Coalition unveils rival $6bn broadband policy


The Coalition this afternoon unveiled its $6 billion rival broadband policy to Labor’s National Broadband Network project, with the central planks being a competitive backhaul network, regional and metropolitan wireless networks and an ADSL enrichment program that will target telephone exchanges without ADSL2+ broadband.

Shadow Communications Minister Tony Smith and Coalition Finance Spokesperson Andrew Robb revealed the long-awaited policy in a press conference in Canberra this morning, ahead of a technology portfolio debate slated to be held this afternoon in the nation’s capital between Smith, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Greens Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam.

The central planks of the policy are:

  • $2.75 billion for an open access, fibre-optic backhaul network that will provide competition to Telstra’s existing services, with further expected private sector investment of $750 million
  • $1 billion for a wireless network that will address broadband problems in outer metropolitan Australia
  • $1 billion for regional wireless networks
  • $750 million for fixed broadband optimisation to address areas serviced by telephone exchanges where Australians cannot currently get sufficient broadband speeds over Telstra’s copper network
  • Funding for satellite services to cover the small proportion of Australians who won’t be able to access fixed or wireless broadband
  • Existing NBN policy to be cancelled, NBN Co to be wound up and assets sold to the private sector

Robb said the Coalition’s policy aimed to cover 97 percent of Australian homes, with speeds of between 30Mbps and 100Mbps and satellite for the remaining 3 percent. In the press conference, both Robb and Smith emphasised the ability of the competitive telecommunications market to solve the national broadband debate — with Government to step in to provide services where it was not economical for the private sector to do so.

They emphasised the fact that both Optus and Telstra are offering speeds of above 80Mbps in some areas using their HFC cable broadband networks.

Slamming Labor
Robb claimed Labor had already wasted three to four years with its NBN policy and said the Opposition’s policy would deliver the same speeds as Labor’s fibre rollout could — but without “betting the house on a single technology” — fibre to the home — and without “wasting tens and tens of billions of dollars”.

“The private sector is quite capable of identifying where there is a demand for fibre to the home,” he added, referring to Telstra’s recent decision to roll out fibre in the South Brisbane area.

The Finance Spokesperson also pilloried Labor’s National Broadband Network Company, describing it as “a bureaucratic, stodgy, cumbersome and unresponsive govt monopoly” that was ironically operating in the most innovative industry sector — technology.

Robb also labelled NBN Co “a dumping ground for highly paid Labor apparatchiks”, referring to the controversial appointment of Mike Kaiser early in NBN Co’s life. Kaiser left a role as Queensland Premier Anna Bligh’s chief of staff to join the fledgling broadband startup.

Journalists at the press conference did not go easy on the Coalition pair. At times, the questions turned almost hostile, causing Smith — who appeared tired after weeks on the campaign trail to visibly lose his temper at several points. “How many households will get 100Mbps? Is it that you don’t know?” asked one journalist.

“You can’t just walk out of here and start digging a trench,” Smith answered at one point in relation to the Coalition’s lack of network maps for its policy. “NBN Co already has its tractors out there digging trenches,” the questioning journalist fired back.

Another pointed out the Coalition’s biggest ticket item in its policy — its backhaul plank — would not be delivered until 2017 — by which point most of Labor’s NBN policy is scheduled to have been delivered.

Image credit: Screenshot of ABC News 24 live coverage this morning, believed to be OK to use under fair use


  1. I cannot even begin to relate just how stupid and backward thinking this “plan” would be…basically $7b to “guarantee” people 12Mbps, which 85% of Aussies already get…

  2. Unbelievable crap of the highest order. It’s actually embarrassing to read. Surely no one in the tech industry without ulterior political motives could support such a backward technically illiterate scheme.

    DSL, cable and wireless are all unreliable aging technologies and have very high latency and congestion in comparison to fibre. Not to mention DSL simply can’t be installed in many houses in Australia due to copper wire limitations, distance to the exchange etc.

    In comparison Labor will deliver a 100mbps + connection to 93% of Australia, with the rest served by wireless and satellite. A totally future proof network ready for whatever awesome direction high speed Internet access/IPTV delivers over the next 20-30 years. To think our current copper network could possibly match the bandwidth of the NBN and deliver the same level of high speed access to the population is absurd.

    I’m glad the coalition have killed the filter, but as far as the rest of their IT policies are concerned they are way off the mark and lack any credibility whatsoever.

  3. Sigh, I am not a techie or industry person but the whole thing makes me want to throw stuff and stomp about cursing. Is there such a thing as vision or is it politically inexpedient??

    I’m pretty sure many would not have seen the point of a wire network back when, I mean who needs phones. Things move on…. so spend the damn money, wring your hands a bit and decry this horrible policy/process you’ve been lumbered with if you win, but damn well do it. Smile smugly in private.

    Grrrr…politicians, the next one that mentions Mandate, I’ll scream.


  4. I’m a bit comforted by seeing the comments on the ABC article, which are nearly all protests against the stupidity of this “policy”. The last comment provides an excellent analogy between the price of a bike and a car. If you were travelling between Adelaide and my place (250km), which one would you want?

    Like Kristina, I despair of the “who needs it?” arguments. We heard the same thing when ADSL was brought in. I’ll bet Bell heard it when he invented the telephone. “C’mon, I can write a letter, and the Pony Express takes it, and I hear back within six months! Who needs more than that?”

    With the NBN, I get fibre. With the Liberal’s “policy”, my entire, busy rural region gets wireless. We would be worse off than we are now.

    However p*ssed off I may be with Labor (principally Conroy), there’s no way I want Abbott running this country.

  5. It all comes down to cost and trust. Why is everybody trusting a government monoploy to keep costs down. I have just paid my power and water charges. The cost of the NBN will rise in the same way.
    Who else can you get an internet service from, the government wholesale component will be the largest part of your costs. We need more competition, not less.
    Better to risk Telstra and Optus funds than taxpayer funds. My ADLS 2 is good value for money, if it goes up in cost I just checkout the other 5 or 6 companies that want me on their books.

  6. So,Mike Elliott its all about trust is it? You want to trust a man who says “don’t believe anything i say unless it’scarefully scripted and written down” and then when it is written down and he signs it, he reneges . More fool you! You say it’s better to risk telstra and optus funds than tax payers funds.
    a. Telstra is part owned by the government. and b. when big companies like banks and car manufactures fail, tax payers have to bail them out anyway. And just before you throw your children overboard in your search for weapons of mass deception, it’s not all about you and your ADSL. It’s about moving forward to a better future for all of Australian. Not staying stuck in a conservative past. I’ll gve you my rock solid ironclad guarantee on that!

Comments are closed.