by circumstances.

But I’m no expert here. If you’re reading this and thinking  “you don’t have a clue”, well, you might be right.  If you think enlightening me could be helpful (for you, me, or the world around me), then please do.

One thing I can say with confidence: depression hits more people than I expected. I don’t like that.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 171 other followers