The Year in Review 2009 – Australia in Perspective

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The year 2009 has been an interesting year for Australians. Not only we remember the political scandals like Utegate and the Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O’s controversial lie detector stunt on radio; but we also remember how Australians got together and showed solidarity amongst one another via charity work after the Bushfires caused havoc to many Australians living in the countryside in Victoria.

TECHGEEK.com.au now takes a look back at what made the technology headlines in Australia, recapping the top five technology issues that happened during the year 2009. Don’t worry, we also provided links so you can find more information from us or the source.

The National Broadband Network

While the National Broadband Network was announced last year, this year we saw the winner being announced – and it was out of three companies, including SingTel Optus. Telstra made a bid as well, but was knocked out at the first round after its bid basically asked for the money to be used upgrading its network. However, it came to an end when it was announced that no one won the tender, with the Government opting to create a public-private company called NBN Co.

While Telstra’s failed bid left them out to dry, it didn’t stop them working with NBN Co. after it was announced in December that eight million customers would be transferred to the NBN – or 4,000 homes every day.

Govt: We want Telstra to separate!

In September, the Rudd Government announced what would be the biggest shake up to the telecommunications industry since 1997, giving Telstra an ultimatum – voluntarily structurally separate its retail and wholesale arms within 13 weeks or face reforms under law. This plan would be similar to what has happened to BT in the UK and Telecom NZ in New Zealand.

If it did not do so voluntarily, the Government could see Telstra being forced to divest its stake in Foxtel and will be imposed strict reporting requirements and compliance measures under new amendments to the Telecommunications Act if it wants to acquire more spectrum – which it might need for the a possible 4G network.

But Telstra will not be the only one in the firing line as a Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) report found that the complaints received this year were 54 percent more than received last year; with the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, discussing with the TIO on how to crack down and punish companies that continue to mistreat customers.

Digital Television

Five new digital channels were launched this year – GO!, One HD, 7TWO, ABC3 and SBS Two – all launched to promote Freeview. Ten launched their channel first – despite some controversy after replacing its HD channel for ONE HD, leaving HD fans no longer able to watch NCIS and MasterChef Australia in 1080i HD; with SBS Two providing more choice in watching programming in languages other than English.

GO! was launched in August, giving Nine a clear advantage in the ratings as their youth-market appeal pushed Nine to win weeks in the ratings. Seven launched theirs in November, but was more focused in providing content for everyone – from lifestyle to British soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale, but will also see the home for 24, Heroes, Ugly Betty and the final season of Lost.

ABC3 was launched in December, providing a free-to-air channel for children; while ABC2 was changed to act like two channels – ABC Kids on 2, providing preschool programming on ABC2, and then repeats and programming exclusive to ABC2 later at night.

Not to be outdone, Foxtel expanded its channel list. While adding the new free to air channels, they also launched a new children’s channel and several niche channels – including 13 Street, which I should note is my favourite out of them all because of Taggart. More HD channels were included, with Fox Sports HD eliminated to give all three channels a HD simulcast, while FOX8 and W launched their HD channels.

The above image is what was on air from January 1, 2009. Of course, there are changes – like 9SD becoming GO!, 7SD becoming 7TWO, ABC3 added, Ten HD dropped, SBS renaming itself to SBS One, and SBS2 becomes SBS Two – a separate channel.

A need for an Adults-only Game Classification Rating

Despite starting in 2008 with the banning of games like Grand Theft Auto 4 and the public rejection by the South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson; 2009 saw it continue to heat up as many voice their views – with gamers, a movie critic (which you can see above) and a conservative saying yes, while the Christians continue to say no (note: I’m a Catholic and yet I want an R18+ rating). We also saw more games being rejected like Crimecraft, Aliens vs Predators and Left 4 Dead 2 – often for stupid things like drug references, but most are because of the excessive violence.

Atkinson has a challenge next year as a new political party has started up to remove Michael Atkinson from Parliament because the fact that Classification changes needs to be agreed on from all Attorney-Generals. It is set to be running a candidate in his seat after submitting an application. We are going to cover this electoral seat very carefully.

A somewhat early Christmas present, however, came this year as well when the Federal Attorney-General announced a public consultation on an R18+ classification – pushing the dream of an adult rating in Australia closer, just not that close enough. If you want to have your say, for or against, you have up to February 28 of next year.

Et tu, Australia? The Filter gets one step closer to reality

Despite independent Senator Nick Xenophon, the Greens and possibly the Liberal Party opposition, along with the ISP industry and the technology community against the filter, Senator Conroy announced that the Filter will be going ahead in December.

The year also saw the filtering trials happening, despite the Government promising to do the trials on Christmas Eve last year; with Optus signing up after previously being excluded. iiNet also decided not to participate after previously saying it would to show how flawed it was. Primus Telecommunications and a couple of smaller ISPs — Tech2U, Webshield, OMNIconnect, Netforce and Highway 1 — also participated alongside Optus. The results were finally released in December, alongside with the announcement, after finding it would have a negligible impact on internet speeds, despite being easily circumvented, not able to block peer-to-peer sites and not tested above 8Mbps.

The year also saw a blacklist claiming to be the ACMA Blacklist being leaked online on the known whistle-blowing website Wikileaks. The list listed many child pornography websites, along with several porn websites hosted outside of Australia and numerous YouTube accounts and a MySpace profile. Senator Conroy has said that this is not the same list, though there are some common URLs.

Conclusions

On that note, TECHGEEK.com.au wishes our readers a very happy New Years, and hopefully 2010 will be a more happier occasion than what we had last year – and that economic downturn doesn’t happen again, hopefully. Don’t forget to add TECHGEEK.com.au to your Twitter feeds at @techgeekcomau, or become a TECHGEEK.com.au fan on Facebook.