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Who really invented the internet in Australia

Ben Grubb (via SMH) | June 28, 2013
Despite what Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says, Malcolm Turnbull is not the man who "virtually invented the internet in this country".

Others such as Robert Elz at the University of Melbourne, Alan Coulter at the University of Queensland and Robin Erskine at ANU were also pioneers of the internet in Australia.

Under AARNET, Mr Huston and his colleagues connected Australian universities to each other and other universities in other countries - well before Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull got involved. They then helped private companies such as Internode get in on the action and provide a service to ordinary Australians.

To make matters more awkward for Mr Abbott, Mr Huston is one of the experts who dubbed the Opposition's NBN plan a "lemon".

"... Quite frankly, 25Mbps in 10 years' time - that speed is going to look like what a [dial-up] modem looks like to us today. Too little, too slow, too backwards," Mr Huston told me in April.

According to Mr Huston, it was the night of June 23, 1989 when Robert Elz of the University of Melbourne and Torben Nielsen of the University of Hawaii completed the connection work that brought the internet to Australia. It was a 56 Kbps satellite circuit and the Australian end used a Proteon P4100 router.

The only involvement Malcolm Turnbull had with the internet in Australia was being one of the directors and key investors in internet service provider OzEmail through the 1990s. He was later its chairman. Even then, as pointed out by tech blog Delimiter, he was primarily involved in its financial management. In no way did he "invent" the internet in Australia. In fact those who truly "invented" the internet are in the US.

You could say Malcom Turnbull helped bring the internet to ordinary Australians with his investment in OzEmail. But he did not - I repeat - did not invent it in Australia.

If Mr Abbott is interested in who really brought the internet to Australia he should read the very good e-book "AARNet: 20 Years of the Internet in Australia 1989-2009" by journalist Glenda Korporaal.

Lots of people like to claim they were involved with inventing the internet. Malcolm Turnbull is not one of them.


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