Do we even need a fibre National Broadband Network?


The following post is by Sean Kaye, a senior Australian IT executive. It first appeared on his personal blog, Sean on IT, and is re-published here with his permission. Kaye also blogs at Startups Down Under.

opinion As someone who is very pro-technology and likes to be on the cutting edge, I find myself staring at many of my colleagues and acquaintances in the industry with disbelief when the topic of the National Broadband Network comes up. People I know (and some who just email or tweet me) ask if I’ve bumped my head and forgotten what I do for a living. It even has had me re-thinking my views, but ultimately I keep coming to the same place.

Here’s what I think …

First of all, $43 billion is a ridiculous sum of money to spend on anything. It is even crazier when the country finds itself coming off a $22 billion surplus and staring down the barrel of $100 billion of debt. I don’t think this is at all right now about need, but is entirely about our ability to cover the cost of such a thing.

Our Federal Government, no matter who wins the upcoming election, is going to be spending about $5 billion — $6 billion per year just servicing that $100 billion debt — on the $30 billion of debt on the NBN, you’d be looking at close to $2 billion of servicing costs per year alone!

Why not get back into surplus, in 2012 and revisit this whole situation then? If the US economy fully recovers, Europe looks stable and forecasts for the Australian economy look good and project us paying off that massive debt, then awesome, let’s come up with a plan and build a world class network.

The next problem I have is around the actual execution. Does anyone think that having this big capital works program run by a guy with a hardware vendor background and some consultants is a good idea? Not only that, it seems like they are doing it on the fly. If we’re going to spend all this money, couldn’t we at least see a coherent plan of what’s going to be built BEFORE they start awarding contracts.

This is the exact same mess Labor created with the Insulation Program and the Building the Education Revolution — lots of spend, very poor controls, not enough safeguards and very poor oversight. I’m not a fan of the NSW Labor Government (they don’t have many fans) but thumbs up to Premier Keneally for spending a bit more money on project management and diligent execution — my kid’s school is getting six new classrooms, on time and presumably in construction (of which I know a bit about) that probably means on budget.

When I hear NBN Co talking about satellites and all kinds of other unplanned crazy, this things starts smelling like many IT projects — $42 billion will quickly become $50 billion and so on.

I have an issue with the necessity as well. Many of my colleagues and friends in IT are running around crazily screaming that 100Mbps isn’t enough for people — we need 10Gbps.

Huh? That’s just stupid. Right now, most people are operating on their home internet connection at under 2Mbps and some have gone up to 8Mbps with ADSL2. Take-up on ASDL2 hasn’t been 100 percent — many people have chosen to remain happily on lower speeds. I’ve had Telstra Cable and used to routinely get 15Mbps or more and I’m about as much of a power user as you’re going to find and that was good enough for me. Right now and I’d venture a guess and say for the next 10 years, 100Mbps is going to be more than enough to meet the needs of the average person.

Capacity is my other issue. I don’t have figures to back me up, so I’m openly winging this bit — let’s call it an educated guess. My understanding is that a significant majority of traffic consumed by Australians comes from overseas and presumably like most other countries, the US would be a big part of that. The NBN plan does nothing to increase the capacity between the US and Australia — so aren’t you just building a giant fat pipe to try and suck a pea through a straw? As I’ve said on Twitter, if the NBN included a fibre run to Guam/Hawaii and onto the US, then I’d be more excited. This would go a long way towards getting rid of usage-based rates for internet connectivity and provide a more, “all you can eat” style.

I also don’t fully understand the use cases for all this bandwidth. One of the first things you hear talked about is remote communities getting better medical care. Ok, maybe we’ll be able to move high-res x-rays and MRI results around, but I think you’d have a better chance of finding a unicorn than finding a doctor willing to remotely diagnose a patient over a high speed internet connection. Insurance companies will step in and crack down — I mean we struggle to keep obstetricians from leaving the industry because of malpractice, imagine what this would create?!?

The other big use case is improved education. Again, I don’t understand this. The technology exists today to record lectures, stream them live or have them up for download and with the use of stuff like Skype, people can participate remotely. What are we talking about here, better resolution? Come on!

The final use case myth is around the magical undiscovered future technology that is going to require bigger bandwidth or we’ll all move back into caves and be forced to live like Bear Grylls. That is Future FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) — nothing more, nothing less. People who want this to go through use the fear of “falling behind” as a passive aggressive sales technique.

The FUD runs so deep that you can’t say things like, “I can’t think of anything that could cause that disruption” because the FUDsters jump in and say, “Of course not, it hasn’t been invented yet, that’s why you should plan for it.” Sorry, I don’t go in for that kind of thing. When we get to that Minority Report-style, 3D holographic future, then we’ll surely have seen it coming via a small series of increasing evolutions and we should then react accordingly, but technology normally doesn’t have such abnormal disruptiveness — technology is an ecosystem of continual progress, standing on the shoulders of giants.

My last issue is with the evolution of technology. Right now the Net Neutrality debate is raging in the US. One ugly aspect of where the discussion is headed is wireless falling outside the scope of Net Neutrality agreements. This is simply because the carriers know that the best way to solve the last mile issue is with better wireless technology and that’s where the R&D is going.

Digging up trenches and running fibre across telephone poles is a 20th Century method of solving a 21st Century issue. Then you have the same “technologists” who say we need all of this fibre to protect from “future unknown technology” while also saying that wireless and copper technology won’t evolve — you can’t have it both ways, you can’t KNOW what the limits of copper or wireless are while saying some undiscovered tech will come along and obliterate our bandwidth.

Overall, the best part about my position is, if I’m wrong, we wait a little and then the country just needs to get on with building it. However, if Labor are wrong and spend $43 billion on this network and it is under used and becomes a great big white elephant for the next 15 years, then what? You can’t get that money back again.

Image credit: Clix, royalty free


    • Hey, wait a minute.
      I was second.
      First actually before Sean gazumped me by 0.0000001 of a microsecond on his ADSL2+ connection.
      OK, I’ll settle for third if I get to stand on the podium and get kissed by one of those drop-dead gorgeous French birds from the 2010 Tour de France.

        • I’m taking 4th spot on this list!

          Just get Telstra and some other private telcos to get off their back sides to roll out FTTN now and evolve to FTTH as/if needed. Cheap, fast to deploy – speeds 50-100Mpbs.

          Unfortunately it all makes too much sense for people who have been stunned by the NBN ray beam.

          To quote Eurocomms:

          “For many service providers, the price tag of a complete fibre network overbuild is too steep to justify. An all-fibre network (FTTH) build out is actually a rare undertaking.”

          So rare it’s only undertaken by the economically insane: Two notables are Spain and Portugal – both european economic basket cases.

          Good article Sean!

          Here’s an article on FTTN vs FTTH that I wrote:

          • Your comment “So rare it’s only undertaken by the economically insane: Two notables are Spain and Portugal – both European economic basket cases.” seems to be an emotive comment and not very scientific considering the Spain rollout is scheduled for completion in 2016 and any of the rollouts benefits or short comings can’t be assessed yet.

            You can’t infer just because a country is in economic difficulties their choice to rollout a cable network is hence INSANE! Silly inference…

          • Based on the info on wikipedia about various countries and their preference for FTTH or FTTN:


            there is a strong correlation between countries that favour a full install of ‘Fiber to the Home’ with those that seem to be completely clueless on how to manage their economy.

            See how many times you count the word VDSL2 on that page (VDSL2 is the current standard for FTTN ie. not the NBN approach!)

            Spain and Portugal both chose Fiber to the Home. Both have debt to GDP over 50%.

            But I don’t need to rely on the experience of these european economic basket cases to know that Fiber to the Home is economically insane. We just need to ponder why there was no business case analysis put forward by Conroy or Labor.

            When liberals didn’t put forward their election costings they were accused of ‘hiding something. It would logically follow that we could assume the same about the NBN’s lack of costings.

            But that’s just logic – an old fashioned concept, actively criticized by those stunned by the NBN ray gun.

  1. Good post – but the issue that remains is latency. As good as wireless has already gotten, and it will certainly continue to improve, wireless will always be more latent than fibre, or even copper-based solutions.

    Businesses will NOT cop highly latent, unreliable services without QoS provisions, which is exactly what wireless provides. As Mark Newton correctly pointed out in a recent tweet ( ) anyone who thinks wireless can be as fast as fibre doesn’t understand the concept of the Shannon-Hartley Theorem ( ).

    (Kudos to Mark with that – I’d heard of the principle, but never knew its name!)

    Radio signals are always subject to interference – and wireless is exactly that – radio signals. As much as I do HATE to agree with Stephen Conroy.

    • I agree, I think the latency issue has been highly overlooked in this debate — which is understandable, given that most politicians and even the general public often do not understand that there is a difference between bandwidth and latency *sigh*.

      Personally, I would be happy with 20Mbps for quite a few years — as long as I had the latency of fibre ;)

  2. I’m going to concerntrate on one point as others here have covered other sections quite well.

    If you had gone to any of the presentations by NBN co. You would have seen a very coherent and well laid out plan of what they intend to build.

    Also one of the reasons more R&D money is being on wireless is that it takes more effort to make it go faster than fibre. The next generation of PON is already going through ratification and makes use of a lot of pre existing technology found in 10 gig phy.

    • Craig – I’ve attended every briefing that NBN Co has put on in Melbourne, and agree wholeheartedly that Peter Ferris in particular at the technical design briefings held in March gave very clear, concise and LOGICAL explanations of the very modular network design.

      Nothing I’ve seen from the Coalition before, during or after comes anywhere near to meeting the solution that is the NBN.

      • True — NBN Co has really thought through their network rollout in a way that the Opposition has not. They didn’t hire all those network architects for nothing ;)

  3. “you can’t have it both ways, you can’t KNOW what the limits of copper or wireless are while saying some undiscovered tech will come along and obliterate our bandwidth”

    These are two totally different realms.

    Building and Improving services delivered over the Internet requires imagination and the work to build the applications.

    Improving throughput and latency of RF systems requires an advancement of our knowledge of physics, before we can begin to build the hardware and software that controls it.

    There are orders of magnitude of difficulty between them.

  4. Totally agree with you. And as the first response said, glad I’m not the only one. I do not trust the Labor Government with any such large scale project after what they have done with the ‘stimulus’ – BER, Insultation etc.

    Past behaviour is always a good indication of future behaviour. This Labor Government has shown they are totally incapable of responsible economic management. Why the hell does anyone think their handling of an NBN will be any different.

    • Spot on Avril!

      The currently-proposed NBN solution is just another instance of a failure to plan, or a plan to fail (if you like).

      The sooner we get rid of the current mob in Canberra the better!

      Unlike a lot of countries some of the spectators like to compare us to (eg: Singapore, Korea, Japan, etc) and unless you reside on the coastal fringe, Australia is a goegraphically diverse location, in which case there exists the ‘tyranny of distance’…

      A better broadband alternative would be something like the OPEL project, where those who are located remotely (or are within the broadband ‘black-spots’) could be provided with some sort of connectivity, rather than nothing at all!

      My fiance and I am quite fortunate, as we live about 400 metres from a large telehone exchange and enjoy ADSL2, but I REALLY feel for those who are less fortunate.
      How is it that innovative and forward-thinking organisations like Internode and Vivd are capable of delivering wireless broadband solutions to remotely-situated residents in places like the the Yorke Peninsular (SA) and the outer suburbs of Perth (WA), yet the current Federal Government cannot!?

      I would suggest it’s time for a change and we should be making forward progress, rather than heading into a negative direction, as Julia and Stephen would elect to have us do!

      • like 90% of our population lives on the coast, hell, 25% of our population lives in one city.

        Our population density is fine.

  5. A few points:

    1. Wireless actually makes more sense in some places. I’ve talked to the farmers that live on around here and wireless is a more usable technology for them until someone makes a Very Long Cable that will reach the tractors/harvesters that they spend 14 hours per day in during planting and harvest time.

    2. I think I’m right in saying that it can be deployed more quickly than fibre.

    3. It doesn’t blow over during cyclones and take three weeks to repair.

    Not all solutions are right for everyone.

      • Not one Telstra tower that I’m aware of blew over during Cyclone Larry and that was pretty much the ultimate test. The above-ground poles with phone\power were strewn all over the place. We had no phone\power or clean water for three weeks afterwards. Some other places around here went even longer without any services.

      • Wireless towers aren’t under load from suspending a couple of hundred metres of cable.

        The drag caused by a bunch of cables hanging between towers is much greater than a few antennae sitting on top of a pole. So yes, wireless technology is more robust against some environmental factors like wind.

        Where wireless technology won’t help you is reaching lots of people with high speed connections – which is not an issue in the areas where we’d be using wireless broadband for the last mile, since the reason we’re considering wireless broadband services is that the people are few and far between. The optimum scenario for wired services is for everyone to be living in the same building. The optimum scenario for wireless is for very few people to be living within, say, any given 50km diameter circle.

        The way I would approach the challenge of providing high speed broadband to rural Australia would be to subsidise the installation of (a) wireless infrastructure and (b) backhaul from population centres. That is, a 3G/4G tower and fibre optic trunk line wherever there’s a pub.

        I live in Canberra where we have a company providing fibre optic network to the town. The catch is that the technology is expensive to install and maintain so everyone is just using naked ADSL 2+ rather than the fibre optic network. Part of the problem is the forced bundling of Telephone, TV and Video on Demand services when all we want is broadband (because we use VoIP or mobile phones for phone calls). In some parts of Canberra it’s cheaper to just get an iPhone on a plan and use tethering for Internet access – no good for gaming, but perfectly functional for web browsing, and we can work around jitter/latency issues by buffering Internet radio or video for a few seconds.

    • “Wireless actually makes more sense in some places. ”

      If you look at the NBN plans, it wasn’t intending to put fibre to EVERY single house everywhere – somewhere in the order of 97% I believe. The rest was to be covered by some other form of technology – probably wireless.
      In those areas, population density is low enough that wireless frequencies are unlikely to be saturated.

      I gotta say though – Mr Joe Farmer out on his tractor or ute in the back paddock is a pretty slim edge case, and technology to support his usage scenario is not going to work as an option for a suburban neighbourhood needing internet access.

      • Joe Farmer* isn’t an edge case in this region. Joe Farmer is what drives the economy around here and in many places in Australia. Where do you think all your bananas and sugar products come from?

        * More likely to be Giuseppe Farmer around here :)

        • Exactly!

          In fact, the next time you enjoy a meal, thank a farmer!

          If you can read this, thank a teacher!

          Enough said…

          • Without physicists, electrical engineers, theoretical computer scientists and the internet community at large, you wouldn’t be reading this at all.

            In ten years from now, when Australia has been left behind the rest of the world because Abbott/Robb/Smith decided to score some political points rather than make a revolutionary change to the economy, and it will cost twice as much to build, you’ll be the people screaming: “why didn’t why build this 10 years ago?”

          • Maybe a stupid question, but when ever has technology cost more in the future than it did in the past?
            Are people prepared to say that fiber optic is the pinnacle medium of data transmission, or do you think that maybe someone will find a better way thus making our ‘future proof’, must have now NBN, @ gods knows what cost obsolete and in need of major funding to prevent us being a broadband backwater. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

            I take the same position as the author of this article, get the money back in and then make a real business case to spend it…

          • Not trying to be a smart arse but wouldn’t that be inflation, which in real terms means that the labor component hasn’t actually increased? I’d expect a decrease in the cost of the technology and would therefore assume that actual costs would decrease.

          • Increases in labour costs generally outstrip inflation – particularly in the information technology arena. So the cost will most likely increase. Add to that the lost potential GDP growth from NOT doing it now, and overall, you’ve ‘cost’ yourself more.

          • What people fail to mention often enough is that this 100Mbit/sec network can easily be upgraded to 10Gbit/sec with simple change in end user equipment (much like ADSL modems replaced 9.6k modems).

            Also, yes, the laws of physics currently tell us that optical fibre is the “pinnacle medium of data transmission” for the foreseeable future, barring quantum entanglement!

          • Ever tried building a new road or railway (or heaven forbid, a fibre-optic cable network!) through a city that’s completely built up versus one that ten years earlier had lots of empty space?

          • Perhaps that is a PRO for wireless technology though? No (or limited) need to uproot existing environments? Not everything is about speed.

        • What is the nature of Joe Farmer’s internet use while on his tractor? Streaming video? Delivering content? If he uses it for any dowloadable content ,why not download it to his iPod while at home in the evening?

          Just like tens of thousands of city commuters do.

          • …maybe because Giuseppe Farmer has a front gate on the main road (where the fiber runs) which is 20km away from his lounge room.

            Would you care to define the point of entry, determine the transmission technology (including identify the point of conversion from optics to electrics), and ask who is going to pay for that 20km of connection?

            FTTH sounds fine in theory where population density is akin to Europe, Asia or North America. Not sure how well it scales outside of metropolitan or regional centres.

          • farmers are business operators, and are often long distances from their customers, suppliers and markets which means that they can benefit more than urban businesses from large bandwidth capacity, particularly for video streaming, real time updates, and GPS based control and coordination of machinery, irrigation and other equipment. and yes domestic use as well including entertainment, education (an extension of school of the air) and health.

    • Yes, Wireless is a viable solution for farmers and Labors NBN will cater for those farmers because the NBN optical fibre won’t be in those areas and will be serviced by some kind of Wireless technology. That is the whole point of the NBN. Not EVERYONE will get the optical fibre and these farmers you’re talking about will most likely be serviced by the very wireless technology that you are talking about

  6. One last thought.

    Can anyone foresee any service that will be actually need 100MB/s (apart from torrenting *cough* Linux distros *cough*). Just asking :)

    • What people need to understand is that the piece of fibre provisioned into your home is not just about the internet. The NBN design allows for FOUR seperate and individual services to be provisioned into each premise.

      You might have 20Mbps for your internet through iiNet. 20Mbps for subscription television through Foxtel. 2Mbps through Engin for your voice service. 10Mbps for a home health service for your frail old mum living in the back room.

      The idea that it’s 100Mbps for internet and internet alone is a fallacy.

      • The thing is – if you provision it as a flat 100Mbit IP service, and stick a QoS aware home gateway and wifi access point – all sorts of fun starts to happen.

        Suddenly it’s feasable to stream high-bitrate 1080p movies as you want them from a subscription service.
        You’re not locked into needing Foxtel to come out and provision your service. You simply hook your TV up and start getting content. No need for set top boxes.

        If you wanted to – you could get Foxtel’s basic package. Then because you’re a soccer nut, and Foxtel doesn’t cover soccer that well, get all of the World Cup games streamed live from another service.

        If the kids are downloading stuff in the back room, and you’re watching two 1080p streams on the TV (PIP/Multi-Angle/whatever), and gran’s dialysis is going, then you get a call – the QoS tagging will ensure that the traffic is appropriately managed and prioritised.

      • 100 MB/s just for Internet alone is what all the pollies are talking about though – apart from washing machines (which as I mentioned on Twitter doesn’t need more than 56KB/s to interrogate our monopoly power supplier’s database for the best deal).

        Something else I’ve said on Twitter to anyone that would listen is that any scheme should level the playing filed for the bush first before buying votes in the cities. Give us 12MB/s now and we’ll be happy for years to come.

        Lastly, the online medical stuff. If mum is seriously ill it’s an ambulance and a nearby hospital that will save her life, not a diagnosis that cannot be acted upon.

        • The pollies are playing political point scoring games with each other. Neither side care about their own policy during the election campaign – they are just trying to shoot down the other’s policy.

          Rest assured – I’ve been to every information session NBN Co have held – (as it directly effects my own role in the industry) – NBN connections, if and when they get off the ground, allow for the provision of multiple services into each premise.

          I hate Conroy every bit as much as the next person, but the one thing he’s actually gotten right in the last three years shouldn’t be allowed to die, just because he has zero idea about the internet in general.

      • Michael, another question if I may.

        You say that the 100 MB/s is split up for several services. Who chooses the split ratio? Is 20MB/s the max for general Net usage?

        • I’m sure that some ISPs will offer 100Mbit (at a premium price) – there’s no theoretical maximum as I understand it (up to 100Mbit of course).

          It’s up to individual service providers to offer whatever size connections is right for their own financial models.

          • I was referring to your split of 20 for general use, 20 for Poxtel and so on. Is that fixed or were you just illustrating a typical user?

          • I don’t know what the exact numbers would be – merely trying to illustrate the point that the entire 100Mbit does not necessarily have to be committed to “internet” per se…

        • ML Atkin,

          Can you stop thinking about what can be done now? When we put the telephone cables down they hadnt invented the internet or thought that data could be transferred over it. The optical fibre being laid down isn’t just for downloading pirated movies. There are a multitude of applications.
          1. I am a dentist with two separate physical practices and I want a fast connection between both surgeries to facilitate communications of patient records and payment systems. I also can’t afford to pay the exorbitant $2000-$5000/month for a current SHDSL connection.
          2. I am a doctor who wants to do locum work remotely whilst a qualified nurse who lives locally can communicate with me over a fast HD video connection using HD cameras to give visual representations of issues arising.
          3. I am a school student in a rural town who has a project and I connect to high speed connections to libraries around the world or in city centres that have better resources and it doesnt take me ten hours to download the information
          4. I am an avid movie fan that lives in a rural centre but due to this the movies don’t come to my local video store. I connect to a subscription based service and have a huge libary to choose from. Same goes for other forms of media.

          These are just things that I can think of NOW. But the future is the future and many great things are to come. Many SE Asian countries like Korea and Japan are starting to upgrade their 100mbit networks already to 1gbps because of demand for it. To say that there is no economic, social, environmental or health requirements for these technologies is just small thinking.

          • Here here. I totally agree with you. The NBN is about the future and everyone is thinking about right now.

            Wireless is fine for smaller densities but when you are talking a high density environments, making it work is far harder than you think. Even now, broadband wireless is high latency garbage compared to ADSL or Fibre. The first is like a 1.5ltr cheap Korean import, the latter is your sportivo Camry. Saying one is as good as the other is laughable. The fact that Fibre can do 100MB is superflous, the reliability and responsiveness of dedicated connection beats wireless hands down.

          • Some things we might be using in the future requiring huge bandwidth (that we can think of NOW):

            1) holography/virtual reality/telepresence
            2) cloud computing (e.g. OnLive.Com)
            3) distributed computation (research purposes)

            Just because you can’t imagine it, doesn’t mean it won’t exist and that somebody else won’t.

          • My first cable connection in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, came with a whopping 200mb data allowance, of course in those days Flash didn’t exist, and the majority of content available thru the internet was text. I believe that was ’95 and the reasoning was that the Telstra tech’s who had been testing the service prior to implementation had been unable to reach anything above 600mb in a month. I doubt an option like that would wash these days. (even though $T still offer it)
            So anybody willing to categorically state that x will never be used, wanted or needed in even 10 years time has obviously a grasp on the future that the rest of us don’t.
            Living in a regional area that is RIM’d by $T, I take little for granted. I do know that Tony’s plan is likely to keep me RIM’d for the immediate future, while the other option gives me immense hope.

          • I doubt many people disagree with the current limitations and problems experience by business and internet users currently. However that in itself might not justify spending $43 billion on upgrading every household to the speed/standard that allows the ‘best case’ usage of the technology.

            If a dentist or medical practitioner is in need of better IP connectivity (and its not available on a reasonable commercial basis) the government could spend a small fraction of the current proposed cost installing backhaul and or other infrastructure into rural/regional and metro centers.

            At this point private enterprises could affordable provide services to end users and businesses. Just as currently occurs in major cities. This solution allows for slower/cheaper connections for any home users who wants one, if a user wants a faster connection – they can pay for it. The dentist can pay for it (and increase his efficiency/profit along the way).

          • Ahh, a doctor, we’d like some of those in the bush too. And maybe a couple of hospitals. How much does a hospital cost and how many could we build for $43Bn? An HD video diagnosis sounds fab but the long distance to actually get some treatment and the ever lengthening waiting lists make it just an empty hope for some.

            It’s all very well people banging on about “the future” but the “the past” in the cities is more “the now” in the bush.

          • It’s not just about treatment – its also about consultations. A lot of doctors (for example GPs) time is taken up by short consultations – a chat and a look over is all that is needed.
            My Dad is a GP and he practiced out in the riverina back in the 80s and 90s. I can tell you a lot of time and hassle could be spared for his patients who had to travel to town from their farms just for a consultation.
            There are times when a GP visit isn’t for a physical ailment – for instance some patients just need someone to talk to about an issue troubling them or they just need a referral.

          • Hi Jenna
            Yep, why drive and wait when you can request an internet consultation and then make a coffee until the doc skypes you back?
            Of course, we have a lot of foreign trained but Australian approved doctors practicing here who may prefer to work from home. That is what the NBN is for.
            Overseas out-sourcing works for every other industry, why not medical. It will increase the incidence of bulk billing.

          • You misunderstood the comment.:) I’m all for the possibility of doctors using the NBN for consultations, that is why I brought up the fact that many patients in the country have to travel a long distance for an appointment. Plus the fact that many issues can be resolved just by talking and visual once over, no physical contact necessary = good for NBN.

            I do not agree on your thought on the overseas outsourcing doctors though. Is that what you meant?

          • 1)the dentist does not need a $2000.– a month connection for this (but can probably afford it if I see what car he drives and where he lives)
            2) the doc does not need HD for this
            3) the student can download overnight if he REALLY needs it
            4) you can get DVD movies delivered to your door free (seen the Telstra add? and there is at least one company doing the same)

      • 100Mbps products using FTTN are in field testing now and will be available for sale next year. There’s no need to bust the budget on FTTH when FTTN server the rest of the western world very fine thank you very much – and can evolve, over time, to FTTH as required (as Switzerland is doing now).

        People – get informed. Google FTTN and VDSL2. You’ll realise you’ve been taken on a ride for thinking that the NBN’s draconian approach of providing fiber to the home is the only alternative.

        You’ll feel stupid for thinking this debate is as simple as NBN:Fiber to the Home or Coalition:Wireless. This is IT folks, C’mon, it’s always changing, always getting better. You used to store your data on floppy disks and now it’s on a flash drive the size of your thumb….

        The coalition’s plan was not purely wireless. They wanted to remain open to new technologies as they arrived – well FTTN/VDSL2 is virtually the world wide standard as the successor to ADSL. Even NZ is rolling out FTTN.

        If we insist on FTTH we’ll be stuck on ADSL for many, many, many sad years, especially now that Oakeshott and Windsor have redirected all the white vans from the city roll out to the bush.

        Good luck with that NBN kiddies.

    • There are plenty of legitimate media services, and more coming online all the time.

      The technology is there to provide you 1080p streams to your TV, you just don’t have the bandwidth.

    • Stephenson did not foresee diesel locomotives but both they and the Rocket travel on rails.

    • Backups to an off site location.

      This will make it possible for smaller businesses to have off site backups easier and cheaper.

    • Did anyone see a need for a website to host video 6 years ago… but now it is one of the most vistied sites.

      Did anyone see a need for a second Gateway Bridge 5 years ago… but we had to build another one…

      Did anyone see a need for Cross-River/Harbour tunnels 15 years ago.. but then we had to build them…

      A large percentage of the kids in Primary school now will get jobs that don’t exist now… just as all the sustainability jobs now that didn’t exist 5 years ago…

      Just you can’t think of what it will be used for doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be built…

      • Chaps, I think your analogies are flawed.

        Youtube was developed by private investors, with private money – an investment risk/gamble (which paid off). Many before them failed and the money and investment gone.

        There wasnt the need for the second GateWay Bridge 5 years ago, and when there was the need – another was build. Your example is the opposite of the current apparent rationale for spending $43 billion.

        When there was the need/demand for additional cross river transport – it was built. This happened when there was obvious and apparent demand not because (there might maybe, possible be something on the other side that might maybe need to use this infrastructure).

        Regardless of what happens, the jobs kids in primary school will get dont exist now. Building the NBN or not wont change that.

        All that being said, I dont disgaree that public money should be spent to better improve infrastructure and services. I do disagree with the current cover the entire country with another state owned monopoly for a mazzive $43billion price tag. Frustratingly the oppositions ‘plan’ seems just as ‘unplanned’ as the labor parties..

  7. Well said.

    However debt is not the only issue.

    If there was a business case showing that the benefits were more than $43B plus interest, then maybe the idea would warrant further consideration.

    To my knowledge, that hasn’t been done.

    • Mikel
      Those who oppose the NBN just don’t get it, they can only see the cost. The Liberals plan is just more of the same where 1 or 2 players pick and choose where they want to operate. The NBN will bring new businesses, new services and content. Imagine virtual conferencing where you don’t have to travel on the red eye to get to your interstate meeting. or remote healthcare diagnosis and treatment so those in remote areas can enjoy medical care taken for granted in the city. Where world experts in health and science located in other parts of the world can be involved in conferences here rather than having to get on a plane and all costs and timewasting that overseas travel brings. Where your kids can interact and meet and learn with other kids who even though based in other parts of the world, feel like they are right next to them in their own classrooms.

      Do you think when the first power station and the first high tension tower was built they were worried about the cost, the ROI, the business plan. All they knew was we had to move beyond the “candle”. If the Liberals had their way we would still be riding horse and buggy and lighting candles to see in the dark. The NBN is the power industry, the railroad and telephone system of the 21st Century

      • They weren’t worried about the cost because there was no legislation to sell the entire infrastructure 7 years after completing it… People currently bitch about the high cost of service provided by our beloved telecommunications monopoly, yet can’t see what is coming? The fall of one monopoly for another, yet again paid for by the Australian taxpayer.

      • 1) But we do online conferencing now… with existing technology.

        2) How often would remote diagnosis and/or treatment actually come into effect? Do they need 100Mbps for these services or is 12Mbps for video-streaming suffice?

        3) World conferences will STILL HAPPEN… these events are purely about the delivered material, but about new environments and networking outside of the conference as well. Online conferences are delivered with today’s technology just fine (attended a few myself). Again no need for 100Mbps.

        4) Provided other kids around the world have access to compatible technology. Anyway, as refered to above video conferencing can be achieved today… hey even FaceTime calls via iPhone4… no 100Mbps required there.

        Finally a question for you… are we currently riding horses and lightning candles? Do we NEED these technology in the next 2-3 years or can we wait until the budget is in surplus (no matter who is in power)?

        My 8-15Mbps connection is meeting my online needs (gaming, video-streams, movies/music) fine ATM… I say wait… save the $43 BILLION… implement it in 3 years time when we can afford it.

  8. All I can say in response to this post is thank god I do not have Sean Kaye working in my business. As the CEO of a successful Australian software company there isn’t a single thing more important to the future of Australian business and our position in the world than the NBN exactly as NBN co have planned it. If you cannot in half an hour fill a whiteboard with the advancements we can make with a fibre network to all buildings across the country you should not be in the position you claim to be in.

    As Australia outsources all labour work to countries like China and positions itself as the think house for asiapac having internet connections that in most cases hover around the 1-2mb mark which is so slow it only just streams high def video to a single computer, the NBN cannot be here fast enough and the difference in terms of economic advantage it will give us will make 43 billion look like the price of a big mac.

    • Technology houses are obviously unique in the global scheme. Technology parks and wired up buildings in the CBD can cater for such needs. The number of “buildings” which have genuine business requirements for high speed broadband constitute a tiny fraction of the total buildings (houses+rest) which the NBN targets. Do think beyond your own personal circumstance.

      • Ryan you are a great example of the type of people I was talking about. Clearly your imagination is empty and your whiteboard also.

        We don’t want the NBN for ourselves, we want the NBN for every Australians so they can be part of the future the rest of the world already has. If more people were a little more travelled and visited some of the real business centres of the world they might appreciate how much of an internet back water we are.

        It is widely accepted by some of the best visionaries in this country that we must become the think house of the new Asian lead world. To do this we need to be able to be connected to this world at a speed where you can actually do business. In the future people will work more from home. This will not only save huge amounts of greenhouse gas pollution but also create a better work/life balance. This will need NBN to all homes.

        There are a few areas of metro Australia that have high speed internet. The reality however is that most areas, including (and this the national disgrace) NEW ESTATES built by Telstra in the last 10 years cannot achieve ADSL2+ speeds over 3mbps. This is barely fast enough to stream HD video to a single computer let alone share that connection with multiple users.

        If you think $43 billion is a lot of money over the life time of a project with an easy lifetime of 20 years, try adding up the lost productivity due to the delays we have today and see how quickly you can claw back the $43 billion just in that alone.

        • Andrew,
          Damn right it will be for all Australians – because they will all be paying for it whether they want it, need it or ever use it.
          People like you arguing that I, and my fellow tax-payers, pay for the NBN are just a lot of short-sighted rent-seekers.
          The NBN will (a) cost a hell of a lot more than projected, and (b) end in tears. BER and Pink Batts * 100 …

          Just because you’ve spent your life at a computer surfing the net doesn’t mean you know jack-sh-t buddy.

          • Robert, do you own property? If you do, I find it surprising you aren’t calling from every mountain for all the water pipes to be removed because you pay a water access charge, probably a sewerage charge as well, for a service that you might not “want, need or ever use”. After all you might decide to just use tank water.

            In Australia we have essential services that everyone pays for regardless of if they want, need or use it. You might not think that Internet is an essential service, but the telephone is considered an essential service. Your tax dollars helped pay for the old telephone system regardless of your use or failure to use the system. And at the end of the day the NBN will be the new telephone system. So guess what, you get to pay for it regardless of your wants, needs etc. Sure we are designing this system to have much more capacity that the original telephone system, but then again the demands of telephony are changing all the time anyway. Noone ever thought of or wanted video calling on their telephone 50 years ago, but people use video calling on mobiles now.

          • No-one denies that the telephone is an essential service. But the telephone wasn’t taken up by everyone all at once (in the same way that the internet wasn’t). It is only after the service became so universal that it entered the ‘essential service’ category – and that is why everyone now has a telephone.

            The implication of your argument is that, without the NBN, I could not call an ambulance in an emergency. Perhaps you should try thinking before opening your mouth: we all have to eat and sleep, but it would be an obscene waste for the government to provide a 5-star hotel on every street corner.

        • Your original post contested that the NATIONAL Broadband Network is the single most important thing for the future of Australian businesses. I responded to that. Now you’re insisting that it’s a good and necessary thing for every Kath n Kim to have access to 100Mbps internet. I’m willing to bet that you weren’t the founder of that successful software companty you CEO at which I’m glad I’m not an employee of.

          • @ryan – I am actually the founder of my successful company and I, like other visionary people before me that didn’t have their head in the sand made themselves rich on predicting the future whilst others like yourself made comments like yours as your desperately tried to hold on today as it got sucked from your hands as the future appeared. Cast your mind back to 2000 when music was on CD’s and mobile phones were for business people only. Now if you are in school and don’t have an iPod/iPhone for music and a mobile and use the internet and have facebook etc you are in the minority. That is just 10 years of change. Let me introduce you to the next 10 years where you TV will be delivered over broadband, your telephone, your fax, your internet, your shopping will be ordered online as will many other purchases you make in shops today and services like health, education and many other things will be online. One day we hope to see fridges ordering food themselves, remotely controlling your house from work etc etc. If that isn’t enough for you, add up the savings made from lost productivity today due to delays in network speeds and the carbon savings with a larger workforce working at home and this is a massive deal for every Australian – but more importantly the upcoming workforce of tomorrow. It also means that instead of being the nation selling our minerals to the world we can start to use our highly skilled workforce to deliver services to the new economy in asia. Considering only about 10% of Australians don’t work the NBN is for *almost* every Australian.

          • @Andrew
            What astounding modesty! And surprising, too, since you have so little to be modest about.

            “Let me introduce you to the next 10 years where you TV will be delivered over broadband, your telephone, your fax, your internet, your shopping will be ordered online as will many other purchases you make in shops today and services like health, education and many other things will be online.”

            Most of us already have access to these things. Virtually everything I order is done online. You are obviously living under a rock if you expect these things to *become* available in the next 10 years.

            “One day we hope to see fridges ordering food themselves, remotely controlling your house from work etc etc.”

            Already being done, to a greater or lesser extent. And on our exisiting network, too! Perhaps the CEO of your highly successful company could look at what is available before making such unenlightened comments.

            “It also means that instead of being the nation selling our minerals to the world we can start to use our highly skilled workforce to deliver services to the new economy in asia.”

            Of course! Those poor benighted Asians! You know, the ones in Singapore, China, Japan and Korea – why, they wouldn’t even THINK of upgrading their infrastructure, would they? They wouldn’t have a HOPE of emulating our highly skilled workforce (despite most having populations many times the size of ours), would they? In a decade from now, despite access to world-class education, they will STILL be ten years behind us, just as they are now – nor will they have ANY HOPE of learning those fabulous new skills (which are only obtainable via the fabulous new NBN).

            Just imagine – with an investment of just $43b, our mining industry can close down shop, and we can all retire! The country will be so rich that it would not be worth our while to export our minerals any longer, nor will anyone be clamouring to buy them! All that our neighbours will want is our expertise in IT services (which begs the obvious question: in what sense of the word will their economy be NEW??).

            Yep, I can really see that. You were just kidding when you described yourself as a CEO, right? And visionary? LOL.

        • Andrew
          You are not what you claim, you are a Labour PR flack. I recognise your smug, superior, sanctimonious tone from the climate forums. No-one who has worked his way up in the real world is so off with the fairies.

    • What a lot of rubbish. “There isn’t a single thing more important to the future of Australian business and our position in the world than the NBN exactly as NBN co have planned it.” And you’re employed as a CEO??

      There are ten million things that are more important. Open your eyes, and start working on them now – you shouldn’t need to be told what needs to be done. The NBN, when and if it finally arrives, will only put us on a par with the rest of the world in terms of connectivity – we will not be at a competitive advantage. As things stand at the moment, everyone, everywhere, has about the same level of technology (yes, I’m generalising). If that were not the case, there would be no such thing as the internet.

      We will eventually get what everyone else gets – or vice versa.

      If you imagine yourself to be the CEO of a ‘successful’ software company, perhaps you could come up with some ideas that will give Australia the competitive advantage RIGHT NOW, with our existing infrastructure. And please don’t tell me that you have! Software is not so dependent upon connectivity to make it unfeasible with what we now have — and an improved structure will only enhance an already inherent value.

  9. I agreed.

    Why not wait a see. Remember 3G network, it only becoming popular after more than a decade and we can always catch up.

    Tell me which IT project managed by any government departments come in budget and on time…

    • One I was part of: 2001-2004, global replacement of two networks, $60m, on time, under budget. Commonwealth Govt department.


  10. Although i like the reasonings behind the post, i live in Emerald victoria, a d town in the dandenong ranges. Being a town of 6,000 people we expect certain services but the fastest possible internet i can get is adsl2. and to most people they would say thats fine, well it isn’t when the phone lines are so old that your connection just 1km away from the exchange is 2.5Mbps at best. most of the time it is half of that. And in my house there are sometimes 4 of us using this connection at the same time. We definetely need a faster connection and the phone lines cant support it. And wireless is not a mainstreem solution i need a strong and stable connection for things like gaming, live streaming, and what about things such as pay tv which i cannot get even through sattelite because of where i live. remember i only live 60 mins drive from the city. areas like us need a fast fixed line connection and this can be achieved through fibre.

    Not to attack you or anything i would be happy with 15mbps but i cant get that nor anything close hence to me the NBN is a godsend.

    • Just to add something before people say it, yes i did sign up for foxtel/austar and after turning up to install it they said it was impossible because of the trees and position of the house. WHAT ABOUT ME!!!! dont think about yourselves suburban people think about others in regional areas and those that arent classed as regional but still have 3rd world services!!!

      • Oh my, what about poor you….
        I live in Pakenham on a brand new estate (6+ times the population of Emerald and gorwing by the day) and am stuck with 1.5mb adsl1. I moved from Berwick (10+ times the population of Emerald) and was also stuck on 1.5mb adsl1. My parents live in Narre Warren Sth, guess what no broadband as there are no ports, same for my brother in a brand new estate in Cranbourne north… How about you think further than your own needs, if you can’t get the level of service you want move instead of expecting the taxpayer to fund your personal wishes.

        • Hey Chris we are the taxpayers you are so fond trotting out as being the shills that have to pay for the NBN so if Andy9 and many others want the NBN then guess what, as rate paying, politician electing citizens the government should be catering to their needs…Thats the whole point of systems of governments; to cater to the needs of the people that they are meant to serve. Feel free to voice your opposition, but don’t steamroll over others who have a contrary view just to because you think you have the right of it…how about you look beyond yourself for a change… oh wait thats what everyone else must do to conform to your view..

          I for one am happy to pay a tax for the NBN. I have to pay taxes for many things I dont like but understand the needs of others.

  11. It is easy for someone with cable internet to point out that Australia doesn’t need a fibre network. Try living in a new development and being stuck on a congested rim where your adsl speeds resemble that of dialup. I am sure that you would change your opinion soon after.

    • Or those of us who live in ancient subdivisions, where the phone and internet disappear when ever the rain gets anything above a trickle.

      The copper network is dying – it needs to be replaced, so why not replace it with fibre? Sure – $43b is a lot of money, but if we don’t do it now, when the copper absolutely falls over 10 years from now, it will cost twice that much.

  12. Nice post Sean, but it seems you know something about debt that the greatest economic minds on the planet don’t.

    First of all the expected spend of taxpayer dollars on the NBN sits at $26 billion with repayments to the gov commencing within 6 years.

    Not all of the direct payments to NBN Co will come from borrowing funds so the “$2b servicing” you attribute to the NBN is misleading – any repayments are for across the entire budget and will change year on year. There will be a percentage that is attributable to the NBN and also to many other projects/policies. The likelihood is that some NBN funds will be borrowed, some come from gov revenues and some from bonds. $26b over a potential span of 20 to 50 years is highly manageable, especially considering we spend $4.5 billion annually on roads for no direct commercial return.

    And Australia’s existing debt levels since the financial crisis hit are, according to the world bank, the IMF, the RBA, a nobel prize winning economist and the vast majority of Australia’s leading economists the “envy” of the developed world (to steal Glenn Stevens phrase – spelling?). In fact, on the contrary to your fears we are moving to quickly and should wait for Europe to settle down and everyone else get back on track, the World Bank says removing the NBN stimulus would “send the wrong signals” and would create more waste than help the economy. The same goes for Joseph Stiglitz, who noted very recently the stimulus package was vastly more preferable to having no stimulus and that not going ahead with plans like the NBN would have been pretty stupid (my phrase).

    Here is a quote from a Computerworld Article*
    “”We used the phrase ‘no regrets’ investment to capture the idea that, even if broadband does not immediately deliver the direct benefits expected, in terms of jobs and competitiveness, it will certainly benefit the economy as a whole and therefore the indirect benefits (for instance in terms of capacity-building, opportunity creation or speeding up the general flow of information) are substantial,” the World Bank’s lead ICT policy specialist, Dr Tim Kelly, told Computerworld Australia in a written response. “In other words, the broader, intangible benefits of investment in broadband mean that it is rarely, if ever, a bad investment.”

    Additionally, if you wait, what is the cost? Basically you lose out on the significant GDP growth that can happen in the meantime – which for a FTTN network Access economics found that the net present value of benefits of smart technologies on a fibre optic network to 2018 would be between $35 billion and $80 billion. They concluded a FTTP network would generate much higher returns to the economy – others such as the OECD, World Bank, Mckinsey, Booz and Allen, etc conclude similar returns.

    The OECD has also shown you can justify the cost easily with just 1.5 per cent savings in transport, health, education and electricity. Energy Australia last week said smart meters backed by a fibre network would help save up to 30 per cent on costs… so it’s pretty clear many smart people are backing this.

    So the question really should be what do we lose if we wait any longer?

  13. The big item still missing is the cost/benefit study. It is not good enough to cry “the future uses are unknown so we can’t do a c/b study”. They (the government) should have made a reasonable best guess try by putting some values on the wondrous unknown apps and at least attempted to justify the expenditure. Right now many (maybe most) of the things they offer as justification already exist with current networks (though not in all places). I live in the sticks and have 10mbps actual service via ADSL. If Conroy had not intervened 3 years back I am sure that service would have been extended. Recently I traveled widely through NSW and Qld and used a wireless dongle for internet connection and had many Skype video calls, as well as streamed video. Let us all get real, the universities are already linked by higher speeds than 100mbps, and businesses that need fast links can get them. We don’t need to spend $43billion so that every house can have 100mbps. Look at Tassie where even with a free wholesale service for the first 12 months few are signing up for the high speed.
    Finally,enough of the crap about the old copper network. Virtually the only copper left in the game is the last mile. We already have a national fibre network

  14. Writer obviously has no clue how communications technologies work.

    It’s not science fiction, both wireless and copper have limits to them defined by physics. Those are facts.

    Infrastructure needs to be built on future demands based on current and past trends. You only need to analyse usage in the last 20 years. Even just the last 5 is enough to predict where this ‘internet fad’ is all heading.

    As for cost, under most expected scenarios the NBN will return a nice healthy profit. Other infrastructure services such as water, and power have a similar cost per home if not more. A fibre network would be great value if it even gets us half the use we have got from copper.

    • I don’t think anyone is questioning that it would be great if there was fibre to *every* home/business/school/etc in the nation. I don’t think anyone is questioning that existing connectivity is rapidly becoming out of date.

      I think it’s more a question of priorities right now. When we can’t seem to manage to get electricity, clean water and the other basic we all take for granted to many indigenous homes or build and maintain roads in the bush that are usable then maybe it’s luxury we’ll have to forego for now.

      Just saying.

      • Problems cascade with infrastructure if all you do is pay ever increasing maintenance on existing infrastructure in the hope that things will improve if enough money is thrown on them. There’s a point where demand will catch up and overrun what that existing infrastructure can provide. New infrastructure needs to be built regularly.

        Keep focusing on only the existing brushfires and you’ll end up with a firestorm at your back.

        This is of particular concern especially when you consider the time for how long a project like the NBN will take to complete. As I’ve mentioned you only have to look at the increase in data demand and social integration into society the Internet has experienced in the last decade. There’s a lot of demand that is beyond just people using the Internet directly themselves.

        Applications over the Internet are becoming increasingly complex, and as such are become increasingly more hungry in bandwidth demand.

        With increased capacity on infrastructure, it gives the ability to have room to develop and provide new services. At just one possibility (POSSIBILITY) perhaps 20-odd years from now farmers could be getting help on their farms from normally physically unable people sitting at home in the cities operating robotic machinery, which could go a long way to helping alleviate pension/welfare issues and labour shortages in that time.

        Wireless cannot do what fibre will. Different RF frequencies are susceptible to environmental conditions such as rain, landscape and line of sight and so on. Bandwidth is shared between whoever else is in range. As well as the impact on usability from latency.

        The biggest fallacy of the main article, placing today’s situations in tomorrow’s environment. No forethought whatsoever.

        • The problem with your argument and many others is the assumption that this is an “either/or” situation. If we do not go ahead with the NBN as proposed it does not lock us forever into the current situation. Had we not lost three years with Conroy’s faffing around I am sure Telstra and maybe even the slack ass competitive carriers coalition might have actually invested some money to provide improved and far reaching services. An awful lot of this argument rests on the same flimsy basis as all the god botherers out there, just believe.

          • We won’t be stuck with sub-par “broadband” for 3 years if the Libs get in. It will be for the foreseeable future – their underlying philosophy is to allow “market forces” to dictate, which has been clearly cannot work (this has been proven over the last 10 years) in Australia due to our unique situation with Telstra and population distribution.

  15. Cost benefit analysis my sweet ass. Its infrastructure not a bloody balance sheet people. 26, 43, 50 billion, whatever, is a drop in the damn federal budget ocean. Build the damn thing or we’ll have Sol and Burgess coming back to light up our lives again.

    • To give you a smal taste of just how “small” this amount is…

      In 2009, Australia spent $21b on its military, $38b on education, $28b on social security and $55b on health care.

      So basically, the estimated spend on the NBN could fund the military for two full years, a full year of all education in the country, a year and a half of social security and 80% of one year’s medicare bill.

      Of the $42b, $11n will go to the pockets of Telstra shareholders.

      This NBN isn’t chicken shit money, its big bickies in the grand scheme of things.

      • Oh come on now. That is just misleading. We do not spend $43 billion every year on a Telecomms fibre network. This is a 20 year infrastructure project, and the economics behind it are more than sound. All things said and done, it will pay for itself in 10 years. It’s really not rocket science.

      • This is developing new infrastructure over a period of around a decade, with high returns expected in most expected scenarios after its completion.

        You don’t compare a single year’s spending to what’s being spent over a decade.

        • The point I was making was scale and size, I think there are too many people who just dismiss $42b without realising just how significant a sum of money that is. When compared with a single year of our ENTIRE military spend – you start to see some scale.

          The implementation paper suggested a 15 year time frame before there is a positive return but by year seven the government will spend $28B ($18.3B coming in next year’s budget). So the taxpayer is going to be carrying the can for this thing for a long time. I would suggest that like most IT projects, the ROI numbers will be soft at best, but who knows, maybe I’ll be wrong.

          • And what you’ve missed Sean, is that the NBN is rolled out over 8 (make that 7 now( years. It’s not $43 billion all at once. You do know that over that time the government’s budget will be over a trillion dollars? A bit of perspective here, if you’re going to compare like with like, at least divide $43 billion, or if you’re feeling generous, $26 billion up by 7 in order to work with more accurate figures.

            Otherwise it’s just FUD FUD FUD.

          • Another point that the government needs to make when people throw numbers around. Their whole problem revolves around not getting the correct information to the people. Also 43 billion was the ORIGINAL maximum figure if Telstra didn’t pony up, (which they did). More should be made to clear up the misinformation of how the Libs and uninformed try to sum up the costs.

          • Well that sucks! You’re saying that some of us might be stuck on 1-4Mbps ADSL for up to 8 years… oh, hang on, I want my NBN vote back! (just kidding, I wasn’t that delusional)

            Just cut to the chase and give me 100Mbps now via FTTN and extend it to FTTH later when/if I actually need more than 100Mbps.

      • So we spent $21 billion on military in 2009… I never heard anyone ask for a cost benefit analysis on that one? Exactly what did we get for $21 billion? I don’t believe any country in 2009 tried to invade us… and I don’t believe any country we fought has given us any money to say “thanks” for the $21 billion spent… So if we can spend $21 billion in one year for someone as pointless as unwinable wars against people who we only fight to get their oil cheap then $43 billion on the NBN looks like a good cost vs benefit return.

    • You think building another national honeypot will not attract bears like Sol and Ziggy again? This ia PCCW over again.

  16. What we need is a national communications network that isn’t owned by a private monopoly. Since nationalising Telstra is completely out of the question, that leaves us with building a new network. Companies like iiNet and Internode have done a fantasic job building new DSLAMs and international backhauls, but they’re powerless to control that last kilometer of cable from the exchange to the home.

    It’s simply not practical to have every individual ISP install a separate cable to every residence. We need to have one cable in the street going to each home, and that cable has to be owned by the city, not by a company. And when talking about installing brand new cables, fibre’s clearly the way to go.

    • I totally agree. Both sides of politics have screwed up for decades. It does occur to me that the real beneficiaries of this plan will be the pay TV companies. They spent billions to put cable past 40% of possible customers, now the Government is handing them the next 55% on a plate. This is, after all, the Government that gave the TV stations 250M$ for nothing.

  17. Power user? This guy doesn’t even know that ADSL2 is 24Mbit, and that 8Mbit speeds are just ADSL1. As for people not taking up higher speeds, and currently using 2Mbit – there are millions of Australians who want some kind of fixed broadband and simply can’t get it, and I don’t just mean out in the sticks. People in suburbs served only by Telstra RIMs who can’t sign up for even ridiculously slow ADSL1, and are forced onto wireless. It says this guy is an IT exec – who the hell does he work for? I’ll have to remember never to do business with them.

  18. Spoken like a true luddite, especially given the alleged IT experience you claim to have.

    You say “Right now and I’d venture a guess and say for the next 10 years, 100Mbps is going to be more than enough to meet the needs of the average person.”

    If we simply sit on our hands, which you seem to be suggesting, how do you propose we get to 100Mbps with all of the decaying copper, the small-scale reach of HFC and limitations of 3G?

    You also mention how the NBN should include international links. While it would be nice, it has hardly a necessity. Maybe you should do some homework on PPC-1, Pacific Fibre, etc. Also, I don’t see how “all you can eat” usage will apply to a country such as Australia?

    Your walk about “white elephants” sound like the FUD which you so adequately described. With Telstra eventually porting all of it’s customers over to the NBN I don’t see your white elephant seeing the light of day.

  19. Lets say this infrastructure last us 10 years (underestimate). Assume Australia has a population of 20 million people (underestimate). That brings this roughly to a cost, per person, per year of roughly $215 dollars.

    Sounds like a lot doesn’t it?

    Hang on. What do we spend on ADSL these days? Somewhere between $40 and $70 a month on average. Sometimes much more.

    What about phone calls? From VOIP to landlines and calls to mobiles from fixed phones – maybe $30 per month?

    What does the average house spend on movie rentals, or Foxtel?

    What about the cost of maintaining the old copper network? It’s aging. Has a relatively high maintenance cost. And it is starting to show it’s age.

    What about all the other side benefits? Remote healthcare. Videoconferencing extremely cheap. Your security company could check your security cameras from the office. There are a multitude of business ventures that can develop and benefit with a network like this.

    Doesn’t seem so expensive now, does it? We’re already spending on things that the fibre network will use. The network will pay for itself in less than 10 years. That is what investment is all about. Do you think highways come cheap? Hospitals? Bridges? Power stations? Fat chance.

    Half a million dollars sounds like a lot of money to me. Especially on my technicians income. But I borrowed more than that to buy my home. It it a form of fixed savings for me, an investment in my future financial stability. That’s what investment is.

    It really is a no brainer. You can’t just say “Oh My Gosh, that’s a lot of money, must be too expensive”. That just doesn’t do it justice. This is an infrastructure project. These things cost money. And they invest in our future. This is not some big money pot for the benefit of a few, this is something that will benefit virtually everyone in the country. It’s the most significant infrastructure that this country has had in more than 25 years.

    • First off, let me say, don’t play the man, play the ball – you don’t know me, what I know, what I do or what I’ve done. When you call names and suggest things about me personally, as someone like Renai will tell you, you’re not speaking from a position of fact and secondly, maybe more importantly – I’m an actual person. My wife reads these comments, I’m a nice guy, I swear – I’d probably even buy you a beer and debate this stuff without malice. There’s no need for name calling, it also undermines your argument.

      Onto your points. I actually know an awful lot about major infrastructure projects, here in Australia and abroad – I’m not being fanciful or anything, but it is in part what I do for a living and trust me when I say, I’m actually really good at it. As I’ve pointed out below, every single toll road project undertaken in Australia (that I can remember – I know most of them personally) adds up to $16b in total spend. That money also includes design fees, payments to governments for concession rights and dividends to investors out of project funds. So in truth, the number is probably more like $14b. Imagine if the federal government bought EVERY SINGLE toll road in Australia out of private hands – it would cost far less than $20b.

      Another set of big capital works project around Australia the last five years or so have been desalinisation plants. There has been two in the Gold Coast, one in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Again, the total spend of those projects is less than $9b in total. Let’s face it, water is a crisis issue – if you believe in global warming and look at the state of our dams and water systems, these plants are going to be necessary and to outfit 80% of the population with desal plants cost less than 25% of the NBN.

      Schools, hospitals, trains and electricity – I could go on and on. We could debate the responsibilities of the states versus the federal government, but the reality is, the NBN is not as important as any of those things and nobody is coming up with a use case to suggest otherwise. If we don’t fix the water systems in this country, we’re going to have farmers with 100mbps internet connections in rural Australia with no water to irrigate their crops with. We have more kids coming into the school system in the next three years than we have desks for! At my son’s school, the parents committee funded smartboards for every classroom but the PCs the teacher’s had were too old to run the software. My son is six and his classroom is a demountable – that’s not right for a first world country – we didn’t have to do it, why should our kids?

      I live in a new unit with crappy DSL and satellite Foxtel – I get it! But these are entertainment items really. I work from home a fair bit and I have no problem establishing a remote desktop session across my troublesome ADSL connection – it works. On the other hand, my wife went to Royal North Shore emergency ward three weeks ago and they have NO PILLOWS!!! Doctors and Nurses in the emergency area sharing two or three PCs. Nurses buying their own pens. How on earth can we argue for faster broadband when there are such fundamental problems with our very basic infrastructure.

      Here’s a solution – let the government take care of Health Care, Education, Transport, Water, the Environment and Electricity with their big pool of funds and if I want faster ADSL or Fibre to my door, let me pay for it – full ticket. If it is truly worth it to run the last mile with fibre, I’ll pay for it or I won’t – that’s a choice about a consumer item! But if my kid or your’s heaven forbid gets ill, we’re stuck with hospitals without pillows.

      Its a matter of priorities, right? So much of the basics need attention right now, I just believe spending $42b on fibre for subsidised internet access is wrong.

      • Pardon me, but if you think there was name calling in there, you must be reading the wrong article. Or replying to the wrong article. As a senior IT executive, you’ve hit reply to the wrong article. It wasn’t me who called you a luddite.

        You know I work in public health. I understand the limitations, and it frustrates me. It is heading back in the right direction at the moment, with the ridiculously large area health services in NSW being replaced by more sensible and manageable local networks. The biggest health concerns are mostly in NSW, where we have had a basket case of a state government (and lack of a real opposition) for too many years.

        But I digress. They are mutually exclusive. The health system needs improvement. That doesn’t need to come at the cost of other projects. Imagine if you let the copper phone line system go to rot, but didn’t replace it, using the saved money on the health system. You might have a great health system, but unfortunately you can’t ring 000 anymore, so unfortunately we can’t help you.

        Good debt and bad debt. Good debt – buying a house to improve your financial future. Bad debt, spending $20k on credit cards to go on a holiday. This is good debt. This is the house. We need the house and we need to look after the people in it. Yes, we need to improve public health. We also need to improve our broadband network. The Coalitions solution just isn’t the answer. Unfortunately we will have to deal with Labour’s silly Internet filter if they win. Can’t win ’em all.

    • Why should all pay for a luxury that only 10 per cent actually need? They can get it now, if they pay.
      It is a bad investment, and you know Labour will screw it up anyway, Why should it be compulsory? They spend on whim, they have had ample time for a cost/benefit analysis. they do not produce one because that allows informed debate.

    • Your maths sucks.
      You worked out $240 per person for NBN per year for 10 years.
      No mention of opportunity cost, or interest on the $43B. In fact interest alone will cost each Australian $100 per year, and that is without capital repayments

      You then worked out current internet usage per household, per month.

      There are at least 2.5 people per household. So you maths is already out by a factor of 2.5.

      The estimate is that it will cost around $2000 per person. Or around $5000 per household.
      Broadband penetration is less than 30% at the moment, and unless this is significantly cheaper than existing plans, one can expect that NBN penetration is going to be less than this.
      (Note that Tasmanian take-up has been very low)

      So assuming 25% take-up, that means $8000/household is th capital expense.
      Now for a business to repay just the interest on this $8000 capital per house, you need to pay around 5%, in these times of low interest rates (real business rates are much higher than this, but let’s assume a Govt sweetheart deal). So around $33/month just on interest payments.
      So the costs are unlikely to be cheaper than any existing plan, which will mean less than 25% take-up is very likely. So the break-even point is going to be much more than exsting plan rates. So bye-bye takeup …

      Of course a prudent person would be able to check the detailed business case to see what they are using as baselines for take-up etc. But there isn’t one.

      This is just a hopeless way to implement significant public infrastructure.
      How are you supposed to benchmark your performance without any idea of expected costs, take-up, delivery timeframes.

      Absolutely nuts.

  20. Quality post. It would be better for the government to invest in wireless Internet. Demand for mobile broadband is only increasing. Fixed Internet connections will become redundant just like mobiles are now favoured over home phone lines. The NBN will be a white elephant in 10 years time. High speed mobile Internet is the future.

    • Fixed and wireless services are complimentary. They have different purposes, with different benefits. Above all, wireless is a shared service. The more people on it, the slower your connection. It doesn’t do you much good to have a 100Mbps wireless service if you have to share it with 100 other people.

      The ability for wireless to provide download speeds equivalent to fixed optical fibre (or even ADSL), is almost impossible. And for that to happen, we’d need to have mobile phone towers on every corner, all fixed together on a fibre optic network. Which would probably cost just as much as a FTTH network. And it still wouldn’t deliver the kind of services that you can get from a fibre network.

      Mobile services are good for mobile devices. People on the go with laptops, mobiles and other mobile devices. Small, compact, relatively little data needs.

      Fixed services are good for high data requirements. High definition video, internet downloads, virtual private networking (ie. accessing the work network from home). You could:
      – be in Sydney, having a high quality video chat with a friend in Perth
      – while your wife is watching a movie (video on demand)
      – your son is checking out the world cup highlights,
      – your daughter is logged into her work computer and working as phone support for an ISP
      – your brother visiting from London is playing a network game on the PS3 with his friends in the USA

      Meanwhile your fridge is sending off the latest shopping list to Coles, the washing machine is downloading a firmware upgrade which fixes a problem where the machine stops in the middle of a gentle wash cycle, your laptop is installing service pack 12 to Windows 14, and your iWall is downloading the latest Podcast of The Chaser.

      And the best thing about it is that none of these services would have a real impact on the others.

      Ok, I may be pushing things 20 years ahead instead of just 10, but you get the idea. Fibre beats wireless hands down. But that doesn’t matter really, because the kind of thing you want a wireless connection for, doesn’t have the same data requirements.

      • I understand what you’re saying. However, a lot of these things are already possible with current ADSL2+ speeds. If there really was a market for such applications it would have been done already. What there is a HUGE market for is mobile broadband. People want to be able to leave the home with their smart phone, tablet or laptop and still have a fast, cheap broadband. I would rather this than my fridge and washing machine plugged into fibre at a cost of $43b. Sure wireless isn’t as fast as fibre but it’s much more useful. If the government just removed the restrictions on the last mile it would be a far more cost effective and better solution than what both parties have proposed

        • So what’s going to supply the backhaul to all the mobile base stations you’re going to require for the gigabytes of data that each and every Australian is going to be generating on their mobile broadband connection?

          This isn’t even considering the wireless spectrum capacity limitations. Right now, “mobile broadband” works (badly) because so few people actually use. Ramp up the user numbers and you will very soon be crying out for WiFi hotspots connected to the NBN.

          You’ve got to look past the “now”. That’s the fundamental point of contention between pro and anti-NBN sentiment.

    • I still have a copper fixed line phone service. For those that can’t comprehend why I’ll fill you in. I live an area that is RIM’d by Telstra. By paying $T indirectly (via WestNet) for using the only equipment available to me I am given the privilege of access to ADSL1. I suppose I could pay more and get less through wireless but I personally can’t make a viable case for that as I value reliability. Sure I don’t use the copper fixed line phone in the same manner as I used to, I predominantly use voip for phone calls these days.
      Do I resent having to pay an extra $20 per month (the difference between most naked vs clothed plans) for the privilege ? I know that the $480 I have personally been forced to waste in the last 2 years is nothing to those who live in areas that are enabled with a plethora of cable choices, but do feel that if all the households in a similar position to me were multiplied by roughly $500 you could arrive at a number that even politicians may consider.
      I can currently live with the speed limitations enforced by Telstra. But, and a very big BUT at that I don’t believe I should be forced to pay a premium for a second rate service. It seems to me that households in poorly serviced (RIM’d, etc) areas are actually subsidising those in areas where choices are available.
      I suspect the majority of those advising that the expense of an NBN is absurd are currently being subsidised by the poor.

  21. I somewhat agree here. HDTV resolution is pushing the limit of what a human eye can perceive. From an “optimal” viewing distance, many can’t pick 720 from 1080. Digital compressed audio (IMO) is imperceivable from its source at 40kbps/channel. Our eyes and ears aren’t becoming more sensitive. Codecs can only become more efficient. I don’t see how we’d push more down our cables than we already are. We’ve moved from only a handful of analogue TV channels to dozens of digital channels with enough leftover bandwidth to re-allocate the entire VHF band to wireless internet. When we start pushing h.264 (part of the Freeview spec) – we’ll get more again.

    It’s not about how much bandwidth you’ve got – it’s how you use it.

    VoIP operates at < 32kbps and need never go higher (voice has a very limited dynamic range), and video game "net code" has been at a plateau for quite some time in terms of bandwidth requirements (and will never be anywhere NEAR what video streaming requires).

    A household could operate indefinitely from even 20Mbps. The only people who would have higher requirements are businesses that replicate gigabytes of data between offices frequently – and they're pretty much ALL in areas of dense population (mostly Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane CBD).

    To say that a farmer would ever need more bandwidth than what is required to watch HDTV is absurd. They don't distribute crops over the bloody internet. They may need internet, but they don't need stupidly fast internet.

    • VoIP can indeed run at less the 32kbps as you suggest, for a single call. Depending on the codec you use, it can run twice that amount, or even higher. Ever heard of call waiting? Or call conferencing? Conference three people together, and your VoIP connection needs to handle 32kbps + 32kbps + 32kbps. Of course, if you use a “fatter” codec, you increase those numbers.

      If you’re a business with a 100 concurrent calls going on at once, start doing the maths. Labelling VoIP as “less than 32kbps” is not understanding VoIP.

      • Yes, but if bandwidth is a problem, using an efficient codec is a better solution. Even freeview is doing that (transitioning from MPEG-2 to h.264) to cram more channels into the same bandwidth in future. That’s what Foxtel did to free up the cable bandwidth to get us faster (bigpond cable) internet.

        Also, we’re talking about running fibre to people’s houses here. There’s usually one phone. There’s 100 phones at my office and they work fine over an ADSL2 connection. QoS does a lot to help.

        I think the point of this article is that you don’t need 100Mbps run to every household in Australia, and attempting to do so is a waste of money. It’s several thousand dollars per taxpayer, many of whom won’t need it.

        • Sure – the smaller the codec, the more you can squeeze in, but you lessen voice quality, and you are still multiplying the size for every stream you add. Bandwidth is still ultimately finite.

          • Nope. For example, a 32kbps Vorbis stream sounds equal to, if not better than a 64kbps MP3. My point is that moving to a more efficient codec uses less bandwidth without ANY compromise on quality.

  22. Its quite fascinating for me to see the plethora of responses generated… Where to begin…

    Let me start with an ideological view. As part of this election campaign we’ve had both major parties come out in favour of curtailing immigration to some degree. The reason for this is because for the past thirty years governments in this country have made an absolute meal out of basic infrastructure – water, electricity, transport, schools and hospitals. The truth is, the country doesn’t have the basic infrastructure to handle the existing population. As I’ve said elsehwere, everytime I see a permanent demountable in a school yard, that is a sign of government failure, toll roads are a sign of government failure, escalating water and electricity rate, again, a failure to adequately plan for the future. These things are now haunting our present.

    Those topics aren’t sexy enough for politicians. So they sell the public on “the future” and how you’re not thinking of the “kiddies” if you aren’t on board with the NBN. I would much rather see whoever is elected, run out and raise $100b in 25-year bonds and put it to things like high-speed rail between the major capitals on the east coast, water recycling programs in the capital cities, water buyback schemes to ensure the health of the country’s water systems and a sensible national power grid. These are the issues of today that need to be solved. More schools, better hospitals and better public transport.

    Many of the comments, I feel, prove much of what I’ve said about this policy. The best use cases people come up with are better Foxtel and more bandwidth for home internet use. Seriously? Education – as I’ve said, we can stream video now at reasonable quality and things like Skype and online conferencing tools make it possible to remotely participate in tutorials and things. The NBN will just bring you 1080p lectures – wow, awesome. Health care, good luck, as I’ve said, you’ve more chance finding a unicorn than a Doctor who’s insurance company will let him diagnose things remotely.

    What real world cases are there for countries investing in super high-speed broadband and seeing any tangible benefit? South Korea? They are the world’s epicentre for StarCraft and online gaming. Singapore? Its a city of less than five million, that’s like cabling Sydney or Melbourne. This is the international version of keeping up with the Jones’. I’d rather have the best hospitals in the world, the best school system, the best transport system and be 19th in the OECD on broadband penetration.

    As for the argument around the economics, well let’s put aside what the World Bank says because they don’t pay my mortgage. If proceeding with the NBN now will add “stimulus” to the economy then that will drive up inflation. According to every analyst in this country, inflation is now in the range where the Reserve Bank will start lifting interest rates. If you pour BILLIONS of government money into the economy then we’re going to see higher interest rates which means our debt will become more expensive to service and pay back.

    Australia is in the position it is in because the Hawke government did an excellent job of putting in place great banking rules, and the Howard government during the boom times paid off the national debt, amassed a surplus and lowered taxes – this meant when the tough times came, the government of the day had plenty of powder to expend to ensure the country didn’t meltdown. I’m totally non-partisan about things – the Rudd government wasted some money on stimulus sure, but it kept the country out of a recession which is why the surplus was amassed. The Rudd government also ended up with a big debt not because of poor financial management, but because the global financial meltdown damaged their top line and they had the good sense to not cut programs that the Howard government and they themselves had already committed spend on.

    For me, politics is all about the allocation of scare resources. We only have so much money and plenty of things to spend it on. I believe that if we spent that much or even more on ou our education system, transport systems, health system, water systems, electrical systems and the environment we would be better off than if we spent the money on the NBN. I accept that borrowing $100b and revitalising the entire infrastructure of the country would raise inflation. I also think the Reserve Bank’s policy about inflation is wrong for Australia – I think if we’re investing in our future then a 5 – 6% inflation rate for a few years should be tolerable. We’re struggling with inflation right now because the economy is well tuned with low inherent unemployment, any up tick in economic activity will cause inflation which highlights exactly why this anti-migration stuff is bad policy – we need more people. The catch is, we need the basic infrastructure in the cities, which let’s face it is where migrants (including myself) move to and so we should invest in our countries abilities to grow not in faster World of Warcraft, High Def YouTube and more Foxtel channels.

    • Actually Doctors already diagnose remotely. A radiologist in Australia at 3pm will be sent an MRI/CT/X-ray from a patient in New York that was scanned at 1am. They assess, write their findings and send it back. Sometimes 20 or 30 assessments per hour. Saving hospitals in the USA from paying Radiologists to work in the middle of the night. That happens now. Today.

      Increasingly, remote areas are finding it harder and harder to staff their hospitals with Doctors. Why? Doctors already earn enough, they don’t feel the need to relocate to Alice Springs or Broken Hill. So sometimes we pay thousands of dollars a day for just one doctor to work in a remote town for just a week or a month. Getting specialist doctors to remotely view patient symptoms, monitor vital signs and view all sorts of real time data to assist in diagnosis and prioritising of remote patients will be a huge benefit of the NBN.

      The real thing here though, is that so many services will be accessible all from the one fibre connection. And it will probably cost the average home less than they are paying now. By the time you include home phone, internet and pay TV, you are already talking $150 per month for many people today. My own house pays over $180 per month for just those three. In the NBN world, you can bring that total cost down significantly, while the quality will go up.

      I think you need to go back to economics school again by the way. Our inflation is, according to all the data from the last 3 months, right in the middle band where it should be. That is why we haven’t had any interest rate rises for a few months, and why most economists aren’t predicting another rise until at least November. We are still running fairly low interest rates compared to 3 years ago, there is still plenty of room to move. Any interest rate rise will cost me too, but I am realistic about the situation.

      There is one thing you are correct about. Even if it is a typo. Politics is all about “scare” resources these days. It’s all about making us scared about what the other side is offering. The Libs are trying to scare us that every decision ever made by the Labour party is bad, and Labour is trying to scare us into believing that the Libs will go back to the days of no infrastructure spending.

      Personally, this time I am coming down on Labour’s side. At least I will preference them before the Coalition. Tony Abbott is a likeable guy, but if you get to the guts of what his politics is really all about, it’s scary. He’s kind of like the George Bush jnr of Australian politics. It’s not that pretty. I’d rather Malcolm Turnbull.

      • You tell someone to go back to economics school yet you can’t even spell Labor (“Labour”) correctly? Sending XRAY scan images can be done with current broadband, NBN $43-80 billion not required. Please stop wasting my tax dollars.

        • Comrade

          I don’t think that is a waste – I would like cheap and reliable broadband.

          BTW, I have a mate who has been overseas recently (attending an IT conference) and he was laughed at twice, after he introduced himself as an Aussie:

          **> Firstly when he said Australia is considering an Internet Filter :( – common’ Conroy, it does not work!

          **> Secondly when he mention that we pay for download – nobody at the conference knew what he meant

          Imagine an old lady getting Skype (so she can make video calls to grandkids).

          It just takes a few hours of Skype with video to blow the monthly allowance, and they have to pay a fortune in download excesses, or stop using it because of performance.

          This is not fair, and it does not happen in other ‘developed’ countries (sorry NZ has download limit as well). But USA, Europe and most of Asia don’t

          The ISP’s are moving towards selling content (videos) – this is not ‘metered’ only if you buy the content from your ISP (e.g. a Big Pond customer can only download unmetered content from Big Pond ). Just another way for the ISP to extract some $$$$ and avoid competition.

          John Citizen

          A Message for Tony Abbott

          Dear Mr Abbott

          I want $50 real fast NBN broadband now ….. :), give me, give me…

          I promise I will not download any porn, just old 1950’s B&W movies.

          Can I have sound, though?

          By the way, are you related to Abbott and Costello? tony ABBOTT and peter COSTELLO ?


        • Funny, if sending x-ray images can be done on current broadband right now, how come a NSW Radiology company just paid some 1/2 a million dollars for 482km of point to point radio links offering end-to-end 48Mbps throughput up and down the east cost and to a few more inland locations as well? Wouldn’t be because they CAN’T GET BROADBAND would it? Of course you have it to post your drivel on here so I guess that’s all that really matters?

  23. One more salient example of how big this capital works program is:

    Lane Cove Tunnel – $1.5B
    ConnectEast Motorway – $2.5B
    Cross City Tunnel – $800m
    North/South Bypass Tunnel – $3.2B
    AirportLink – $4.2B
    Duplicate Gateway Bridge – $2B (with extensions)
    M7 Motorway – $1.5B
    CityLink Melbourne – $800m

    From memory, that is a list of every major toll road built in Australia in the last decade and their listed cost (some of that would be finance fees and dividends to private stakeholders). That’s a grand total of $16b and all of it paid for by the private sector.

    The NBN will cost more than 2.5 times that.

      • sounds like a Tony Wabbot is THIRD PARTY writer or someone in his party.
        how much in today’s prices did it cost to put copper phone telephones in and set it up and all the rest you don’t see. about 10 times the amount the NBN is.

        I don’t believe Wireless will cut it and also has anyone looked into the long term public health affects from Wireless such as e.i. Mobile Radiation. (spelling) it is different wireless tech then WLAN wifi at home.

        We should of installed this 10 years ago, however we should be looking at installing next Gen Wired Network.

        you say 100mbps is okay for family use, i say that 10Gbps should be the bare basic for family use.
        once you have this network in place you can use everything, even things we can’t thing of now.

        look in 1996-7 I had 14k modem, then 56k a few years later then
        2005 ADSL at 1.5mb then
        2008 ADSL2 at 8mb
        2009 ADSL2+ naked no phone at 24mb (2.1 download) and my demand it growing to get my hands on things faster quicker.

        Gen X Gen Y want it now baby boomers and if you don’t want to use it we’ll use your pension to build it for our future and push you onto the street

  24. Fibre to the
    * schools
    * medical centres
    * business districts
    * wireless base stations

    Wireless to everything else

    A multi-path wireless network (ie. more than one provider and tower) will solve the reliability issues. Consumers will not become any more productive with high speed fibre. They just don’t *need* streaming HD content that badly.

    Reliable wireless gives you far more advantages:
    * new medical tech
    * home & vehicle automation
    * flexibility of work environment
    * redundancy is much cheaper and simpler to deliver
    * easier to maintain

    I would be happy with the NBN if the roll out for the next three years was to: schools, business districts and medical centres. Then the libs could come in and stop it the term after. That would be fine. The problem is the next 3 years of NBN probably won’t touch any services and will focus on residential premises in the outback. A place where people spend so much time travelling only wireless makes sense anyway.

    • Ben

      Wireless does not scale up or perform very well.

      Wireless as a single user backup is just okay, but not for 50 Users+

      I work for an organisation that manages about 50 networks for Financial Services clients (ranging from 20 to 600 users). This is really small to medium size networks in the overall scheme of things.

      These business have a component of telecommuting (staff working from home), and it is very hard to get it to perform because of the very poor broadband in Australia.

      { For telecommuting, you need fast speeds at the business end AND at the household end }

      The larger networks with more than 100 users need broadband based on Fibre Optics today , and some of these links cost $10,000 per annum or more ! Surely the NBN will resolve that!

      We have attempted to use Wireless as a backup for the ADSL broadband and it was a disaster – Wireless only performs for a very small number of users.

      Our boss has been to SE ASIA where some 4G networking is sprucing up. Yes, it will be faster than 3G [when Telstra decides to give it to us :) ], but no where as quick as ADSL.

      What about security – just look at what Google has done, harvesting every WIFI detail across Australia!!

      Technology costs do come down all the time, but the reality of Physics (e.g. copper can’t compete with fibre glass) still apply.

      I read the stuff posted by Elzorro, and according to him (over 50 years), the NBN will cost 5% of what Medicare costs.

      I checked it out and he appears to be right:

      **> Medicare about $20B a year
      **> NBN about $40B over 8 years, but the network will last 50 years [*1]

      NBN over 50 years = less than $1B per annum = less than 5% of the Medicare cost.

      [*1] – The copper network started in the late 1800’s, e.g. more than 100 years old!

      I am not sure about $50 per month for unlimited 100Mb broadband, but if this is right, I want it !!!

      With 100 Mb, I will only use Skype for phone calls, and it will be like live TV, not the s***t we have now.

      GO NBN!

      • > Wireless does not scale up or perform very well.

        I have used Telstra, Virgin (Optus) and Three’s wireless network. All over Sydney.

        Telstra’s is great and consistently delivers 2.4Mbps+
        Everyone else’s is not really usable for business

        > I work for an organisation that manages about 50 networks for Financial Services clients (ranging from > 20 to 600 users). This is really small to medium size networks in the overall scheme of things.
        > These business have a component of telecommuting (staff working from home), and it is very hard to
        > get it to perform because of the very poor broadband in Australia.

        ADSL + Cable + Wireless backup. Total cost ~$120/month for heaps of data and good providers. Triple redundant.

        > { For telecommuting, you need fast speeds at the business end AND at the household end }

        What kind of telecommuting – CISCO Telepresence? Or desktop computing?

        > The larger networks with more than 100 users need broadband based on Fibre Optics today ,
        > and some of these links cost $10,000 per annum or more ! Surely the NBN will resolve that!

        NBN is total overkill. Fibre to business districts is reasonable. It just doesn’t need to go to every house.

        > We have attempted to use Wireless as a backup for the ADSL broadband and it was a disaster –
        > Wireless only performs for a very small number of users.

        Buy more connections and chain them together? Use better providers? Use a second DSL as backup or better, HFC cable. Use SHDSL, etc.

        > What about security – just look at what Google has done, harvesting every WIFI detail across Australia!!

        I’m not sure you understand how wireless networking works, or what Google collected.

        > Technology costs do come down all the time, but the reality of Physics (e.g. copper can’t
        > compete with fibre glass) still apply.

        Compete on what basis? It certainly fails on cost effectiveness for many use cases.
        Please understand I would like the world to advance technologically as fast as possible. That comes through better wireless. Fixed line was last century’s achievement. I can achieve more with 2Mbps reliable wireless than I can with 100Mbps reliable fixed line.

        > I read the stuff posted by Elzorro, and according to him (over 50 years), the NBN will cost 5% of what
        > Medicare costs.

        Technology predictions 50 years into the future? 50 years ago no-one even thought the Internet would exist. and the global market for computers was less than 10 units total.

        In 10 years time if anyone uses fixed line as their primary net connection I will be very surprised.

        In 30 years time fixed line modems will be collectors items.

        • Wireless will never, ever, be able to compete with fibre in terms of data transmission. This is due to the laws of physics.

          Your argument is only sound if users never, ever, want to do anything other than check their e-mail on their mobile devices.

    • Do the maths, Chris. It will only take 20,000 homes @ 100Mbps to max out your 1.92 terabit connection to Guam…

        • Make that 2,000 homes if they’re all going to be on 1 gigabit..

          Michael Wyres: maybe you could explain to me the error in my maths? How many homes at 1Gbps would max out a 1.92Tbps pipe to Guam if my 2,000 figure is incorrect??

  25. As someone who loves technology, I think the NBN is the once piece of visionary policy I’ve seen in this election.

    This future is exciting and we should inspire young people to be excited about what is possible. Human beings are at their best when they have vision & dreams.

    We can have virtual school classrooms to provide more targeted and personal programs to help our children, roll out remote diagnostics to ease our hospitals and develop improved home-work environments so we reduce the need for commuting.

    “On 21st of August the Australian Labor party will introduce NBN and you’ll see why 2015 won’t be like 2010.”

    • “Labor will introduce the NBN on 21st August”

      Really? Can I get it installed on the 22nd of August?
      Didn’t they promise this last election? No that was fibre to the node, then they had to abandon that tender because noone wanted to build it. Now they propose a ore expensive and ambitious program, and they haven’t done any detailed planning.

      I would have thought an intelligent voter might see through the deceit.

  26. Analysts at the World Bank have described broadband as a “no regrets” investment. With this in mind, I have one request for all the NBN naysayers out there. Name me one government-funded telecommunications infrastructure project which has turned out to be a “white elephant.” Just one.

  27. The argument is not whether fibre is needed or not, that is from most points of view a given. The question is how to get there from where we are now. Running up a huge ‘Mastercard’ bill to fund it commits significant amounts of money to servicing debt. As an estimate around $6Bn per year. That is what the argument is about as this is dead money which cannot be used to provide services/infrastructure in other areas of the economy. Given the long and questionable payback period for the NBN (why do you think Conroy has never release a business plan for this network) I for one don’t believe it is prudent to go into hock for this project. Sean has the right viewpoint for this.

    Oh BTW I have been in the IT industry since 1969, am an Electrical Engineer and have been an MD of a subsidiary of public company!

  28. “if the NBN included a fibre run to Guam/Hawaii and onto the US, then I’d be more excited.”

    So GET EXCITED ALREADY! PIPE Networks delivered *exactly* such a NEW link in 2009. AND there are still a couple more NEW links to the US by other parties which have been announced this year, due ~2013 (ie BEFORE the NBN will be completed).

    Australia is rapidly approaching a point where available international capacity is reaching a *reasonable* level. (er, MUCH more than current usage, and yes more even than expected near-term usage)

    Sure you can NEVER have too many horsepower/megahertz/megabytes and megabitspersecond, but the recently deployed NEW cable systems, recently deployed existing cable system UPGRADES, and recently ANNOUNCED new cable systems show that this issue is now being addressed in a serious manner.

    • Spot on.

      The recently announced “Pacific Fibre Cable” – joint venture between Pacnet and Pacific Fibre will light up with 5.12Tbps, and be capable of 12Tbps when required. It will cost around $450m, and is privately funded. Recent additions to the international backhaul market demonstrate the market gearing up for the NBN.

  29. One company I like is OTOY – Whether you believe it will hit off is of no matter, as this is just a demonstration of what a NBN can do.

    OTOY offers cloud computing by sending video through the internet – to be redisplayed by ‘any’ screen (mac, pc, tv, ipad, andriod etc).

    This offers a couple major advantages:

    Efficiency – your typical “office” computer can actually process 5-10 users, this means a massive cut down in hardware and electricity costs. This also translates into licencing savings.

    Scalability – While you are normally idling, OTOY will have the ability to scale to a super computer worth of resources, a simple example is running a P3 while browsing then having a i7 and dual 5970’s for gaming.

    Anywhere Access – as long as you have a decent internet connection, you can access all your work. If your an engineer you can work at home or at the office with no difference (no need to sync or buy $10,000 licences for your home pc).

    Reliability – The Cloud provider will take care of all software updates, and all redundancy and backup’s, This will massively reduce risks of small business.

    From a business PoV this solution is amazing, offering far greater access to resources, far higher reliability, and at a lower cost.

    What does it need? – It needs a high bandwidth (as your single home might have several users using HD streams at any given point in time), and extremely low latency. Only a NBN built with FTTH can do this.

  30. i will never be able to afford fiber by meself so if someone eldse builds it for me i’ll be quiet happy so yeah gimme gimme lol

    • That’s not a good argument for it though. I’d like a mansion and a couple of Feraris but I don’t expect the cost to be borne by people who are happy with a 2 bedroom unit and a Hyundai.

      • If you want your two bedroom unit and a Hyundai, you can still have it. Nobody will force you to have a 100Mbps connection. Nobody. You’ll see ISPs offering packages from anywhere between 10 and 100Mbps.

        Just because you don’t need/desire a Ferrari and a 50 room mansion in Toorak, is that any reason to slam the right of others to have such if they want? No.

        NBN is simply NOT about the internet. It is an economic model to transform Australia. In 10 years from now, and most major developed economies in the world have proposed, and built their own versions of the NBN, and Australia is stuck with a hodge-podge mess of ADSL, wireless, and HFC, “guaranteeing” only highly contested 12Mbps services, Australia will be an economic backwater.

        All because the Coalition wanted to score some points by having a plan that costs almost $7b, instead of a plan costed at around the $43b.

        Australia CANNOT rely on its economy basing itself around the farming and mining sectors as it has done for almost its entire history of European settlement. It has to change, or we’ll be completely irrelevant on the world stage.

        Conroy is a tool. But he is right about this.

        • ‘If you want your two bedroom unit and a Hyundai, you can still have it. Nobody will force you to have a 100Mbps connection. Nobody.’
          But I would be forced to pay for it through taxes. That’s my problem with it.

        • Telstra has ahreed to de-comission the copper pairs. Yes, you will be forced to the ferrari,

  31. Regardless of your political alignment, I don’t think people realise the true benefits of establishing this infrastructure.

    People say they don’t want “IT” but people don’t seem to understand what “IT” is and how important it is for Australia’s future in the modern world.

    1) I hate to use the patronising “Moving forward” clique but I’ll paraphrase this instead:- “Fibre has a virtually unlimited bandwidth capacity and is therefore capable of meeting increasing traffic demand of multimedia services and thus providing a “future-safe” medium that outperforms all other known media. With fibre cable prices dropping below that of copper, fibre provide a natural choice for Greenfield deployment.”

    2) Business benefits: Look beyond what is available today. Fibre connections will inspire the creation of Products & services we haven’t even thought of yet. It will open up new businesses and improve existing businesses. Would anyone be arguing that we should have stayed on dial-up?

    3) Consumer benefits: Forget paying for a phone line, internet and cable TV. Pay for one connection to your home. Some people are already paying ~30 bucks for phone + calls, 50+ bucks for internet and 40+ bucks for pay TV. Instead they could bundle all their services into one pipe paying one cost and get more for it. Not only this but the quality and quantity of content available would leave what we currently have for dead.

    I am not a fan of either party in this election. Stephen Conroy is a tool for his ridiculous internet filter. However I think the NBN, *provided it is implemented correctly* is a vital tool for Australia’s future in both a business and consumer context.

    The real argument should be about how its being implemented and how much it should realistically cost, not arguing whether it should be.

  32. You know Sean, its a good piece, some nice points but really fails to address the reason why. The NBN isnt a flight of fancy. If you take a step back and look at the big picture, this began 15 years ago when the government of the day privatised there national communications provider and failed to keep critical infrastructure in public hands. The government sold Telecom which then became Telstra and could not bring themselves to divest it of the copper network because it would lose too much of its sale value… talk about a conflict of interest.

    So here we are today with the ACCC littered with unfair, anti-competitive behaviour from Telstra monopoly who’s only interest is in making profit and not the Australian people. The government was so sick of it they were going to seperate them but legally it would have be years of court battles and compensation. So they sidestepped the entire issue and decided to go it alone and this brings us to the NBN. Besides providing us with a world class network, the NBN removes the monopoly on the communications in this country and brings us back to a level playing field. This is something we have only dreamed about for 20 years. It also neatly solved the Telstra problem and all those mum and dad shareholders including large institutional investors can feel safe again.

    Now lets get back to the copper network, its old and getting worse. Telstra are not going to replace it so what do we do with it? Well obviously we need to replace it because really, they might all talk about how wireless will save the world but frankly it cannot provide the same level of low latency network services we enjoy right now, let alone the reliability. The NBN really should be looked upon as a national infrastructure upgrade, because essentially this is going to replace the entire copper network.

    So in summary, the NBN removes a monopoly, level’s the playing field in the communications industry and upgrades ageing infrastructure.

    • The NBN progressively transfers Telstra cutomers to the NBN, and then privatises it. All around the landscape to a new monopoly, costing heaps, which may not be recouped.

  33. I spent 10 years of internet hell locked into sub-standard Telstra RIM infrastructure and suffered sub-dialup speeds and massive latency on my ADSL connection. Only recently did Telstra finally upgrade my area and I can now achieve 7Mbps and 14ms latencies, For me the NBN can’t come soon enough. I am a heavy internet user and basically we use the internet for all of our telecommuting and entertainment needs.

    10 years is a long time and I will never forgive Telstra for their complete lack of interest in providing a decent internet service in my area. To say the NBN is a waste is short-sighted and really does not take into account that everyone uses the internet differently. I see the NBN as vital national infrastructure project. Spend once and it will change this country for the better.

  34. I work in the video conferencing industry and there is something called Tele Medicine that already exists (and has for some years now), where doctors do indeed treat patients remotely already. Sure it used to be on old ISDN lines with low quality but they did come before I found any unicorns :-)

    Having said that, I sync my ADSL service at 17mbps, and even the maximum real time 1080p30 video conference session just needs a 5mbps pipe, double that for 3D if you really must. In reality you really only need 2 to 3mbps cause the maxed out speed is for burst speeds only. Plus compression algorithms (thanks Poloycom) will improve that further!

    Why we need fibre speeds to the home in the next 100 years, it’s for more PRON ofcourse!

  35. from a read, it appears to be that business want’s NBN. So in my opinion business should fund it.

    • Most people in Australia at present at paying more than $50 a month for a 3rd world quality slow speed Broadband.

      The NBN will deliver 100Mb+, unlimited downloads for about $50 retail

      The NBN cost over 50 years is equivalent (annually) to 5% of the Medicare cost.

      I want the taxpayers to pay for it, via direct government funding, increase in taxed (company taxed, mining, PAYG or otherwise)

      The liberals are talking about reducing company taxes fom 30% to 25% – lets use that to deliver the NBN instead.

      The NBN will remove Telstra from it’s monopoly, Liberal policy will keep enable Telstra to dictate what we have, and at what price.

      Ask any Australian Ex-pat a few simple questions:

      When living o’seas (UK, USA, Continental Europe), what was your broadband:

      a.> Monthly cost
      b.> Speed
      c.> Added functions

      Don’t ask about download limits, as they will not understand what you mean. Elsewhere, it is unlimited. In Australia, you pay per MB !

  36. The people complaining about RIMS and pair gain have obviously not read the Coalitions policy. They are going to target those specifically.
    As far as I’m concerned the NBN will be a better network when it finally happens although I’m not sure taxpayers should fund it and how long it will actually take to put fibre in to nearly every home in the country.

    The liberals policy is not just wireless. If anybody bothered to read it, they would know this.

  37. Just to lay it out. There are several separate questions. (with my answer – your answer may differ!)
    1. Is decent digital communications a good idea? Yes
    2. Is fibre to the premises the best solution? First, it needs to be clear that the NBN does NOT plan this. If you are outside of a major town, you do not get it. This applies whether you are in a small town/village or if you are living on anything larger than a suburban block. You will get wireless or (in my case) satellite. By extending fibre to the premises for all urban dwellers it will widen the digital divide and make it more specifically an urban/rural divide – while satisfying the vast majority of voters.
    3. Is returning the country to a (government) monopoly of communications services a good idea? I have mixed feelings on this. There is no evidence on past experience that a government monopoly is any real improvement on a private monopoly, although the problems tend to be different – shareholder returns on one side, jobs for the boys and featherbedding on the other. Both tend to incredible bureaucracy and an attitude of “screw the customer”.
    4. Is it the best use for the money? I have no idea, and as far as I can tell neither has the government.
    5. Do I trust the government to do it right? After their performance to date with major projects? You have to be kidding! This is a government touting 100mbps squeezed through a censorship system that they only tested to 8mbps – and then carefully hid all real data from the tests and refused to release anything under FOI!

    In summary, I approve of the vision, but there is a lot more needed than vision.

    • Well said, thank you!
      Abbott and is thinking that a copper network, started 120 years ago, will deliver what we need in the 21st century!
      Abbott has been installed in the leadership by climate change deniers. I don’t agree that the Labour ETS was any good, but doing nothing (standard liberal policy these days) will not resolve the issue.
      As Stephen Fry says, even if climate change is not real, what is wrong with a clean planet?

      • Emilio, please don’t introduce red herrings.

        Two logical fallacies: red herring and guilt by association.

        And then in your last statement quoting Stephen Fry, a false dichotomy of two items which are not necessarily related.

  38. You forgot to include the ridiculous “smart metering” that the NBN will apparently enable. Apparently the volume of data required is so enormous that current broadband cannot support it. Just think about it … how many gigabytes does it take to read a meter? 0.00000001GB perhaps?

    I would love to see Energy Australia replace my current ancient electricity meter but there is absolutely no sign that they intend to do any such thing. It costs money which means prices rises. And in NSW they are not allowed to set their own price.

    Smart metering is not going to happen in Australia any time soon. And the NBN will not change that.

    Also, not only is remote health diagnosis ever going to happen for insurance reasons, but it also wont happen for doctor reasons. I don’t know of any doctor who will hold a consultation over the telephone. How would an NBN change that? In any case you cannot take an x-ray over the NBN … you have to physically visit a location where there is an x-ray machine.

    Next thing we will all be talking about the need for superfast highways so I can drive my car at 200km/hr. Why not? I should be able to.

    • I don’t want the NBN to read my meter. Wireless could do that.

      I want the NBN to provide me with a reliable 100 Mb+ speed, unlimited downloads at $50 a month.

      Wireless can’t do that, neither can copper.

      The NBN will eliminate Telstra monopoly on the network, liberal policy will keep Telstra where it is.

      Under a Liberal agenda, Telstra will continue to control what we can and can’t have, and at what price.

      The facts being overlooked are:

      a.> Every developed nation has an Optical Fibre based network to the end point
      b.> Optical fibre is cheaper than copper, this is what the inter-exchange backbone has been 100% fibre for more than 10 years!
      c.> The copper network is 100 years old
      d.> The NBN annual cost over 50 years is 5% of the Medicare cost – if we can afford Medicare, we can Afford NBN
      e.> Not having the NBN will mean that the jobs available for future generations of Australians will continue to rely on digging resources to export to China. This will not last forever!
      f.> We complain about lack of leadership all the time, When a great deal appears, and is executed (NBN already live in Tasmania), we waste all our energy questioning it.
      g.> There is a small group of Australians (about 50,000) that think they can benefit from Liberal no-NBN policy. They are Telstra employees that would benefit from the monopoly. As for the rest of us, including Telstra shareholders, the NBN will be a winner

      • In order

        I see no advantage in reading my meter in a micro-second instead of a milli-second.

        The best deal I could find was 1.5Mb for $80 (line + ISP) so I do not expect anyone to be able to spend $43B and then reduce my bill.

        Copper could give me 20Mb now if Telstra was not so predatory.

        Labour’s stated policy is to transfer the monopoly and then sell it.

        a/ Not true
        b/ Fibre costs more than single or two pair.
        c/ A little copper may be 100 years old, some is 1 year old. So what? You can drive a porsche on a cobbled road.
        d/ You have not included the costs of interest or profit. The NBN will be obselete in 5 years. Medicare is much more important.
        e/ Other than construction, fibre creates no jobs. Spend now on education and training, when trained they can buy whatever connection they want, they can also choose to buy a house or pay off their fibre.
        f/ All Australians will benefit from the cancellation of the NBN.

        • How about your home’s appliances reporting back to the power grid on what their expected load on the system is to be in the next hour, their power demand profiles, appliances having priorities on when to shutdown in the event of issues in the power grid (an aircon probably isn’t as important as a fridge and then further removed from health systems), the list goes on.

          They aren’t here yet, but given the opportunity they will and would go a long way in helping improve existing services and utilities in future.

          The reasons for your costs are because of the current environment of industry in Australia.

          b) Ports are more expensive, but this is expected to drop as technology and demand increases. The fibre itself is cheaper than copper per meter.
          c) Copper has a finite limit, which we have reached. To sustain the current rate of increase in the demand of bandwidth, we know that copper will have to be replaced at some point in the near future regardless. No point installing it just to take it out once it’s been put in. It’s been found that it’s more expensive to retro-fit copper installations in future on a bulk basis than installing fibre now.
          d) Even if the endpoints are obsolete in five years, all that it will require is to upgrade the end-points, just how people went from dialup to adsl to adsl2+.
          e) Jobs are required to maintain the network, and the ever increasing complexity of the hardware-software systems. Something like the NBN would help to aid in training and education, making available educational services to people who would currently not be able to attend. It’ll also reduce the strain on available space (physical seating) for universities.
          f) There are no Australians who would benefit from a loss of the NBN, but a loss of the NBN will be to the detriment to all Australians, directly or indirectly.

        • In Order

          No, but your electricity company does. After all if they had a way of monitoring every person’s energy consumption at the current moment they could do a few things like:
          1. Dynamic Supply. Currently baseline generation means we get say 2000MWh delivered to the grid. If the energy companies let usage get anywhere near that baseline figure and you then turn on another appliance zap, you get nothing and normally as a safety precaution we all get nothing as well. However if they knew that all the customers were using say 1998MWh right now and you started ramping up your electricity use, their computers could automatically poll all currently offline generators for their electricity generation price, select the cheapest and give them an order to start generating electricity to feed into the grid. At the moment that’s all a manual process. Hence you will never see 2000MWh being generated and 1998MWh being used. It’s too close to overload and there wouldn’t be enough time to fix the imbalance if usage spiked suddenly. However a computer that actually can start and stop generators could solve that problem faster than usage could change.
          2. Fault Finding. They can see who has power and who doesn’t. Therefore they can deduce very accuratly where in the grid the problem must lie.
          3. Load shedding. If a power station blows up or has a fire or malfunction or has to shut down, sections of the grid just loose power. With a system like they want, they could check who is using the highest amount of electricity, contact them and warn them that they have to drop their power usage to help meet supply restrictions. Those people using lots of power who don’t change their usage will be the first to loose electricity completely.

          And yet those on the NBN already (although they are getting discounts) are paying vastly cheaper prices than that. The difference cann’t simply be wished away by the discounts, they couldn’t be that much.

          How do you know it’s Telstra? Do Telstra offer you ADSL2+ but you can’t afford it? Cause if not there is probably something else blocking it that would be very expensive to remove. Telstra is already offering ADSL2+ to most places that can support it. I have friends in a town of 3.5k population who get ADSL2+. So who says it’s Telstra stopping you from getting 20Mb now, it could be the copper?

          The monopoly will still never be allowed to enter the retail market. It’s simple logic, if they can’t sell to end users the only way to get better profit margins is to extend and upgrade their network. Vertical Intergration is the killer of monopolies, not simply the fact that they are a monopoly.

          a) While it is not true, all the leaders on the OECD Broadband penetration charts have significant Fibre deployments.
          b) Ahh, but what about for 50 pair? Also you have to count the fact that normally you can only fit 1-2 50 pair copper cables down a duct before it is full. Those 50 pair fibre runs take up much less space, I’d guess 5-8 down the same conduit/duct. If that’s tru how much extra does it cost to put in 2-4 ducts all side by side just so you can fit all the copper you need. Then there’s speed vs distance, etc etc. You can’t compare apples and oranges and then say oh well oranges are cheaper so they win anyway.
          c) You are welcome to take my piece of 100 year old copper and try and get even 1mbps down it. Meanwhile I’ll take your 1 year old copper any day. I’d suggest that a lot more of Telstra’s copper is older than say 25 years than the stuff that is newer. However that said it’s not about the age of the copper, of more concern is maintenance (would you buy a house that is only 1 year old but had never been sweept out, had floors looking like the consistency of your rubish dump, had a leaky roof, short circuiting electrical wiring and was generally about to fall down? Cause that’s about how Telstra treated maintenance of the copper.
          d) Please explain how and why the NBN will be obsolete in 5 years. My company just finished coverting our DC’s to fibre connectivity, and fibre to the server as well. We would be very interested to know what inside information you have that suggests we will be undertaking the same thing again in 5 years. The latest from our suppliers suggests exactly the oposite, apparently the 100Gbps standards won’t even support copper at all, not even for like 5 meter runs.
          e) Of course not, it’s not like we have a feldgeling IT industry in Australia that is ready and able to compete on the world stage if only we could get speeds to match the rest of the world. Or that people might live here and develop software were it not for the 3 hours software development database synch times that they could face on our current speeds. There’s not one single business or individual out there, anywhere in Australia that hasn’t said I could have a business doing XYZ if only I could have more bandwidth.
          f) I really wish the government had a policy of taking signitures from all the NBN naysayers and then when you come back in 8 years time after it’s all built and say oh I’m ready for 50mbps internet now, can you hook me up, they pull out the bit of paper and say nope, you have to wait 8 years for us to develop and install a high speed solution for you. The one we just built was for everybody else. I mean god forbid that anything these days should take up more than 5 min of your precious time. It doesn’t do very well for keeping any sort of PERSPECTIVE on these things.

  39. I think the greater good that will come out of the NBN is a break up of powers that monopolies have on our communication industry.

    Centralising the network to one company that has to play by the rules to make it fair and accesible to all will no doubt also help to maintain a network that is up to date and easier to upgrade as one commercial entity will not be responsible for trialling new technology.

    The companies that pay to access and resell this network can and will demand ever increasing and newer ways to access the network which will self propell a conitnuing evolotion of change – which the consumer will continue to pay for…..

  40. I’m sorry if I’m coming across as some rusted on Liberal supporter(I’m not one). There are plenty of things wrong with Liberals policies, I just don’t think the Broadband policy is one of them.

  41. If I might respectfully try to add to the discussion.

    Economic rationalism has a place in the discussion, but if this is the only argument, we will stand still.

    Progress depends on some real leadership . The Sydney Opera House, Medicare and the Sydney Olympic 2000 are good examples of long term investments loved by most Australians – none would exist if economic rationalism had won the day!

    The copper network is over 100 years old.

    Technology created in the 19th century is not going to deliver the backbone for the 21st century information economy.

    Considering otherwise is the equivalent of saying that Steam rail and Steam Ships can address our transportation needs (steam is from the same era as copper networking)!

    Yes, technology has evolved in communications and the copper network has served us reasonably well until now.

    We need however to take a deep breath and consider if copper can deliver what a glass network (Fibre Optics) can – and the answer is clearly not.

    My views are:

    a) The NBN will cost $250 per user per annum over 8 years.
    This is quite cheap, especially if you consider that the benchmark retail cost for a NBN connection will be well under $100/month for unlimited downloads at speeds of 100Mb. { I have heard of wholesale costs around $30/month, and if this is true, the NBN connection for a consumer could be delivered at around $50 a month }

    $250 x 8 years x 20,000,000 Australians = approx. $40 billion

    b) The NBN will service Australia for more than 50 years. Over it’s life span, the NBN will cost less than $1B a year, or about 5% of the total annual cost of Medicare. Yes, we can afford it.

    c) Within a medium term macro-economic perspective, the NBN will be very positive for the economy (as lower cost broadband will increase efficiencies in the economy, and add significantly to the available discretionary budget for households). Yes, we want it

    d) The Jobs I want my grandchild to have access to will depend on fast low cost internet access. I am happy to pay my bit, but please DO IT NOW! Yes, we need it

    e) Fibre to the premise is the only technology that can deliver reliable > 100Mb speeds. Wow, that sounds fast!

    f) I accept that Wireless is the most cost effective method to deliver a basic service (slow speed by comparison to Fibre Optics) to remote locations such as farms, or a slow connection for people on the move (using 3G or 4G). Okay, lets compromise with < 5% of the population living in remote areas.

    g) Wireless is unreliable, slow and can’t scale up to millions of connections within a city.
    A city with 4,000,000 people will need well over 1,000,000 connections to the Internet, when you consider that many households already have 1 computer, at least 1 smart phone and 1 Internet TV or TiVO! These devices, and many more we can’t even dream of, will require connections.

    h) Telstra is the only organisation to benefit from the maintenance of the copper network, as Telstra owns it, and uses it everyday to squeeze the competition and delivber third world services to Australians. BOOO Telstra

    i) Every developed nation is building a fibre to the premise network. Australia will miss out completely on all the benefits from a REAL broadband network, which is not the same as Telstra wants you to have! Go NBN

    I have attempted to be jovial about the heavy arguments above, I hope I have not offended anybody in the process :(

    Labour is not 100% right, but then nobody is.

    * The Internet Filter comes to mind (it will never work)

    * Apparently in the process of saving the Australian economy from a recession, we wasted a proportion of the investments made by the government in schools, insulation and cash handouts.

    * Whether that proportion is low or high, I don’t know – what I know is that if we wasted less than 10% of the total investment, it was well worth it. The ABS or Access economics should be able to simulate the impact of DOING NOTHING at the time, which appears to be standard liberal policy these days.
    I want a leader that will take us to the future, not just be negative about everything and be locked in the past.

    Abbott wants take us back to the 1950’s, where John Howard is.
    Gillard wants, with our help, take us to the future.

    • The UK is just starting to roll out Fibre To The Node, giving 40Mb/s for one sixteenth the price we will pay. Australia has around twelve million premises, so average connection cost nearly $3600. Name a job you want for your grandchildren, that will be created by the NBN. Call centre operator maybe, competing with Mumbai?

  42. I’m an NBN skeptic as well. There may be a need for 100Mbps bandwidth at some stage – or there may not.

    Certainly there are a handful of applications now. If you want to analyse meterological data you might need to shift terrabytes of information. But the organisations that need that kind of bandwidth have already installed pipes to make this possible.

    Otherwise, what are we talking about? Real-time streaming of TV and films? 3D gaming in HD? Do we need to spend $42b or more to service the entertainment industry?

    Currently most files that businesses send might require a few minutes to send. If bandwidth was increased it might be possible to do things such as add more video to presentations and stream it in real time. Is this added flash and saving in speed worth $42b? If so (and I’m not convinced a PowerPoint presso with embedded HD video is that critical a factor) I’d argue that it would be more economical for the community if those businesses who want this capacity fund it themselves.

    Furthermore given the nature of technological development the costs of implementation tend to go down over time. Building a 100mps system 20 years ago might have cost $420b. In ten years it might be $4.2b.

    I quite readily admit that I may be wrong, and that 100mps might be the norm for some uninvented technology a few years away. But if I’m not we’ve blown $42 billion.

    I’d wait.

      • No I don’t think it will cost more. I expect it will cost lost because I expect that engineers will continue to find more powerful and more cost-effective solutions. That’s been the trend for decades, Why do you think it won’t continue?

        • It’s okay, we can just keep waiting until we can just teleport our fibre into the ground.

    • Most people say that home and bussiness don’t need that type of connection. Working in local goverment (Zone 1(regional victoria)) we have found that current ADSL will not cut-it for our remote site running VPN’s Back to our main Site, forcing users to travel ~70Km’s to do a lot of heavy data processing.
      These site are located only 3kms from the exchange, but Telstra said there is nothing they can do(not wearth it). Now i don’t think that Rate paier’s Would be happy with us spending the big money on laying Fibre to remote sites and the cost of leasing dark fibre is just way out of our price range.

      At some point someone will have to pay. wether it’s the rate paiers or in the taxes.

      (Forgive me, Bad spelling i know)

  43. I’m glad this is only an opinion!

    You as an IT professions, should support the technical perspective of the NBN policies and lobbying for a low cost deployment of the fibre network instead of making an opinions of we don’t need it NOW!

    You’re quite right about the cost, because I also don’t trust the politicians in any government doing anything competently, so i rather have believe a government with a policies then the one without.

    So at the end i support the current government NBN policies and have some faith/hope in their implementations.

    • Good, quick (to realise), cheap. Choose 2.

      There’s nothing “low cost” and the NBN it’s most certainly the high cost option.

  44. Three major reasons its needed;

    1: Business connectivity. As a systems admin for a media company servicing 1400 users across the country, the infrastructure to provide connectivity into our networks at places like Kalgoolie, Darwin, Emerald, etc are woeful. It is a major drain on company resources trying to support these users because of the useless state of these links.
    2: Make new services possible; services such as computing on demand, remote respite care, live streaming, etc, need more bandwidth. Plain and simple.
    3: Reduce commuting time: Many of our users could concievably work from home if this was in place, reducing commuting times, allieviating pressure off roads, reducing pollution, and a number of other benefits.

    As a cost calculation; we have estimated a saving of about 120 million dollars per year if the NBN is put in place. Yes – we need it.

  45. Interesting points from both sides here and the following thoughts are just my opinion.

    I love my high tech gadgets as much as any geek does :) But, we need to be realistic here. There is a HUGE difference between NEED and WANT. What I see for those supporting the go ahead with the NBN here is mostly WANT.

    Where do you think they will get this $42billion? Go and have a look in the mirror! And guess what? Even when the $42billion has been spent and the NBN is up and running – it will cost more to maintain (road tolls anyone?). And – here is the kicker – you will also be paying to use this NBN, and not everyone can afford it. There are actually families out there who have different priorities, and computers being connected to high-speed internet isn’t one of them. (I know, hard to believe, isn’t it? ;) )

    The take up rates for the NBN roll out in Tasmania are roughly 50%? If, overall, the take up rate isn’t as high as the Government expects – what is that going to do to the cost for those that do? Either the prices will rise, or taxes will be increased to subsidise them – either way, you, the taxpayer will be paying for it.

    And back to those parents who are struggling to bring up a family – they want decent hospitals and health care. And for some of us who are faced with the extra challenge of having a child with special needs, there is so much more that needs to be done for people with disabilities and mental illness. Those kids are also going to need assistance all through their school years, so education is a priority. They may need assistance through their adult life too.

    It would be awesome if everyone had access too high speed internet, and who knows, that may be possible in the future. And if the Government manage to pull off the NBN without blowing out the cost and having the taxpayer baring the brunt for years to come – I’ll be pleased to be proven wrong. But let’s be realistic and look at fixing the issues with hosptials, health systems and education first. Goodness knows the State Governments have proven to be next to useless and continue to expect the Federal Government to bail them out.

    Seriously, either way, we will get faster connections. Let’s be thankful that we live in such good circumstances compared to many others in the world, and address our NEEDS before our WANTS.

    You may not agree with me – but that’s fine, we can’t all think the same way :)

  46. I agree improved broadband is a good thing though like the author question the wisdom behind what is proposed. Do we need to really be spending this level of money when there is plenty of debt already there to pay off, a large chunk of the population has access to perfectly usable broadband & there are plenty of other infrastructure projects out there that could be given the green light.

    Consumer 100M broadband is available today indepedant of work the government has done on the NBN. Go a little wider than that and there is a pretty extensive ADSL2+ deployment inside the country as well – also perfectly usage broadband. Both are cases that show private enterprise will invest when it make sense to. Perhaps instead of trying to build a seperate broaband network, look at how to encourage this further build out?

    Infrastructure project wise, lets build things that will have a more immediate impact. Improvement to water and power networks – cost of both is going up and affects everybody, also if the media is to be believed what we have today isn’t too crash hot. Better public transport? I rack up three hours per day on a train, an improved system to cut even an hour off that would be attractive.

    If building out the capital cities doesn’t make sense, lets build fast rail to somewhere a bit easier to expand. Connect some of these areas up a bit more and people will start to disperse. Failing that go somewhere and start to build a new city – repeat what was done with Canberra. Surely there are plenty of ideas other than giving people improved IPTV access?

  47. Avril said “let’s be realistic and look at fixing the issues with hospitals, health systems and education first.”

    I’m glad to see there are a few voices of reason out there.

    I keep seeing people writing about the technology but to my mind we should be thinking first about whether we can afford to spend such a huge sum of money on something that we don’t necessarily need right now, especially when we have more essential (but less sexy) services that are underfunded. And please don’t compare the cost of the NBN with things like Medicare. The NBN is not an essential service, whereas Medicare is.

    And those who argue that the NBN will last 50 years, that’s all very well, but we are already paying interest on the money the current Govt is borrowing to build it. No one can accurately predict the actual funding costs (including interest) because no one knows how long it will take us to pay off the debt. If we don’t pay it off quickly the compound interest will add up to many billions of dollars very quickly.

    People say it will pay for itself, but it won’t actually bring in significant new revenue from overseas, we will simply be redistributing the money that we already spend on internet services.

    Let’s get budget back in surplus then re-visit the NBN.

  48. One question for all you “experts” ??

    Why is the service NOT symmetrical ???

    All the chat is about business growing etc etc and better health etc etc but no symmetrical connections – NBN=Verygoodaprilfoolsprank…

    To many experts – not enough real world IT guys and gals….

    • Speaking (again) as someone who has attended every available NBN technical briefing, there is plenty of provision in the NBN for symmetrical connections. No doubt they will cost more, but surely that would be to be expected?

      Exactly why do you need a symmetrical connection in your home?

      The NBN design allows for location-to-location connections to be provisioned, particularly symmetrical and particularly for business, alleviating the need for VPN tunnels over the internet, thus providing more reliable outcomes for business.

      • “Exactly why do you need a symmetrical connection in your home?

        Why do you presume I am a HOME user — far from it….

        Publicly there has never been mention of “The NBN design allows for location-to-location connections to be provisioned, particularly symmetrical and particularly for business, alleviating the need for VPN tunnels over the internet, thus providing more reliable outcomes for business.”

        Having seen it all before I am sceptical to the point that I am guessing the NBN will never fully be rolled out and what is rolled out will be a horrid mess – TELSTRA is a very good example of this and they have had many years to actually get it right – they clearly have not…

        I think any reasonable person that has some knowledge of this industry must come to the conclusion that the NBN someones dream and unlike ever to be a reality…

        • Given that you are apparently a business user with concerns, perhaps you should be attending the technical briefings? Plenty public, and a surprising amount of information forthcoming about a network that’s still gestating is being released…

  49. Your financial ignorance is astounding. $43bn is not being spent in one go (and it is only $26bn that the government needs to contribute, the remainder is projected to be funded by charges to ISPs who have to use the network), it is being spent progressively over the next 8 years!

    They will be lucky to have spent $5bn by 2012, your idiocy about wasting $2bn in servicing costs a year until we get back into surplus in 2012 just illustrates your ignorance, and the main waste here is the time spent reading your ignorant drivel.

    If everyone was as stupid as you, no one would ever buy borrow money to buy a house or a car, because those purchases represent a far greater percentage of annual income than the government is spending on the NBN, and according to you there never appears to be a good purpose when borrowing money, no matter how long term the benefits that asset provides.

  50. No, we do not need a fibre network RIGHT now.
    In 8 years, we will find it an excellent advantage to have just completed one though.
    $42bn over 8 years is nearly the same funding that NSW is spending on just it’s roads.
    For the price of one single states’ roads, we connect 93% of the country to a network, that at least the cables will persist for upwards of 40 years.

    Does it really seem that expensive now?

  51. I would be inclined to agree with the NBN not needing to be constructed if there weren’t millions of Australians like myself stuck on RIMs and lacking decent access in rural areas. At peek times, packetloss is high and pings hit over 500 ms making my voip, the internet, and online games unusable.

    Ultimately the problem is the monopoly gatekeeper Telstra has no incentive to fix this. There needs to be structural separation, and this is part of the NBN plan. I think in 5 years time the savings from not being under the stranglehold of Telstra could easily add up to the $43 billion price tag. I presently pay $20 per month for a phone line I do not even use because naked DSL is unavailable. I pay $50 for 25GB on a 1.5Mbps connection. Internode is offering NBN 25GB 25Mbps service for only $40.

    Multiple saving $10-20 per month on internet by millions of households and the $43B pricetag will be paid off in no time. But I would have liked to see a proper business plan and cost benefit analysis. Costs may blow out of control.

    • Having wrangled with Telstra’s monopolistic behaviour for most of my professional IT career, the structural separation of Telstra is a crucial change to the landscape.

      I’ve seen Telstra charge small ISPs a WHOLESALE price of $25.00 per month for a provisioned DSL service, then Telstra Bigpond themselves run out and offer entry-level DSL plans for a RETAIL price of $15.00 or less.

      Completely anti-competitive, restricting the really good deals to the large ISPs who can manage a better deal out of Telstra Wholesale, simply by weight of volume of connections being provisioned.

      Yes – the NBN will be a monopoly – but it will be legislated to offer the same wholesale pricing to ALL players in the market, wishing to make use of the NBN infrastructure, once and for all eliminating Telstra from their price-gouging ways.

      With all service providers on a level-footing for access to the network, the survivors will be providers who provide innovative and value added services. At the moment, none of the established players have an interest in doing so, because there is no true competition.

      Under the NBN, someone with a good idea, a bit of business acumen, and some financial backing can take on the big guys, and maybe even win.

      That folks, is competition, and a healthy, vibrant economy.

      • Michael,

        We forget Australia Post is a government monopoly as is Medicare. We might grumble at the edges but how much sense would a fragmented Australia Post make? And it seems more competitive than postal authorities in other countries. Instead of complaining no government monopolies work, why not hold them to a high standard and see if they do? Sometimes they deliver.

    • Under the Coalition plan, Telstra maintains its squirrel grip on the wholesale market. Telstra answer to their shareholders, not us – and will NEVER provide a level-field for everyone.

  52. Let’s face it, geeks always want the latest and greatest technology, at almost any cost. And I’m sure it’s all the more appealing if everyone else in the country has to pay for it!

    • If the NBN goes ahead, and every Telstra-copper-based service – (voice, internet, or otherwise) is migrated onto the NBN – (since Telstra will be decommissioning the copper network) – will see close to 100% NBN take up anyway…

      Does not this radically change the potential earnings of the network from the scare-mongering, political point scoing comments of Robb and Smith yesterday, claiming that there would be very poor take up of the network?

  53. My use-case: I want to run an autonomous mining operation. I want to stream sensor information from >100 autonomous vehicles; trucks, diggers, drills, etc. Each of these currently has several visual cameras, hyperspectral imaging, multiple radars, not to mention proprioceptive sensing. *Very* conservatively that’s 1GB/s per vehicle (test vehicles already can log faster than the 3Gb/s at which SATA3 can transfer the data). I want to stream that data to a much nicer office in Sydney, rather than dusty and horrible miles-from-nowhere-ville. I want each of my 50 engineers to have access to a subset of that data. I want low latency and QoS guarantees. I’m going to need at least 10TB/s bandwidth, and unless WiFi offers pretty much all the available radio bandwidth in Australia, with absurdly high power transmission, the noisy-channel theorem tells me I’m not going to get it over the airwaves.

  54. Great Post, Sean. Well written, I agree with many of your augments.

    The liberal party should employ you to argue against the NBN, you’d do a better job than they are at present.

  55. Sean,

    You have mentioned various infrastructure spending throughout the comments, including toll roads and desal plants being only a tiny fraction of the cost of the NBN, but these are primarily state run projects. Dont you think its better to compare national (ie federal government) projects with the NBN, since the NBN is obviously a national project?

    Do you realise the actual size of military infrastructure spending? According to wikipedia (yes i accept this is a poor source), “the 2006–16 Defence Capability Plan (DCP) identifies the ADF’s procurement needs over the next nine years. The projects in the DCP had a total value of A$51 billion at the time the Plan was published”.

    This includes F-35 Lightning II aircraft, the air warfare destroyer project, the replacement of the RAAF’s maritime patrol aircraft, the replacement of the RAN’s anti-submarine helicopters, the replacement of the ADF’s entire fleet of field vehicles and the purchase of two large amphibious ships.

    This doesnt include the spend on the 24 F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft, or the replacements to the Collins class boats in the mid 2020s.

    I offer these comments to provide some context to the debate on infrastructure spending.


  56. “Does anyone think that having this big capital works program run by a guy with a hardware vendor background and some consultants is a good idea?”

    There are many excellent telecommunications equipment vendors, from Europe, USA, and China for example, who could have strongly participated in the GPON and Aggregation components of this NBN Co. build. Yet despite this truth, a decision was made to put all of our Australian NBN Co eggs in one basket, and make Alcatel Lucent the sole supplier, and the bottleneck, through which all GPON and aggregation equipment for all of Australia will be delivered.

    Coincidentally (we’re told) the CEO and CFO of the NBN Co are both 20 year veterans of Alcatel Lucent, but they have had no influence on the decision making process. Really?

    It is obvious that with the extent of the planned build across the breadth of our country, not having a second choice for the supply of essential equipment is an untenable decision.

    Any programme manager knows that it is essential to have a second supplier for all technology choices, particularly in the situation we have today, with a company who’s MD has admitted to gouging its customers, in a effectively open ended monopoly agreement.

    One wonders if and when exactly any second choices will be announced?

    I’ve got to ask why has this decision, selecting Alcatel Lucent as effectively monopoly supplier, has been permitted?

  57. What I don’t get is that the ex-leader of the Liberals turned a $500,000 imvestment in the Internet into $54million dollars in 5 years yet they don’t think they have the expertise in their party to oversee an incremental national infrastructure project run by someone of the calibre of Quigley. The truth is the Libs are mining the NBN money to spend on cynical vote buying exercises when they should be taking our national infrastructure seriously. Copper is a dead end and wireless while extremely cool has serious limitations.

    Like most people (and unlike many businesses and schools) I don’t need 100M now anymore than I needed 20M in 2007, or 8M in 2004, or 1.5M in 2001 or 56k in 1995 or 33.6k in 1992 or 14.4k in 1986…. I think it is a bit short sighted to think that my current rural 20Mbps ADSL2+ connection will suffice my growing family and home business, many more IP enabled devices, increasing video bandwidth, more use of voice, maps, online ordering, cloud services etc for the next 5-6 years. Abbott might not be any Bill Gates but he effectively has just said that 640k is enough for everyone, although I hear BG never actually said that.

  58. I am so thankful someone has finally said this. I am 17 and unable to vote and still this whole political mess is ridiculous. I have adequate internet speeds, around 4mbps and I don’t see a need for anything more. Streaming HD video on youtube, while good is still pointless. This huge bandwidth does nothing but encourage kids to download movies illegally in a shorter period of time, seeing as streaming 1080 HD video requires little more than 5 or 6 mbps. This is just sleight of hand by the Labor Government to distract the public from real issues.
    Once again, thank you so much for saying what others lack the common sense to say

    • Jonathan, it must be nice to be young in this exciting era. I am an old bloke now and I clearly recall logging onto bulletin board systems with 300bps and if I was lucky a 1200/75 modem. In 25 years I have seen data speeds go from 300 bits per second to 20million bits per second. What is that, 60,000 times faster in 25 years using the same old copper wires? Not bad.

      But ofcourse progress has stopped now because you are 17 and all is right in the world because your Youtube is fast enough. Moving to fibre for the next quarter century is a collosal waste of money because the Internet is just for downloading illegal content and porn. Are you related to an old bloke called Alston? There is no such thing as stay at home parents telecommuting to help support their family in your world or people with disposable incomes to spend on internet services I guess.

      You have those new fangled calculators now but in my day we would have plotted the yearly growth in Internet speeds on some log linear paper and reached some conclusions about likely growth in Internet speed requirements that might astound you.

  59. I am so thankful someone has finally said this. I am 17 and unable to vote and still this whole political mess is ridiculous. I have adequate internet speeds, around 4mbps and I don’t see a need for anything more. Streaming HD video on youtube, while good is still pointless. This huge bandwidth does nothing but encourage kids to download movies illegally in a shorter period of time, seeing as streaming 1080 HD video requires little more than 5 or 6 mbps. This is just sleight of hand by the Labor Government to distract the public from real issues.
    Once again, thank you so much for saying what others lack the common sense to say.

  60. Those for the NBN seem to be ignoring the fact that those of us who argue against it are not saying “don’t ever build it” we’re just saying “don’t build it right now”.

    Labor budget forecasts for the next few years rely too heavily on commodity prices, at at time when the economies of many developed nations are in intensive care and they are going to be for several years. All it would take right now is a couple of credit rating downgrades for some of the European governments to create a domino effect which could cause a global recession or depression.

    It doesn’t take an economic genius to know that this is not prudent to increase national debt at this time, for something that we as nation do not really need right now and is not an essential service.

    I understand that there are some residential areas that need improved internet access, so let’s spend some money to give them better services, but they don’t need a 100Mbit service. As for those businesses that need more bandwidth, they can pay for it themselves!

    If the global economic climate improves over the next 2-3 years and we do get the budget back into surplus, then we will be better placed to invest billions of dollars in an NBN. Just don’t do it right now.

  61. Jonathan, I appreciate your well articulated and honest response. We all know that that is somewhat true.

    However, businesses really do need more and they’re not getting it.
    I work in the business support section of a major ISP.
    All day I deal with customers who have had their copper line degrade, break or otherwise cease to work properly.
    Because of Telstra’s ownership of the copper that they themselves admitted was “five minutes to midnight” in around 2003, we, and all other ISPs are completely unable to offer a reasonable cost broadband service with any guarantees. All the industry can offer is “Best effort”.

    It is possible for businesses to install fibre.
    We offer it, and so does everyone else. But to install a single fibre to a single business is extremely expensive. I’ve seen estimates at $20,000 for a customer who literally had the fibre connection point a mere 200m away.

    This customer had been through a lot. Unfortunately, their business telephones were delivered digitally over a single copper pair to their voice equipment. They regularly had to deal with no telephones because Telstra technicians would be fixing other customers faults. They’d look for a spare pair, find the nearest one without a dial tone and steal it. Quite literally they’d steal a length of cable from another carrier’s customer.

    There is no recourse for this sort of theft. The only thing that can be done is to log a fault, and wait for Telstra to fix it. Obviously this is no good for any carrier’s reputation with their customers. Through no fault of the customer or the carrier.

    There are also literally hundreds of customers who are on copper that is degraded to the point of uselessness. It needs replacing. Replacing it is expensive. Only Telstra have the right to do this.

    The NBN will solve a lot of the industries problems. Faster torrents for kids is a small side affect.

    You might think that $43bn is a whole hell of a lot of money. It is. But let’s put it in perspective.
    The road network for NSW requires nearly $5bn in maintenance each year. People in NSW do not complain that the government is spending too much on roads.

    In the next 8 years, with inflation, it’s easy to expect NSW to spend $43bn on its roads.
    That’s the exact same time frame and cost of the NBN.

    In contrast, the NBN will lay a fibre network that will easily last 40+ years.
    I’m not talking about the electronics here. Just the cables alone will last that long.
    We know this because there are fibre optic cables in service today that are nearly 40 years old.
    They have had their equipment changed several times, and they’re now reaching speeds far, far in excess of their original speeds. Multi-terrabits.

    This means that the fibres laid by this project will conceivably be used by your grandchildren.
    The network you’re using now was used by your great-grandparents.

    Simply put, it’s at the end of its life. It will not scale much higher. It is corroding more and more by the day. Even Telstra want to replace it before it completely degrades.

    Please understand that $43,000,000,000 is a lot of money, but the NBN is a wise investment in our future.

    Even the most conservative estimates, with a mere 1% improvement in efficiency in a subset of sectors in our economy, put the NBN at break-even cost wise over the roll out period.

    To put that in perspective, you’re about the age I was when I started delivering pizzas. Buying my first car was an expensive proposition at $1200. It made sense, not just because I wanted to go hooning around, but because it enabled me to make money. It paid for itself fairly quickly.

    Not everyone is going to use the NBN for business. That’s fine. You’ll find that most of them are going to pay a business for internet based services that are simply impossible to deliver without the NBN.
    There are plenty of paid internet TV services already. Their business will grow if the NBN is built. They will pay more tax on their income. The government will get the tax. That’s how it works.

    • I think this is the most sensible pro-NBN comment in the entire thread.

      One thing I don’t get though after reading this – if it can potentially cost $20000 to connect one piece of fibre over 200m, how can it only cost ~$5000 per household to implement the entire NBN?

      • Economies of scale kick in when you’re doing work in higher volumes.

        Connecting one house might cost $20,000. But connecting 100 houses on the same street might cost $30,000.
        Instead of digging a pit to connect just one house – you dig a pit and connect every house on that network.

        Same reason as why it doesn’t cost you $20,000 to get your phone connected when you build a new house — there’s already copper running past your door.

        If you’re guaranteed to be paid for cabling every house in an entire region, you can start negotiating with suppliers for bulk purchasing of equipment and materials at lower rates.

        • Yeah I get economies of scale but that seems extreme. Perhaps the $20k quote is just taking the piss.

    • here here… i’m handing out for the NBN, and will be voting Labor for the first time ever because of it.

  62. It was only around 10 years ago we were all happy surfing away on our dialup connections. Had you applied your same argument at that time you would not be able to sit down now with your 8mbps and watch video on YouTube, or legally download multimedia from the internet, or jump onto your VOIP phone for cheap calls, or check on FaceBook or Tweet and Twitter. It reminds me of that famous line from the movie Field of Dreams – If you build it they will come. Such high speed internet would not be rolled out so you at home can sit at your computer and surf the net a lot faster. There are many other applications across various industries that can utilise and benefit from the NBN – health, education, business, etc, etc. Australia is already lagging behind the rest of the developed countries in this area, even behind a lot of 3rd world countries. A 3rd world country is what we will become if we do not find a way to afford to get level with the rest of the world. We will be left behind as a banana republic.

  63. I am a liberal voter on a blue ribbon liberal seat.

    The argument for the NBN is so overwhelming that I can’t bring myself to vote for a platform mostly based on doing nothing.

    For the sake of Australia’s future, I hope Gillard wins


  64. I’m so happy I’m not the only one with these exact views.

    Why can’t this post get some main stream press coverage?

  65. Chris:
    “Maybe a stupid question, but when ever has technology cost more in the future than it did in the past?”

    When it comes to laying a cable in the ground for one.
    If that weren’t the case, Telstra would have pulled up all the copper a decade ago.

    How many customers are currently on pair gain systems because laying a higher capacity cable into their area is too expensive today, but was cost effective a generation ago?

    • It is not a question of cost effectiveness. Telstra was privatised and went from providing a service to maximising profit.

  66. What I would do with 1Gbps NBN….?

    * – possible with my internet now

    ** – not possible now

    43 yo Phd student
    skype my nephew 2000km away in HD**
    lecture my innovation class from rural town**
    watch HD Stanford/Harvard webcasts and interact**
    talk to the doctor without travel*
    watch Aegean sunset in HD**
    interview for job 1000km away from home**
    Jam with sister in Germany, she on violin, me on trumpet**
    watch my nephews school play live**
    give English lesson with an Asian English learner*
    watch webcast of NBN AIIA lunch talk*
    My internet: 4Gb 3G VirginBroadband at 500k inc local/std calls $60/mth

    80 yo father
    skype my 2000km away son*
    talk to doctor online*
    watch Andre Rieu concert live*
    borrow library books*
    record video memoirs and store online**
    watch Parliament*
    chat to overseas daughter (skype)*
    browse family photos online*
    train young lawyers*
    keep an eye on Arsenal football games live*
    My internet: 2Gb ADSL2 $30/mth

    What is not possible now is to do these things all at once, or within our download limits.

  67. Telstra says a gigabyte is a lot of information (

    One gigabyte is:

    1000 books
    1000 * 10Mb mp3s
    100 minutes of Apple video streamed presentation eg iPhone 4 announcement
    20 * 50Mb mp4 music videos
    3/4 hour standard def video compressed
    20 mins high def video compressed
    10% of wikipedia database

    What we don’t want is $1/gb when I can download 500Gb an hour.

  68. I’m a lifelong Liberal party voter but their opposition to the NBN has made me reconsider-
    I’ll be voting for Labor this year because it’s a human right for every Australian child to have fast internet.

  69. Is it just me or are many of the ‘comments’ )other than the ones that just discuss the ads/disads of each technicalgy) missing the primary point of this article…that BOTH parties should cool their heels and wait till the current economic uncertainty clears over before making any significant commitment.

    I quote:

    “Why not get back into surplus, in 2012 and revisit this whole situation then? If the US economy fully recovers, Europe looks stable and forecasts for the Australian economy look good and project us paying off that massive debt, then awesome, let’s come up with a plan and build a world class network”

    Well written Mr Kaye!!!

    For the record, I would prefer to see spending in areas like aged care so seniors (that are have nots) can live in dignity and comfort before we look at speeding up communications.

  70. LOL i have to laugh at the campsites setup – pro or against on the nbn its getting as bad as the climate change debacle. Im in total agreement with you Sean. Lets build up what we have slowly and cost effectivly until we know we can afford a complete revamp of the system.

  71. I’ve been a Liberal voter for,,, hmmm, most of my voting life.

    I’m also not a Labor stooge like the other supposed Liberal voters that have responded to this thread, so I will still be voting Liberal.

  72. Great article. And I agree with most of the points. The only point I disagree with is the medical one.

    In the UK we regularly send off large images (e.g. MRI scans) to, say, Spain for diagnosis. It works well, and the issues around liability have been sorted out.

    I’d imagine it could work well in Australia too. The imaging could take place anywhere in the outback, and the diagnosis could be done in the cities (where presumably the consultants choose to live).

    But a cost-benefit analysis needs to be done. How many MRI scans are conducted in remote locations in Australia? (Do remote locations even have MRIs in the first place?) What benefits would a network bring to patients and doctors? What costs could be saved by not having specialists working out in the countryside? Conversely, if the network isn’t built, what are the risks to the patients if the images still have to be physically transported to the cities for diagnosis? (I.e. will the patients suffer because of the delays? If so, can that be quantified?)

    And then it all needs to be weighed up against the cost of building the network in the first place.

    $43b seems like a huge sum for a country with only 21m people.

  73. I agree with the article completely. Maybe we need the NBN, maybe we don’t, But, now is certainly not the time to build it when we have massive debt, huge hospital waiting lists, and overblown infrastructure issues to deal with.
    Pay the debt, then build the network, don’t just keep borrowing! I am a Nerd by all stretches of the imagination IT has been my life for 12 years, and even i know this is a bad idea economically at the moment. It will not help Rural patients, It will not deliver anything more than higher res video to schools.
    The government is just trying to find reasons for people to vote for it. And i suspect anyone who votes for it simply based on Gillards lies is propably one of those people who have no idea how to manage their own money and therefore dont care about the Australian Economy!

    Great Article, i’m glad someone sees understands the ramifications of this.

  74. Fast internet is fast.

    I think some people here are missing the point.

  75. None of the above comments will matter anyway. By the time it’s built we’ll be paying such exorbitant fees for electricity that no one will be able to afford to run a computer or plasma tv.

    • Ken

      I think you have pretty much hit the point of the article on the head…lets forget about the NBN for now and focus on important things like restoring Australias’ standards of living.

      Labor state the NBN will do that…but they keep forgetting to mention the 8 year timetable!

      Get things fixed first…and as a bonus, in a couple years time, the wait will hopefully mean the infrustruture is much cheaper.

      I don’t buy a state of the art computer when it first becomes available…I buy it when its dropped in price. That might not be ok for everyone…but thats the point, the NBN is not ok for everyone at this price tag.

  76. The “latency” is worse under wireless argument is bunkum.

    Wireless uses radiowaves. they travel at the speed of light in air. Nothing can go faster (ignoring quantum information signaling).
    Fibre travels at the speed of light in glass, which is around .6c. The speed difference is irrelevant (though it favours wireless).

    Bandwidth is a different problem, and a limit on wireless.

    Wireless can be a cost effective alternative for the last hop, and upgradeable when uptake leads to interference/congestion.

    Fibre to the Home is the most expensive solution and has the greatest potential, but unless it is going to be used, it will be a very expensive investment. If the costing model means that most people won’t be able to afford more than 50Mbit/s then fibre would be a waste.

    Given the Government has not conducted a detailed business case detailing the capital and operational costs, and models of pricing based upon uptake levels, the NBN is unsupportable.

    This is like a .com prospectus. No detail on how the thing will either break even or make money. Just a grand plan and a hope, plus lots of arm-waving and imploring investors to jump aboard or risk missing out. Needless to say, those companies all went broke. Surely an investment of $43B needs to be done seriously, not by the clowns that managed to spend $650,000 for an 18sq metre tuck shop, that has a few power points, a sink and some tables.

      • Google started in 1998, late in the .com cycle. It didn’t float until 2004.
        It’s first business model was “sell search engines into companies” which earned, to a first order approximation – ZERO.

        The founders, having declared selling ads to be evil year earlier, finally agreed to sell ads, and that’s when they made lots of money. It was a very rare success, and yes, it didn’t have a business plan that made sense. Their fortune was that they had a hundred million in investment funds, so they had time to fail and remake themselves.

        I’m betting you will spend $43B on NBN and you won’t get a Google. The .com era spawned thousands of companies, but few made it. The odds were incredibly bad. We are about to spend $43B, with no business case, run by a bunch of people who have no experience in business and can’t manage any of the simpler and smaller projects they have started, and who are hiring their political cronies into senior management roles. And unlike the .com era, we have exactly 1 place we are putting all our money.

        I don’t like the odds.

  77. So what is the cost to access the nbn? Does anyone know the connection fee, download limits etc

  78. I would feel happier with the NBN if the ALP pumped their own money into it instead of mine.

    • Ah, Anthony, it will be YOUR money that Labor are pumping into it – via taxes. Where else will the money come from? :)

  79. Hi, there

    NBNCO (the government wholesale arm of the NBN) will sell capacity to retail ISPs.

    I have seen the number $30 a month for a 100mb connection with unlimited download at wholesale price.

    If this is correct, The consumer price will be anywhere between $50 and $100 a month.

    If you have a mate in Tassie, he can confirm as it is available there.

    $100 a month for that and no Telstra lines? I WANT THAT NOW :)


    • David

      There is no way of telling how much it will cost the average joe blow, even if your $30 claim is accurate.

      Take a can of coke…it costs 8c to produce (probably less now), but it costs $2 to buy one can off the shelf.

      I am not saying it wont be affordable…not saying it will be either. Fact is Labor have not been able to tell anyone how much it will cost, and until they do, then thats a BIG hole in their plans for winning people over.

      Though irrelevant for me…as per previous comments, I agree with Kaye that we should simply wait a while.

  80. I wonder if Sean Kaye works for Telstra

    I have this funny habit of following the trail of money….

    Who would benefit from the demise of the NBN and the election of a luditte as PM???


    I can’t vote for a Coalition government installed by the climate change sceptics, who believes broadband is for sending a couple of Emails!!

    If you wonder why your newspaper does not print this stuff, just look at the Telstra advertising budget :) – they want some of that


    • Lame….accusing opponents of your views of being on the take, and being luddites…

      Is that really the best you can do?

      Perhaps you work for the big media production and supply companies who are the ones who will benefit from the faster speeds (and really, the only large scale need for 100mbps or 1gbps is video). See how easy the accusations of being on the take are? Or maybe you work for Labor? Wow….do we feel like the discussion has progressed?


  81. On one hand, I need porn downloaded quicker.
    On the other hand, is my penis.

    But wow, arn’t the Labor nerds out tonight

  82. Wireless is the dumb lazy man broadband

    Wireless does not in the foreseeable future:

    a) provide speeds above 10mb for millions of simultaneous connections within a metropolitan area

    b) wireless is prone to congestion – if you are an Optus customer using iPhones in metro Sydney , you will know what I mean!! Service is crap because of congestion

    c) interference can’t ve easily resolved

    if you are really lazy OR are alergic to cables, wireless is the way to go!!

    For the rest of us, fibre optics is the ONLY way to go

    Abbott said yesterday “broadband is fir sending a couple of emails” – he can speak for himself, my broadband is a business tool.

    My company employs 30 Australians – 10 jobs will be under threat if we can’t have decent broadband (*) at low cost within the next couple of years.

    (*) Decent broadband is a service comparable to our trading partners in terms of cost and speed

  83. Hi David – what’s climate change have to do with broadband policy? Methinks you need to grow up son. I get the impression you’d vote for Labor even if they’d trashed the economy … …. which is pretty much the case, I guess. You’ll think differently when you’re old enough to vote.

    The fact is that only a few per cent of business actually “needs” super fast broadband, as opposed to lots of people who “want” it [but don’t need it]’.

    Economics 101 tells me that market forces should prevail and that those who want to download a movie in 2 minutes should bear the whole cost. Others shouldn’t subsidise it. Needs -v- wants. Simple.

    Following son?

    PS: David Jnr – If you hadn’t received an education under a Labor government, you’d have learned real facts like this ….. instead of the indoctrination that passes for education.

  84. My concern with the NBN is that having a government owned anything means it always starts out looking good to buy votes but once the pollies move on to something else the reinvestment does not happen. It seems to me the NBN is another big dog like Telstra was before it. The outcome will be the same. It will not deliver in the long term because politicians are lousy at running businesses.

    My second ideological concern is with the creation of another virtual monopoly. Everyone who buys a loaf of bread knows that the best method we have of keeping prices down is to reduce barriers to entry and encourage competition. This will do the exact opposite. Is electricity or water any cheaper in QLD where the State controls the supply? The answer is of course NO!

    Thirdly, why does lightening speed internet need to be everywhere. So I can download my porn more quickly? If we want to help generate business and jobs why not focus the effort on a much smaller business sector. We just don’t all need it. It must be alluring to spend other people’s money in this way.

    Irrespective of whether all of Australia needs 2Mbit/s or 200Mbit/s this is a very bad delivery model. Much more akin to somthing that would happen in Venezuela than Australia. Sadly, the next generation of workers are going to be left with a dog. Even if the dog was a greyhound it will eventually get old, lazy and it is going to bite.

    • Mate, we already have a biting dog.
      It’s the rusting copper network owned by Telstra.

      Telecom Australia was once a world recognised innovator.
      Then it was renamed and sold.

      Government entities are not that inefficient. People here are complaining about the rising price of power. Why is that?
      Could it have anything to do with selling all our government owned power generation?

      Medicare is run quite effectively from a business perspective. Check out its accounting on their site.
      Australia post. The Future fund.

      Actually, because of the way they’re structured, most Australian government owned business entities run with similar profit and loss guidelines to any business. They’re not typically just a loss making endeavour.

      As I posted above, the NBN is needed because our current network is so badly neglected that it needs the cables replaced. If you’re going to replace the cables, why not use the latest technology?
      It’s not a huge expense in the scheme of things either.
      See my post above.

  85. One small problem with the scheme is security.
    Once a high bandwidth pipe has been installed over the long distance routes, then no one will have any incentive to duplicate that part of the network. This kind of defeats the original aim of the network as defined by DARPA. ie that it would be built with a high degree of redundancy.
    A few munitions detonated along the route in some remote stretch could knock the network out for weeks.
    If the backbone was laid in separate routes it would reduce the chances of a completely severed connection .
    Allow utility companies to use transmission pylons to sling optical cable alongside high voltage lines, assuming optical is immune from electrical interference.
    Likewise rail and road corridors could carry buried segments as well.

  86. I have a perfectly good Commodore but Labor wants to buy me a Ferrari. Yes please!

    Hang on a minute ….. isn’t that my money you’re using? ‘snip’ off!

    • I’ve used the car analogy before. It’s not a commodore.
      Given the average age of the copper, it’s far more comparable to a clapped out HJ holden.
      All they want to do is replace it with a Commodore.

      • Funny, I was just about to post exactly the same thing. Good call.

        For the record, a Ferrari solution to the NBN would not use PON Components. It would run dedicated fibre to each and every house. And then just for good measure, they would use high quality 10Gig Optics at each end of the fibre. They would likely also cover 100% of the population and use those LH/ZX Optics that are good for 40km of fibre and cost some $30,000 each. All of this would terminate on an advanced high performance router that does all your QoS with some 20+ levels of DiffServe traffic defined and handeled differently (as well as at least 8 input and output WRED queues), VRF, IGMP and Multicast, Native IPv6 support and all your regular old VLAN’s etc. Hell they should probably include a built in Firewall so that the goverment and your ISP can deliver their web filter and block every little thing you ever bother to complain about and then some based on your own personal preferences and level of access requirements, all at 10G line speed of course.

        BTW, to those rubishing the NBN saying we should all have 10G to our home. Please? I know Universities that haven’t upgraded to 10G yet. At that speed you would need to spend a lot more than the average annual household income just on a server farm to allow disk access to even come close to being able to read and/or write at that speed. 10G is overkill and something we don’t need. The NBN is a infrastructure replacement project that we do need.

  87. Jebus LeMay, your site is turning into Nowearetalking with all this Telstra blog spam. Time to close the comments I think. Everyone with half a brain knows the copper network is at a dead end and that technology growth isn’t going to stand still just because Abbott doesn’t understand the impact of constant growth rates like Moore’s law on technology. I have absolutely no use for a 1Gbps connection now but I know from experience that the applications always follow and that if 20Mbps copper in still all I can get in ten years Australia will be heading for a crisis.

    There are other important spending priorities and there is a reasomable doubt over the government’s ability to deliver. Fair enough. But you have to go beyond climate change denier territory to believe that a nation wide wholesale only fibre upgrade isn’t important.

    If the Libs are really better financial managers then perhaps they have the ability to deliver us an NBN cheaper than Labor and in a shorter time but they will never know if they are too scared to try. Other Centre-Right governments around the world are doing it and a government under someone a bit entrepreneurial like Turnbull instead of a career political hack might have the guts to give it a go.

  88. For our rural region, it’s very simple.

    NBN: we get fibre

    Coalition policy: we get wireless

    Currently, the best we can get is ADSL1 (1.5 MB/s). I don’t believe the Coalition would spend any significant amount on improving our situation. They’re the ones who ripped out our other services (health, education etc.).

    When I first moved to this region, I could get in to see a GP the same day, if necessary. Now, I have to book three months ahead. (That is not a typo: THREE MONTHS. For reference, I have a life-threatening disease.)

    Much as I hate the filter push, I have to admit that Labor has been the only federal government willing to invest in infrastructure. We now have a 24-hr emergency department in the hospital of our central town. We have school buildings. Our tradespeople are employed. The stimulus has sustained a wave of economic activity in our region.

    Since I am housebound by disability, my participation in the wider community, even my basic communication with friends and family, depends entirely on my Internet connection. This is not an option I can take. It’s not a luxury. Without an Internet connection, I would have been stuck here for the last 10 years, staring at the opposite wall.

    I need better Internet connectivity. Local businesses are hamstrung by the slow connections. Even schools and government departments struggle with the limited bandwidth available. Wireless would be inadequate in our region right now, let alone in the future. Our region needs the NBN. Now.

  89. Not sold on this article I admit. If you’re already against the NBN, it’s great. But if not, it’s arguments are pretty weak.

    (1) $43 billion is not a ridiculous sum of money. If the product is good it is worth what is actually a small propor…tion of Federal funds. If the product isn’t good, then obviously it’s a waste – but that is a separate issue. And also, when the Feds spend money they recoup a lot of it through taxes and people spending their wages. This is one of the reason Govt stuff always costs more, and that it is not that big a problem.
    (2) It isn’t the “same mess” as the insulation/BER thing. That was rolled out deliberately quickly. The NBN, however, has been more slowly rolled out and is being tested in Tassie.
    (3) “$42 billion will quickly become $50 billion” – this is plain conjecture, not an argument.
    (4) “most people are operating on their home internet connection at under 2Mbps” – Saying ‘we get by today’ is a rubbish argument against future technology. It’s like saying because 100 years ago most people were riding horses then we shouldn’t have bothered with cars. There was plenty of talk that iPads would be a useless platform, yet how quickly has the market accomodated them? ‘Build it and they will come’ is not a silly as it sounds.
    (5) Using superfast internet for medical procedures – why not? This ‘Delimiter’ guy says because insurance companies won’t like it. Why would we pander to insurance companies? We’re already doing surgery using robots and computers already anyway – why is doing it over the internet such a giant leap?
    (6) His argument that the NBN is based around a “magical undiscovered future technology” is actually a point in favour of its rollout. Many, many scientific discoveries and innovations were made accidentally. Technology does not march forward slowly – it does so in sudden surprising leaps. Future tech’s won’t come unless stuff like this precedes it.

    Not saying I’m all for the NBN, but this article does not convince me it’s a bad idea. What I wnat to see is a real costing of rolling ADSL2+ to ALL suburban homes OR an clear explanation as to the actual progress made on 100% wireless internet technology. How feasible and fast will be?

  90. Michael,
    The problem with sticking with ADSL is that the copper network is old, very old. Soon it will have to be replaced, it may as well be with fibre rather than more copper. The cost of laying cable is 99% in the laying and 1% in the cable.

    Wireless cannot provide the answer. It has not in fact been getting “faster” as it appears at first.
    3G works on a code multiplexing system. By adding more codes, you can increase the data rate up to a point, the compromise is that the radio path becomes less robust. At some point, about 20Mb/s on a 3G channel, you hit the optimum return and more codes will not help. It is basically robbing Peter the more distant users) to pay Paul, the close customers with a good radio path.
    You can double this to 40Mb/s by using two radio channels at once. This of course doesn’t actually give you any more capacity at all, it just allows you to rob Jane to pay Paul as well.
    You can get more about 80Mb/s by using two bases at once on two frequencies but this is really just robbing Arthur and Martha to pay Paul as well.

    LTE can go a bit faster but only because it can use narrower slices of radio spectrum that allows it to rob even more people of bandwidth to pay Paul. For the same amount of bandwidth it doesn’t really offer much more than 3G.

    Of course it isn’t quite as simple as that because unless Paul is file sharing non stop, there will be breaks in his useage that the others can make use of. So you do gain a bit in spectral efficiency the more bandwidth you can supply even if you just double the users for each doubling of bandwidth.

    A fibre cable on the other had offers you bandwidth from DC to Daylight, quite literally, and offers it to each and every user individually.

  91. Alright, lets settle down now. I’ve read the article, every comment, and every reply to a comment. I’ve crunched the numbers and done the math and here’s the result.
    There’s 2 sides to this discussion and the conclusion I have come to is the same as everyone else here…
    If you already have an opinion it’s one that you’re not going to change based on this article or any of the subsequent pro / con comments, they’re just not that definitive.
    I’m a big fan of politicians and love to believe the hype and spin of every election. Believe the spin, it’s obvious we need the NBN. It’s simple mathematics, with our current population the copper network is fine, but when those hundreds of thousands of boat people arrive next year there’s just not going to be enough internet bandwidths for us to continue our spams and scams. Hell we will max out the speed of light within 5 years by my calculations, we’re need to start looking at portal technology before the next election campaign.

  92. Sean Kaye:
    “According to every analyst in this country, inflation is now in the range where the Reserve Bank will start lifting interest rates.”

    Haven’t been reading the news?
    Inflation is falling, retail is struggling, housing is contracting and employment growth has stalled. MOST analysts, apart from those doing quoting the coalition line, say that interest rates are unlikely to shift upwards in the next 12 months.

    • Goresh: “Inflation is falling…”

      You can hardly accuse The Age of toeing the Coalition line:

      “The rate of inflation rose for the eighth straight month in June, as the cost of food, travel and insurance services rose as Australia edges closer to total employment” (July 5, 2010).

      This increase brought the annual rate to 3.6%:

      “The annual reading is well above the RBA’s target range for inflation between 2 and 3 per cent over the long term and means the bankers will be keeping an even closer eye on the June quarter consumer price data, out at the end of the month.

      “I do think the RBA given the inflation outlook will need to raise rates this year,” said JPMorgan economist Helen Kevans” (July 6, 2010).

      Try getting your facts straight, first.

  93. cynic:
    “It is not a question of cost effectiveness. Telstra was privatised and went from providing a service to maximising profit.”

    Isn’t that what cost effectiveness is? If Telstra wants to maimise profit, installing infrastructure that provides a revenue stream greater than cost of provision is a no brainer.
    Likewise, NOT installing infrastructure that will cost more than the revenue it can generate is also a no brainer.

  94. @Michael:

    1. “$43 billion is not a ridiculous sum of money.”

    Perhaps not; but eight years (in IT terms) is the equivalent of a lifetime to wait for everything to be finished. Those arguably most in need (such as people in regional areas) are not going to see any change for many years to come.

    More importantly, it is almost undeniable that there will have been significant, if not revolutionary, changes in data transmission within the next five years, let alone eight years. This amount is therefore a staggering punt when considered against the fact that there is no guarantee that the product will even be economically and/or logistically viable once the rollout has been completed, let alone on a par with world standards.

    It is one thing to spend $43b on desperately needed dams that will still be here in 100 years; it is quite another to spend it on technology that might be outdated in five.

    2. “If the product is good it is worth what is actually a small proportion of Federal funds.”

    Correct. But will those funds be considered to have been well-spent in eight years’ time, or when I finally get FTTP connected to my home? And will I even want it then? I am not so sure I would be happy with a computer running Windows 2000.

    3. “It isn’t the “same mess” as the insulation/BER thing. That was rolled out deliberately quickly. The NBN, however, has been more slowly rolled out and is being tested in Tassie.”

    The latter point is correct – which is why it would be wise for the Government to wait and see how a COMPREHENSIVE test unfolds before committing themselves to such an expensive project. Tasmania is a small State; nevertheless, NBN Co can only provide modelling which, in their own words, “may be subject to change”. It would also be wise to bear in mind that the logistics of fibre rollout is determined by the location of actual infrastructure (buildings, etc), in much the same way that wireless accessibility is affected by such things as cluster and density. It is one thing to have a broadband plan; it is quite another to assess its workability in real life situations.

    4. ” “$42 billion will quickly become $50 billion” – this is plain conjecture, not an argument.”

    If history is anything to go by, it is a certainty.

    5. ” ‘Build it and they will come’ is not a silly as it sounds.”

    In this context, it is probably sillier than it sounds. We are not talking about a new attraction, but about a CONNECTION. Yes, the NBN will give me access to my emails at a much faster speed – but the fact that I can download a video in a few minutes is hardly relevant if I never download such things in the first place.

    6. “Many, many scientific discoveries and innovations were made accidentally. Technology does not march forward slowly – it does so in sudden surprising leaps.”

    Correct again. And that surprising leap might come in the middle of the eight-year rollout, which could make everything immediately obsolete (how often do you use your typewriter?). Fair enough if we are talking about a rollout that can be completed quickly – but in an industry that is changing so quickly, eight years is a lifetime. The point is that none of us can see the future – but the fact that we can see change happening so quickly in this particular industry should make us doubly hesitant to commit to such a long-term project at such an enormous cost.

  95. This guy sounds like either a liberal party member or a liberal party fictional character, invented to create uncertainty around a major Labor party platform.

    Anyway, I’m no IT expert but it seems quite simple; You can send bigger files faster over a bigger network. If you build a bigger network people will start working out what they can send using a bigger network. This drives creativity, ingenuity, progress, efficiency etc.

    Nothing to do with being afraid of the future; gees i could imagine some guy just like this one writing the same sort of fear mongering propaganda before they put in the first underground phone wires.

  96. Mark:
    “Perhaps not; but eight years (in IT terms) is the equivalent of a lifetime to wait for everything to be finished. Those arguably most in need (such as people in regional areas) are not going to see any change for many years to come.”

    In fact, as we have seen in Tasmania, those most in need have been the first cab off the rank.

    “More importantly, it is almost undeniable that there will have been significant, if not revolutionary, changes in data transmission within the next five years, let alone eight years. This amount is therefore a staggering punt when considered against the fact that there is no guarantee that the product will even be economically and/or logistically viable once the rollout has been completed, let alone on a par with world standards.”

    As far as transmission via radio or copper pairs goes, no there wont, not unless new physics is somehow imagined, proven and brought to market. On the other hand, right now as I write this, data is being transmitted over optical fiber at petabyte speeds, fast enough to download the entire sum of human knowledge while you make a cup of coffee.

    “But will those funds be considered to have been well-spent in eight years’ time, or when I finally get FTTP connected to my home? And will I even want it then? I am not so sure I would be happy with a computer running Windows 2000.”

    The alternative being proposed by the coalition is to give you an internet connection of Windows 95 vintage when you are running Windows 2015.
    By then Microsoft is planning to have the vast amount of Office and storage online. Will you be happy to wait 15 minutes for your word document to open when it takes 2 seconds in the rest of the world?

    “Yes, the NBN will give me access to my emails at a much faster speed – but the fact that I can download a video in a few minutes is hardly relevant if I never download such things in the first place.”

    It will also be the basis of all your business software and documentation. When all the DVD rental shops are closed because it takes 2 minutes to download a movie from a massive online catalog, will you be happy to wait 2 days to watch the same movie? Since all movies will be released online then, you wont even be able to buy the movie on DVD.

    “Correct again. And that surprising leap might come in the middle of the eight-year rollout, which could make everything immediately obsolete (how often do you use your typewriter?).”

    Aren’t you still using a typewriter? It is after all what you are advocating. Somebody might just invent a mind reading input for computers in the next 8 years. Better to stick with a typewriter and post letters than to invest in a PC which might be redundant in only 8 years.

    Why are the telcos still rolling out 3G when we know LTE is less than a decade away?
    Because they know that they can gain a competitive edge and get a good return on their investment TODAY with the technology of today.
    Why AREN’T they rolling out AMPS and GSM networks? Because like copper it is YESTERDAYS technology.

  97. David Snr:
    “The fact is that only a few per cent of business actually “needs” super fast broadband, as opposed to lots of people who “want” it [but don’t need it]‘.”

    You may be old enough to vote but if you think “only a few per cent of business actually “needs” super fast broadband” you are probably old enough to be senile also.

    My friend runs his own business which among other things, involves printing signs.
    If he has “super fast broadband” he can download a design in seconds, alter it as need be, send it back to his customer for approval etc all inside a day, while doing other things.
    The alternative is for the customer to post it, wait a couple of days, post it back, wait a couple of days, post it back again, wait a couple of days and print it. Either that or he has to hire someone to spend all day driving between clients picking up and dropping off CD’s so he can get on with the creative stuff.

    Just one example of one business that needs all the bandwidth it can get. There are a million more like him in business models you could never dream of to whom fast broadband is an essential.

  98. Harry,
    “You can hardly accuse The Age of toeing the Coalition line:”

    The Age, like all mainstream media, is “Coalition friendly” though not to the same extent as The Australian for instance.

    “The rate of inflation rose for the eighth straight month in June, as the cost of food, travel and insurance services rose as Australia edges closer to total employment” (July 5, 2010).

    I prefer to rely on the comments by the RBA and less biased media.

    “The Melbourne Institute survey of consumer inflationary expectations found the median expected inflation rate fell to 2.8per cent in August, from 3.3 per cent in July.

    It was the fourth straight monthly fall for inflation expectations.

    The steady rate had been expected by market economists after the June quarter consumer price index (CPI) came in at a lower than expected annual pace of 3.1 per cent.”
    – World News Australia August 12 2010

    “Six months ago many were worried about inflation.

    Global growth was recovering and fears abounded that major developed countries would print money to get out of their public debt problems.

    However in the last few months fears of deflation have regained the upper hand, on the back of still falling inflation rates and worries about a return to global recession.

    Our base case is ongoing low inflation in major countries over the next few years, but the risks are skewed to deflation rather than accelerating inflation.”
    – The Economy Whats the Story, ShareCafe 13 August 2010

    “Taking the above at face value, this tells us that the RBA had, in fact, downgraded its medium-term growth and inflation estimates quite materially. We know this because while the RBA’s GDP and CPI numbers had remained fixed, futures market pricing for interest rates at the time of the August Statement implied that it was assuming that it would avoid three of the four previously expected hikes to achieve its medium-term inflation target.”
    – The RBAs Overlooked Downgrades, Business Spectator 13 August 2010

    • You are not speaking the truth, Goresh.

      In your first post (13/08/2010, 9.41pm) you stated that “Inflation is falling.”

      I pointed out that in June of this year, the rate of inflation had risen for the 8th consecutive month.

      You replied (after desperately searching Google for some quotes to bolster your case) that the Melbourne Institute found the median EXPECTED inflation rate fell to 2.8per cent in August.

      No kidding! But no-one is speaking about the EXPECTED inflation rate, only the ACTUAL inflation rate. This has risen substantially.

      As with the rest of your posts, you are just talking a load of baloney.

  99. I think a lot of these people commenting on here in support of the NBN are missing the point! I think the NBN would be a great idea, if it cost $4Bn instead of $43Bn (more likely $85Bn when completed) We have other infrastructure projects that need the money more than the NBN, So whilst lightning speed internet might be good to some businesses, We need Medicare upgrades, Hospital upgrades (remember the big Govt takeover to fix this, havent hear much have we?) Major highway and roadworks upgrades and finally to pay some of this massive debt off. So the NBN would be a great idea, not now, but…WHEN WE CAN AFFORD IT AS A COUNTRY!!!!!

    • Few infrastructure projects will have the economic life of fibre replacing copper. Or change directly change the life of as many people

  100. P.S.
    There are a lot of comments on here about business and doctors needing the NBN. Telstra can provide high speed services to businesses (Woolworths and Coles already have 100Mbps) and medical practitioners are eligible for govt. rebates on these high speed expenses too. In the bush, high res x-rays are uploaded to a central server and inspected. This is still as quick as the normal x-ray turnaround time anyway. None of these arguments sustain why we need to spend $43Bn now. We need to wait till we can afford it, then do it! It will not generate sufficient income to pay the debt, especially since the govt. say it will be affordable to connect to!

  101. Sean is a fool! It’s as simple as that! What qualifications does he have, if any? I’ve got degrees in electronics engineering, business and a masters in IT and his points are not worth addressing in detail; suffice to say that movie downloads for households will soon replace video libraries whilst business, including but not limited to hospitals, needs to transfer 100 megabyte, or even gigabyte size files now, not in 5-10 years! Sean ancestors probably didn’t want railroads or roads either. I pity the IT companies he works for.

    • Hey Frank, I think you’re full of it, but that’s another matter…

      Since the NBN is going to take 8 years to rollout, subject to everythng going right, etc, etc., how is this going to help hospitals and businesses that need to transfer 100Mb now?

      You have three degrees already and this is the best contribution you can make? LOL. Try getting another degree. You won’t learn anything, but at least it will keep you off blogs like this one.

      • That’s all I wrote because I have better things to do.

        The NBN is happening now, people (business and households have just commenced using it in parts of Tasmania – that’s today, not in 7 years!) other areas will be commissioned from now until the mammoth project is complete eg some areas of Melbourne will be using the NBN within the next 6-12 months.

        Everyone else on this blog will be unaware that:

        1. The United Nations has adopted Australia’s NBN as a model of how other member state should rollout broadband.

        2. The ITU (International Telecommunications Union – The peak standards governing body in the industry) were so impressed that that invited Conroy onto the board.

        This is the first decent piece of nation building we have seen for nearly 100 years and people know it? What a joke!

        As we need to reduce CO2 lets stop building roads; they cost more than this over a couple of decades!

        The world is spending over $200B on the International Space Station whilst the global economy falters – lets stop that too.

        Australia will have spend $50B+ on submarines between about 1990 and 2020 – lets scrap all of that as well.

        Those against the NBN are either not technologically aware or are simply against it due to their political affiliations; there can be no other explanation.

        • “Everyone else on this blog will be unaware that…”

          You’re kidding, right? We can all read the news, even if we don’t have three degrees.

          “The United Nations has adopted Australia’s NBN as a model of how other member state should rollout broadband”

          What is your source for that information? Or are you just making it up?

          “The ITU (International Telecommunications Union – The peak standards governing body in the industry) were so impressed that that invited Conroy onto the board”

          Conroy is only one of 50+ commissioners appointed to the new board from around the world. There is no mention of anyone being “so impressed” with him as you suggest.

          “As we need to reduce CO2 lets stop building roads”

          What a great, novel idea. Yep, that’ll really work. Boy, how smart are you, Frank.

          “Those against the NBN are either not technologically aware or are simply against it”

          Yep, they are all stupid, crassly stupid.

          A pity they don’t all have three degrees or else they might know something. Like you, Frank.

  102. Sadly, I too a LTL (Long Time Liberal) but can’t vote for them due to the myopic approach to this issue.

    Facts are it’s not about technology, it’s about the productivity and creativity by using applications and communications that’s built upon the platform.

    Bigger Pipe = Richer Applications = Greater Creativity/ Problem Solving = Revenue & Profits

    The main problem is most people don’t utilise the technologies already available today yet alone can envisage what applications will be available or on-demand tomorrow.

    Today we are already beginning to see rich media multipoint (multiple people) conferencing and collaboration platforms benefiting major projects worldwide.

    To illustrate a very practical example:

    Let’s take one very inefficient industry we all know – the Australian building and construction industry –

    The industry is about $77B/ 7% of GDP & 900K people employed. (Upstream and Downstream industries approx $150B contribution)

    Approximately 85% of the people are self employed in small businesses

    About 40-50% of building and construction costs are labour related – that’s the time you and I are paying for their business activities (quoting; supplies, project management; working; tools; invoicing etc).

    A majority of small businesses don’t have a website BUT do have email.

    How much technology improves productivity depends on the business BUT what it does do is provide greater communication capability, information access, communications and transparency.

    In many ways email is like having a digital recording of every conversation.

    BUT today – the majority of building plans are still printed out on paper AND as a result what is finally built is nearly always different from the original plans.

    There are many reasons why – what the architect designs or specifies initially may be impossible/ impractical to build on site; the client changes brief; wrong version of plans and so on.

    So what happens is variation upon variation information is lost on bits of paper down the sequential project information line.

    Business Best Practice

    A rapidly increasing number of companies are moving their business applications to the cloud (integrated web).

    As you may know in a Google Apps spreadsheet – multiple people can work simultaneously on a document.

    From a construction perspective what you want is a single audible building plan “truth”.
    Version allows the ability to easy see what was changed by whom

    Leading International design and construction firms are already using Web-based project collaboration across product development including online collaborative 3D design software integrated with their supply chain partners and customers.

    That is customers, designers, engineers and suppliers etc all working together in a rich multimedia collaborative environment.

    This information then allows for easier asset management through the complete Building Life-cycle – from construction to build, asset mangement to final demolition.

    From a finance perspective – risk is dramatically reduced.

    $46B investment fades into insignificance given the overall productivity savings across 100 years of typical buildings.

    • Scott, I don’t think you are speaking from experience.

      Architects, builders, draftsmen, etc., have been using design software for years – well over a decade. There is no shortage of programs available. Cloud collaboration may reduce communication time a little (in optimal circumstances), but by very little in the long term – and it doesn’t reduce the time involved in planning, assessing, redesigning, etc.

      TBH, it is much easier having a roomful of planners discussing various ideas all at once and then proceeding from there. We use cloud with existing technology, but it’s hardly the be all and end all. Nine times out of ten it’s easier to pick up the ‘phone to get something clarified – the telephone is fast, efficient, and we can both be looking at the same thing while we talk.

      Having a new broadband network is not going to make a scrap of difference to productivity – new software might, but not a faster network. And yes, we have offices in a number of locations.

      • Unless there has been a massive shift in the last few years then in my experience a majority of architects are still using PC based 2D architectual DESIGN software such as Autocad much the same way they have for the last 15 years and are not using parametric 3D software such as Autodesks Revit (still PC based I think), or PTC’s Windchill .

        Please correct if I’m wrong but the subsequent integration of information then into a tendering phase to procurement – materials and labour exchange does not exist beyond the likes of Aconex and ProjectCentre (in Australia) functionality of – yet alone to asset management phase.

        In terms of getting people together then it is fundamentally more productive if you can multipoint conference participants – as many a builder will tell you that trying to get the architect, enginneer and say council all together at the same time is often a challenge.

        We are already increasing using video to communicate to all stakeholders and envisage a time where this can be delivered simulateously in a collaborative online enviroment.

  103. If Tony’s alternative had some medium to long term credibility… and he and his spokesmen could articulate a vision, we MIGHT have an alternative.

    Then again, the Coalition being such management gurus to promise to deliver the SAME (or very similar) fibre based system instead of plundering scare spectrum and rendering it unavailable for mobile needs and devices.

    Why don’t we aim for silver at the Olympics? It’s cheaper. As to government bodies always being “hopeless”, what of the ABC, Commonwealth Bank and Qantas?

  104. I’ve 30 years IT experience, and am pro-technology but the NBN business case does NOT stack up. The major uses for high-speed internet in Japan and Korea are on-line gaming and video downloads – each of which have a negative correlation with national productivity!

    IFF the Feds had said they’re doing ‘common services trenching’ in all suburban streets and power, water, reticulated (non-potable) water (where appropriate) and fibre will all share… then I’d agree love to see 20-year roll-out, as street poles would disappear.

    The discussion NBN proponents refuse to have is why not cut off at 85% or 90%… the returns are VERY NEGATIVE cabling to low-density town-fringe 2-10ac blocks to achieve 93%. McKinsey ought to have shown a true marginal/sensitivity analysis, not just overall average ROI for Conroy’s preferred outcome. Cutting over to wireless at lower population densities presents a huge saving. And remote areas will always need satellite (as now). Alternatively, do the monopoly roll-out over 20 years, not 8, with outer semi-urban to be last scheduled (switching from wireless).

    The big issue is alternative spending opportunities. A far more compelling case is to switch our energy generation from coal to renewables, and $50b would go a long way, and stop NSW Labor’s two newly-proposed coal-fired power plants. At a 50% matching-grant, companies/homeowners will put up another $50b. $50b would put a 1.5kw photovoltaic system on every freestanding house – second $50b would put equivalent megawatts over warehouse+factory roofs. New transmission line costs are low if solar and wind are widely distributed, including close to loads. Yes, we also need a DC link to WA’s grid, to keep East Coast home fires burning after sundown in the East… but that can wait.

    We HAVE to change our energy system – though we could live with a slower change to fibre – eg 20 years. With an NBN causing little to be spent on renewables, we’ll watch the world bake in HD-IPTV, wondering what else we could have done!

    Many spruik what great things we’ll be able to do in the future with more bandwidth. I don’t doubt that. However, because there are precious few curriculum items available electronically, Labor’s ‘NBN for the classroom’ TV ad couldn’t show any.. so the ad ‘pretends’ to open a door to another world. In NSW, only Maths has some electronic content, in the form of copyright CD-ROMs found inside the jacket of very expensive proprietary maths books for each year. However, the schools have no rights to even put this content on their servers, due to copyright. The wonderful ‘First Australians’ TV series was available on ABC TVs iView service, but has since been removed. We could productively spend 8 years getting the new national curriculum into e-Learning formats, suitable for distribution via ADSL2, before claiming higher bandwidth will solve any issues in schools!

    And I love all the ‘wishful thinking’ people wanting to telecommute. I work from home a lot, so I’m for telecommuting. But the question to ask yourself is “If the bandwidth is so good that I could ‘appear’ to be at work, yet actually be at home, what’s to stop that job going to someone in Bangalore?” If you own the company, or are in the top 20% in your field, you’re safe from outsourcing. But if what you do is support in nature and you can do it from home, then a guy in Bangalore can do it from his office just as well, for a tenth the price.

    When US dentists dictate to their clip-on microphone, that MP3 file is picked up in India and transcribed into text back into the patient’s file. X-rays can be analysed overseas. A lot of what we think of as “local jobs” will go elsewhere, with truly high-speed internet. Will the ACTU be happy downstream with Labor pushing for the requisite tool for bosses to outsource so many of their jobs overseas? It helps national productivity to outsource such jobs, but it does cause significant job disruption locally. The question is whether we are really ready for all support services from Customer Support to HR to IT to go offshore in a huge rush. When you dial your internal extension to speak to your in-house HR person, you’ll notice they’re polite, but have a funny accent. Another extension will take you to your in-house product expert, and they too will be offshore. Even your telephonist will be in India, switching your VOIP calls! Lots of people will be working from home, but it may not be your home!

    And with people thinking they’ll be telecommuting from a lovely house in the country, let’s remember that true-rural will still be condemned to use satellite internet, under either party’s plan. So you’ll be able to see all the people in the next office online (ie the bandwidth can be improved) but you won’t be able to join group discussions with anyone, as the latency inherent in moving packets (at the speed of light) to and from routers sitting in satellites in geostationary orbit adds an unacceptable delay…. eventually you’ll decide to say “Over” at the end of every comment, so people don’t all jump in to talk at the same time. Eventually your co-workers will get jack of it and note that your replacement in Bangalore does not use satellite, so your employer will decide to overcome the latency problem by outsourcing your job.

    I have Skype on both my city ADSL2 and country Optus satellite dish… but VOIP via satellite has unworkable latency issues, not fixed by any increase in bandwidth. Don’t get me wrong, satellite is the right technology for those well over 20km from an exchange (ie true rural, not in-town) and it can deliver you news, email, markets etc but VOIP does not work on satellite… so telepresence does not work either.

    And for all those thinking you’ll get a medical specialist from Sydney on the other end of a tele-medicine session, let’s get real. The specialist will eventually be located offshore, at least while Australia still allows medical specialist groups to limit their own in-take numbers (implicit exemption from anti-collusion provisions of Trade Practices Act).

    But the satellite co-contribution pioneered by the National Party under Howard WAS a great plan for the bush. It was not government bureaucrats tying to plan and do everything, and it did not take on unnecessary public risk. It simply paid for about 85% of the cost of installing a satellite dish, provided the customer was prepared to contract to pay the c$50/month ISP usage fee. The difference with the roof insulation plan under Rudd was that the government would pay up to 130% of the cost of the market-price for the work, which invited shonks.

    The high-payback is to get the government off all paper. For just $50m, the government could own all of the official email addresses for all Australians, now and in the future. They could be allocated on a first-come basis (like any blog) or else be allocated (eg first six letters of surname, then first four of first name, then such digits as needed for uniqueness). And then force government at ALL levels, Fed, State, Local, through to all semi-government (land & pest boards, licensing authorities etc) to use ONLY that email for all government communications. Then each user could log in and stipulate what current day-to-day email address they would like such material forwarded to. However, even if such material is forwarded, you’d be able to go to your ‘official’ web-based email site and see ALL material sent for past seven years, even if you had deleted it in your active/daily email system. And pensioners could get an exemption, whereby a single print-out of all emails of month would be snail-mailed to them. The government would not DO anything with the system, but simply authorise it and let a contract for some email contractor to manage it on behalf of the government. Like the NBN, the monopoly would be owned by the people. Compared to the 7% return on the NBN, it would be a 300% return on getting all government to give up paperwork.

    So, let’s plan an NBN. Let’s link all commercial centres within two years, do high-density suburbs within 5 years, then low density suburbs by the tenth anniversary, and then take our time getting to 90% (outer semi-urban) by the twentieth anniversary. And in the meantime, let’s do enough renewables so no politician talks of new coal-fired power plants. Changing the energy system over is the one that has some real time factors to it, whereas huge bandwidth at home is just less important.

    Frankly, I can’t believe that none of the serious political journalists has pointed out that the NBN is the bone given to the dog to distract it from the real issue. If you are an ideologically-driven party, needing to be proud of some element of ‘nation building’ and you have given up on “the greatest moral challenge of our time”, then you’d better have some ‘alternative project’ you can offer in the form of ‘bread and circuses’ to keep the populace distracted from your failure in the main game.

    That is why the NBN is such a ‘major project’ with such a ‘do it all’ approach, irrespective of rate of return. Everyone needs to see the NBN as Labor’s alternative to renewables. Yes, higher bandwidth should slightly lessen commuter use of oil, but by no means as much as better public transport, electric vehicles and true renewable energy generating capacity. The NBN needs to be seen as a very poor second choice, in terms of retaining the biosphere in a form suitable for humans. As I said, we’ll be able to watch the world bake in HD IPTV!!!

    • And yes, I do agree with others about the obscene amounts spent on various defence procurements. I think Australia should keep a peacekeeper capacity, and a Coast Guard. As to fighter planes etc, I think we should concentrate only on having a large number of far-cheaper drones, as that will be the defence and offence capacity required in 2016. Similarly, let’s drop all submarine aspirations and instead develop a home-grown capacity for mini-unmanned subs. They should be able to be solar-recharged at a depth of 1m to stay at sea for up to six months. They should connect via satellite and be entirely IP-based remotely controlled. What nation would want to forcibly take over Australia if they’d have to worry about 200 drone aircraft and 100 drone mini-subs, which could attack it’s beachheads/depots and sink its shipping. Of $50b in Defence capex projects, we ought learn how to pick the best $10b, then spend $3b on well-branded (Australian-identified) concrete aid projects in an arc between Laos and Iraq.
      But fixing Defence spending is another issue, and wasting money there does not justify an NBN big-spend. The priorities should still be renewables first, then efficiency/training issues (incl schools and NBN) and health.
      In fact, the more we lead in switching off oil, the smaller target we become, no longer being seen as a pariah on global climate goals. Plus helping switch the world off oil will remove the biggest underlying cause for war in recent decades (access to oil). Arguably, instead of the US spending $3t on Middle East wars, that money could have switched the whole US energy sector off oil.

  105. Howdy guys,

    I think we have all forgotten about the century we live in:

    a> There are no borders on the Internet
    b> Privacy needs to be protected from abusive corporations such as Google

    The competitor to Telstra is the major International Carrier on planet Earth – in case you don’t know it, it is called SKYPE.

    Skype offers free calls to most places, with basically 3 quality levels:

    a.> Fantastic video calls over Fibre Broadband;
    b.> Poor quality services over WIFI or
    c.> Shocking poor services over 3G or 4G

    Skype uses two very simple and well principles of telecommunications, related to their Major costs which are:

    1> Client Acquisition AND
    2> the last mile or the bit of cable between the last backbone tip and the CPE.

    By using the Internet and acquiring clients at very low cost, SKYPE can use:

    a.> 120 year old technology in the last mile (copper in Australia),
    b.> :Late 19th century technology such as Fibre Optics to the customer premises to deliver high quality services (all other developed nations)

    Some of my competitors are based across many countries in Australian timezones, including locations such as:

    Honk Kong – vastly superior Airport, 20 minutes by fast train to Central and Kowloon with an integrated ticketing system, Next-g Wireless network with speeds up to 21 Mbs (#1) as provided by CSL/1010 (Telstra subsidiary)
    Singapore – vastly superior Airport
    Clark Airbase – vastly superior tarmac, with plenty of space for growth with associated military grade security (as Clark was the main US Base for the Vietnam War).
    South Africa – fast train service


    Would you support a 10 year bi-partisan scheme that uses increased revenue obtained from the sale of Australian government owned assets such as royalties in resources (Iron Ore, Coal and Uranium) to fund:

    a> a fibre Optics based backbone owned by the Australian Government and rented out to Broadband service providers such as Telstra, Optus and smaller organisations, offering comparable speeds to what is already available in most developed nations (#2)

    b> a fast train service comparable to what is available in Japan, South Africa or Hong Kong, to link Cairns and Melbourne, with 3 stations in between for 2 brand new Airports (Sydney first, followed by Melbourne and Brisbane)


    (#1) – currently the theoretical maximum speed of a 3g Network is 21Mbs, and of WIFI is 200 Mbps as installed in Venice. The practical speed, specifically inside a building, is hardly ever above 3 Mb. Telstra’s Owned subsidiary in Hong Kong CSL/1010 provides a 21 Mbs service throughout Asia, including daily DATA roaming in places like the Phillipines and Japan for about $20/day

    (#2) – I am not sure about the theoretical maximum speed of Fibre Optics (I guess there is no limit), but the practical delivered speed of 1,000 Mb is feasible using low cost fibre technology today. This in practice is 333 x faster than Wireless from a practical perspective

    POST UUID: acccc2d5-1e94-4d21-b383-6577c811f291

  106. Graeme Harrison:
    “I’ve 30 years IT experience, and am pro-technology but the NBN business case does NOT stack up. The major uses for high-speed internet in Japan and Korea are on-line gaming and video downloads – each of which have a negative correlation with national productivity!”

    Given that much of the copper cable in the ground is decades old and has to be replaced in the near future anyway, which is preferable:

    A/ Replace all the copper cable in the ground with more copper cable


    B/ Replace all the copper in the ground with wide bandwidth fiber optic cable

    Before you answer, reflect on the fact that cable laying technology has now advanced to the point where the cost of laying fiber is about the same as that for laying copper.

    Remember also that while the incumbent, Telstra, is required to provide access to any new fiber infrastructure at below cost and as a consequence the business model is negative as far as providing new infrastructure until the cost of maintenance of the existing copper exceeds the cost of replacing it.

  107. Graeme Harrison:
    “I have Skype on both my city ADSL2 and country Optus satellite dish… but VOIP via satellite has unworkable latency issues, not fixed by any increase in bandwidth. ”

    Latency is a problem on any radio delivered path (though without the added burden of path length that satellite entails) which is why it is NOT the answer for rolling out broadband as proposed by the coalition.
    Try an experiment. Set up a voice call over from a 3G mobile and leave it in front of your TV.
    Now listen to the delay between what you hear direct from the TV and what you hear over the mobile.
    THAT latency cannot be avoided since it results from sharing a scarce resource, the radio spectrum, between all the users who need to use it.

  108. Graeme Harrison:
    “But the question to ask yourself is “If the bandwidth is so good that I could ‘appear’ to be at work, yet actually be at home, what’s to stop that job going to someone in Bangalore?””

    Ask yourself the alternate question, if the job can be done equally well by a person sitting at a desk in Bangalore, why isn’t it going to go there anyway? Shifting the whole office is probably fairly cheap.

    One answer might be that by cutting the quite significant cost of providing you a desk in an inner city office, since you can work just as effectively from home, reduces quite significantly the cost of hiring a local Aussie with the added advantages of local knowledge and native English language versus the requirement to provide a complete office in Bangalore and high speed, very expensive data access all the way from that urban office to Australia, since they DON’T have a high speed NBN in Bangalore.

  109. Graeme Harrison:
    “A lot of what we think of as “local jobs” will go elsewhere, with truly high-speed internet.”

    Why? We are talking about making data access to homes quicker. Those companies that require high speed data links can already have them today.
    The big bottleneck, as the coalition keeps pointing out, is the capacity on the overseas links which an NBN does nothing about. ADSL is already fast enough to strain the international links.

  110. Graeme Harrison:
    “But the satellite co-contribution pioneered by the National Party under Howard WAS a great plan for the bush.”

    Interesting that in one paragraph you say how bad a satellite solution is and in teh next, you say how great it was when the coalition proposed it.

    The simple fact is that a whole year after the coalition government awarded the contract to “fix” the internet, not a single sod of earth had been turned, not a single site had been procured in order to provide it.

    Compare that to the NBN which already has paying customers connected after less than a year of existence.

    Sure Labor has made plenty of mistakes, but it has also delivered something also.
    In a decade the coalition failed to deliver on hospitals, education, broadband and a hundred other promises. You can promise anything you want so long as they are made in the belief that only “core” promises need to be kept. The coalition’s record has demonstrated that any promises related to hospitals, education, broadband, interest rates, housing costs etc are not core.

  111. Graeme Harrison:
    “Yes, higher bandwidth should slightly lessen commuter use of oil, ”

    But nowhere near as much as a price on carbon would. The coalition of course has promised that will never ever happen.

  112. Graeme Harrison:
    “Skype offers free calls to most places, with basically 3 quality levels:

    a.> Fantastic video calls over Fibre Broadband;
    b.> Poor quality services over WIFI or
    c.> Shocking poor services over 3G or 4G ”

    So what you are saying is that under the coalition plan for broadband, VOIP will be capable of providing quality ranging from “shocking poor” and peaking (a word Tony apparently doesn’t understand) at poor quality if you are prepared to go sit in a McDonalds. WiMAX being of course a 3.5G technology like HSDPA and working on the same underlying principles.

  113. I agree we’d have to be mugs to vote in this NBN debacle in the making.

    The coalition’s approach is the most sensible: Open up the infrastructure to competitive innovation and remain open to new technologies as they arrive.

    The NBN is expensive, closed, locked, monopoly – a very bad approach.

    One of the emerging technologies the coalition’s open approach can support is FTTN as opposed to the NBN’s excessively draconian and expensive FTTH/FTTP.

    Here’s a summary of the differences in lay man’s terms:

    Here’s a very telling list of countries in the world showing which broadband architecture they have adopted or are about to adopt:

    NOTE: ALL except 4 countries have atoped Fibre to the Node instead of the NBN’s Fibre to the House like the draconian NBN dictates…

    The 4 countries are:

    Spain & Portugal:
    Two of europe’s financial basket cases!

    If the FTTH based NBN goes ahead here we’re in line to become Asia’s financial basket case!

    It’s so small that it’s a country that’s basically a city. With no significant distances to cover and high population density it would be hard to find any broadband architecture that would fail there but it is interesting to note that their high speed broadband has < 30% take up as most people simply don't need those kind of crazy speeds and most rational people don't pay for something that they don't need.

    Unfortunately Senator Conroy is making an irrational commitment on behalf of all Australians and Saturday might just see him succeed. Yikes!

  114. EZ:
    “We have other infrastructure projects that need the money more than the NBN, So whilst lightning speed internet might be good to some businesses, We need Medicare upgrades, Hospital upgrades (remember the big Govt takeover to fix this, havent hear much have we?) Major highway and roadworks upgrades and finally to pay some of this massive debt off.”

    All of which the coalition promised to fix if only we would vote for them.

    Well we DID vote for them and election after election we discovered that any infrastructure promises were non-core and they never had any intention of keeping them. One thing we HAVE heard of and experienced under Labor is an INCREASE in federal funding for hospitals. Each and every funding round under the coalition saw a REDUCTION in the federal share of hospital funding under the coalition.

    You may believe that 6% of income is a massive debt. I can only assume that you live in a $6000 house since this would be an “massive” debt by your reasoning?

    I can only assume that the money raised by the coalition by selling off yet another asset procured by a prior government will be splurged on tax cuts to the wealthiest as it has done in the past.
    Seems that is the way of coalition governments, sell the farm. WHAT WILL THEY DO WHEN THEY RUN OUT OF SILVERWARE TO SELL?

    The sale of Telstra alone (remember guys who sold you these shares) raised over $70 billion towards paying off that debt. Where did the hundreds of billions raised from other asset sell-offs under Howard disappear to?

  115. Tony has a $700,000 mortgage on his own house. He can borrow to benefit his family but he refuses to allow the nation to borrow to build infrastructure we need now. And has some prospect of paying for itself unlike hospitals…not that they aren’t important too.

    The NBN will let us turn the proceeds of mining where the minerals can’t be replaced into something that will improve our productivity.

    By the time the NBN is built, Tony’s paid parental leave scheme, which benefits already privileged people most, will have cost almost as much.

  116. Howard sold 51% of the Commonwealth Bank ($5.1 billion), 100% of Telstra ($70 billion), Airports (Brisbane Melbourne Perth Adelaide, Darwin, Alice Springs, Perth $3.9 billion), Australian Industry Development Corporation ($200 million), ABC/SBS Broadcast towers ($650 million they on-sold to Macquarie Bank who upped the rent paid by taxpayers and doubled their investment), National Rail Corporation and Freightcorp ($1 billion) to name just a few.

    Selling off profitable assets to pay down debt isn’t financial genius, it’s stupidity.

    Telstra alone returned more in income to the government than the interest on the $95 billion debt.
    Had it not been privatised, or even had it been split in two and only the retail side sold, we wouldn’t even be talking about $40 billion for an NBN today, we’d already have it as a government owned Telstra Wholesale replaced the dilapidated copper cable with fiber over the years. Instead the coalition sold it in one piece to maximise the sale price and then forced a regulatory regime on our Telco’s that punished them for investing in infrastructure and held us back for a decade.

  117. Golfman:
    “The coalition’s approach is the most sensible: Open up the infrastructure to competitive innovation and remain open to new technologies as they arrive.”

    Isn’t that exactly the model that we have been working under up until now?

    Any and every Telco has been free to provide whatever infrastructure they want.

    Unfortunately it hasn’t delivered much of anything.

  118. Golfman:
    “One of the emerging technologies the coalition’s open approach can support is FTTN as opposed to the NBN’s excessively draconian and expensive FTTH/FTTP.”

    This is the model flatly rejected by the coalition at the last election and which failed to garner a single viable tender when it was floated by the Rudd government.

    The problem is that it relies on using the decades old copper cable going to the premises to be viable and it relies on the owner of that cable handing access to it over for free whilst still retaining all the costs associated with maintaining it.

    • And how do you fit third party ISP DSLAMS into the Nodes in the street each one of which serves fewer subscribers than are served by the existing telephone exchanges?

      • I’m sure there’s ways to manage FTTN roll out. Just about every other developed country in the world has or is rolling out FTTN. As Eurocomms magazine says:

        “For many service providers, the price tag of a complete fibre network overbuild is too steep to justify. An all-fibre network build out is actually a rare undertaking.”

        Rare because an all-fibre FTTH (like the NBN) represents economic insanity. We’ll find that out soon enough I’m sure.

  119. @Goresh,
    You’ve argued it was inconsistent that I supported existing satellite subsidy scheme, yet said satellite was hopeless for VOIP and tele-presence due to its latency. All of the farms happily using the existing satellite service are not using it for VOIP or tele-presence over those links. The reason I liked the ‘form’ of the subsidy (as I explained) was that it was only partial (not full) and was not ideologically-driven. The NBN is ideologically driven.

    You’ve also argued that I should not support the coalition plan. I don’t support the coalition plan. I only cited the coalition’s 8yo satellite scheme as being good. I believe in fibre. I just don’t think we need it omni-present (FTTH) before converting our energy sources to renewables. I’d love to see a fibre roll-out over that slightly slower timeframe I mentioned, and switching to wireless at more commercial cut-over points (eg based on population density and average run-lengths).

    And you are wrong re latency in saying “Latency is a problem on any radio delivered path”. The inherent latency of radio links is small. All our mobile phones work on wireless. Most of home phones are cordless and use wireless. And most of that latency is related to digital audio over radio (or wire) in that you have to capture a certain period of analogue audio before putting it into a ‘packet’ for transmission. That packetising costs c25ms… The decompression of the packet costs another 25ms at the other end, so let’s assume that on a single-user digital radio link you have 50ms inherent packetising delays. That is still ‘workable’ and indeed not noticeable unless you are close enough to also listen in to original audio source. And none of those delays have anything to do with ‘sharing’ bandwidth with others. The real issue is that the geostationary satellites are quite high (compared to terrestrial radio link distances) and the packets then have to hit a router and be re-transmitted over that same distance again. It is this which causes satellite latency to be too poor for VOIP, even at 2am (when bandwidth is not under competition). Your comment that wireless has issues with latency seemed to be seeking to discredit all wireless with an issue specific to satellite, as if this was a reason to not have fibre cut-over to wireless at 85-90%.

    But you never answered my main complaint – that the NBN was the nation-building project a government lauds IFF it is not doing anything on the far more pressing issue of climate change. And you posted that I should not like the coalition’s plan to not have a carbon price. I am all FOR a carbon price.

    And yes, Labor can’t help themselves but install mates. And if you were borderline on spending $43b, the fact that Federal Labor has appointed one of its spin people into a senior cushy job… and I have trouble suggesting a better way to give any project the kiss of death.

  120. I work with SMEs every day and am surprised just how many compalin about how slow and how hard it is to send big files (or for that matter any files!) on ADSL I or II that runs over copper wires that were installed in the 1930-40’s! and or have wireless that speeds up and slow down and some times does not work at all!

    We alos know form overseas experience where optical fibre is built those countries or regions expereince a 1-3% increase in GDP (or GRP)…even in the midst of a GFC!

    And to those who continue to berate the Gillard/Rudd government over the insulation and schools stimulus projects, juts remmeber it is private enterprises that ripped off take payers, not the government and it was private enterprises that put unqualified people in homes to instal insulation, breaking all the government rules that were in palce and not followed…the RO’s of those businesses will one day be brought to justice through the courts,

  121. Graeme Harrison:
    “Latency is a problem on any radio delivered path”.

    Yes, you are right the inherent latency of radio is of course low where it is used as a dedicated bearer, one frequency, one user. The latency comes into it because it is a shared resource.
    By it’s nature however, latency is a bigger problem than it would be over a coaxial cable.
    A coaxial cable does not have to set up a bearer via common signalling channel and all the overhead that a radio bearer does, it is physically present at all times.
    Latency is bad when the data flow is intermittent rather than streaming as the data link generally gets released and has to be set up again repeatedly. Of course, very low data rates can be handled via the common control channels.

    ” is not doing anything on the far more pressing issue of climate change”

    Unfortunately action on climate change is impossible while we have a Senate where those in favour of action side with those opposed to action in order to block any scheme that is less than perfect.

    The simple fact is that flawed or not, there would now be an ETS in place had the Green Party not blocked it.
    Had they been prepared to accept the undeniable fact that Fielding would never ever support any price on carbon, ever and that without Fielding’s support at least TWO coalition Senators would have to cross the floor so any bill that could pass the Senate HAD to be acceptable to the coalition action would be underway NOW.
    Instead, they insisted that they could NOT accept any bill that the coalition COULD, so effectively ensured that no action could be taken.

    Regardless of the outcome in this election, even if Labor won EVER slot, they could STILL not pass an ETS because the current Senate will stay in place until July next year.

    With no possible action, win or lose by Labor, prior to July 2011 and allowing a practical period for any legislation to pass the lower house go to the Senate and pass into law, 2012 is the EARLIEST that any action can be undertaken.

    This is not because Labor has in any way backed away from climate change action, it is because the GREENS WILL NOT ALLOW ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE prior to 2012.

  122. The people have spoken, and the people are **not** Stupid.

    Abbott is unfit for Government, Conroy is unfit to be the Communications Minister.

    For some unbeliavable coincidence, it appears that the lower House will have the 1st ever Green MP whilst Australia has a chance to have it’s first ever democratically elected female leader.

    Please follow my school of thoughs, based on rational **and** technical reality (not party lines).

    a> Telstra is the only Comms company that would benefit from a Coalition win.

    b> Abbott declared that a slow broadband using copper, or current Telstra/Optus **consumer grade** ADSL 2 offerings costing more than $100 a month is all you need. The fact that a cheap and nasty Copper service or WIFI wireless can’t be used **today** for free Skype calls has not been considered in their policy.

    c.> Every business person I deal with o’seas, including Australians based in HK and SE Asia places, use Skype as their primary communications tool. Most of them work from home, and I **need** to be able to do this at a reasonable cost (as I deal internationally, voice and video communications are mandatory all the time.)

    d.> Many jobs available to Australians are similar to mine – reasonably highl paid, dealing with English Speaking overseas clients in technology, financial services, tourism, education, etc. My job, and many others like mine would have been exported to SE Asia by the failure to carry on with the NBN.

    Go the greens!!

    The Greens must now act responsibly and support Labor, the only major party with a coherent Broadband policy, not based on Copper.

    The basis for Greens could be something like:

    1) The removal of the unworkable Internet Filter from the Labor platform;

    2) a rework of the ETS, that considers that Australians want balance in macro economic policy;

    3) An enquiry on the relationship between political donations, advertising expenditure with major Media outlets and campaign coverage;

    4) The ABC Act, the enshrine the right of the Australian people to receive unbiased news from Australian sources. The ABC Act would protect ‘Our’ ABC from commercial interests such as Sky News and other media outlets.

    5) An enquiry on why the NSW Government has such an appalling record in carrying on with infra-structure projects, and the relationship of this record with the sale of assets such as Sydney Airport to major corporations.

    6) A technical feasibility study on the the introduction of mandatory Internet Backbone Fibre Optics copying for all ISP’s in Australia, based on a similar model implemented (and working) elsewhere on planet earth, as used by the security services in Australian and Overseas.

    It is about time that the Australian commercial press starts reporting on facts, not fiction and spin as provided by the major political parties **and** their friends.

    Every common sense person who listened to balanced technology people know that:

    a. Abbott is unfit to be a Prime Minister, on the basis of his Broadband (lack of) policy.

    b. Conroy should be the new Minister for Nothing (replacing Peter Garret), as Internet Filtering will never work. If we need Internet Monitoring (as opposed to Filtering), Fibre Optics cable copy is the only technology that works today. The actual implementation might actually need a referendum.

    Over to you Mr. Brown – it is time to showns us that the Greens are a viable 3rd force in Australian politics.

    As for the Democrats, you have tried for too long (and failed). The Greens are now the official 3rd force on the Australian political scene.

    What about the Nationals? They should allow the liberals to take control of their own destiny :), and attempt to form a real coalition with the Greens **and** labor.

    Democracy is alive and well in Australia, but it is not always pretty !

    PS>> I am writing this on a laptop, during my vacation up North QLD. My cell phone is disconnected as I need a bit of peace

    PS2>> I am not related to the USA, the **vacation** and the **cell** phone comments above just a joke – I hope you can still laugh !

    PS3>> Yes, Emilio is a Latin American name, but I have been an Australian Citizen and permanent resident for over 20 years – and I voted GREENS!

  123. The fact that we will need the kind of speeds promised by the NBN is evident in the historical and continuing rapid growth in the scale of digital storage and distribution over the past forty years. I’m old enough to remember people wondering why anyone would ever need 64Kb of RAM to run a computer program and why you’d ever need the extravagant space of a CD-ROM to deliver computer software. I believe that we’re still in the infancy of the digital revolution and I’m confident that today’s requirements for digital data will be tiny compared to those of the future.

  124. Well said John.

    I have a question that I hope someone here can answer. I hear that the fibre optic cable being used to contstruct the NBN has a lifespan of at most 25 years and shorter depending on exposure to the heat etc. Is this correct and if so has anyone spoken about the onging cost of replacing the cables as a going concern?

    • Hey Alain,

      If you did a tiny bit of research you would discover that any optical fibre cable current is much more durable/strong and resistant to wheather than any copper cabling, now take into account that some copper cabling is over 120 years old and you have answered your own question.

      Where did you get the 25 year information?

      • Matt,

        The question of “what the lifespan of optical fibre is” was posed to me by a friend of mine who knew I was a fan of the NBN. As I’m not an expert on this question I did a bit of research on the net and found repeatedly the lifespan ranged from 20 to 25 years depending on the conditions.

        I wanted to know if the NBN has factored this into its roll out and costings etc. Maybe it has factored the lifespan as an ongoing cost of maintenance, but I thought this was a very important question.

        I think the reason for the short lifespan relates to the fact that fibre distorts over time and the distortion to the fibre causes a dramatic drop off in bandwidth. I’d like others out there to shed more light on this subject. Sorry for the unintended pun!

        If you Google the question I’m sure you will find something on the subject although it was hard to find. I’ll search and post what I find if you like.


  125. I have just read, and thoroughly recommend, Paul Fletcher’s Wired Brown Land. This sets out in convenient form the long history and opportunity cost of Telstra’s pretence at acting in the national interest while acting consistently in its own. Instead of shopping centre stunts and debates about debates, we should have been discussing Telstra’s structural separation. But the caravan has moved on.

    The more I read, the more I compared the apparent ease with which our forefathers committed to “risky” investments in rail, roads, Snowy Mountains Scheme, telephone and telegraph services and even the ABC with far less tortuous debate than has been our experience with communications. It seems to me, in those cases, the common thread was far less emphasis on trying to justify a financial return from the immediate users and to think instead of the vision for the indirect benefits to the rest of the country. For example, would expected freight revenue from wheat farmers alone would have justified country rail? Closer to a communications experience, who would like to see the demise of, or failure to establish, the ABC because the only revenue it generates is through its shops? And who says government can NEVER deliver? Again think ABC, Qantas, Commonwealth Bank, Snowy Mountains Authority, justice system etc.

    How was it possible to justify building a copper telephone network when hardly anyone had or could see a use for telephones until nearly everyone had one? Yet today there are inn million internet subscribers and even more telephone subscribers.

    So here is a radical thought. The government builds (and keeps) the NBN and any RSP with the technical ability to deliver services is allowed to access it for nothing. Through reduced barriers to entry, competition will permit lower prices for the services RSPs deliver. That becomes the advantage to the nation which has built the network. After all in eight years’ time (and even now with phone services in every home) everyone is a potential user just as everyone is a potential consumer of ABC content.

    Clearly the nation’s finances and prospects are now in far better shape than was the case when the visionary projects were undertaken. I am normally against hypothecating specified taxes to specific services, but if it is necessary politically to find a way to justify this apparently outlandish idea, why not a tax or royalty on the extraction of any non-renewable resource as a way of converting that depleting resource to one which keeps on giving to the nation.

    We would be extracting finite coal and minerals and replacing them with fibre.

    • Rhys,

      Thanks for the link.

      I hope this will be the same type of cable the NBN will be using?


  126. Wireless has and will continue to cause health probelms. What ever solution is chosen, please let it not be wirless for the sake of everyone’s health.

  127. I have been watching this thread for a few days now and realise that some of you may be unaware of some very relevant facts. In 1978/79, Thirty odd Years ago, the then Telecom Australia, then wholly owned by the Australian Taxpayers as it was a Commonwealth Government department, decided to replace the existing intercity copper trunk cables with optical fibre cable. This was the start of the national optical fibre ring main system. At the same time, their engineers started research into FTTH (Fibre to the House). We who were employees at this time, were told that we had to change the pipe sizes we used for household cabling, to accommodate optical fibre cable, which had a much greater bending radius than copper cable. This was to apply to every new install that we did!!!.

    The then Federal government, Liberal – Country Party Coalition, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and Treasurer John Howard under pressure from, an at that date overseas company, that we now know as Optus, Optical USA, decided in their wisdom, that we did not need a benevolent monopoly providing our telecommunications, (at that time we had the best and most efficient network and workforce in the world, with the lowest costs as well.), we needed a competitive duopoly, and we the Australian People were to pay for it!!!!!.

    As a result of this decision, Telecom was told by the then communications minister,Tony Staley, that not only were they to install the national ring main, but they were to supply Optus with details of their cable routes and provide access to their exchanges and conduit runs so that Optus could interface with Telecom equipment at no cost!!!.

    At the same time, Telecom were told that their proposed FTTH was too expensive as Telecom was to be forced to pay the federal government,(Treasury), the amount that Australia Post had lost since the break-up of the old Postmaster Generals Department into Telecom Australia and Australia Post!!!!!!!.
    Because of this, the minister decreed that FTTH was too expensive an option and that the Hybrid RIM
    ( Remote Interface Module) technology was to be the way of Australian Telecommunications for the future, as Telecom paid back another companies debt!!!!!.

    Because Telecom was so lean and efficient at the time and managed to pay treasury a very large part of Australia Posts’ debt, the next step was Privatisation!!!!!!! and subcontractors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

    We who have worked at the coal face of telecommunications in this country know only too well where this has led, shoddy workmanship, increased costs, fault clearance time blowouts and all the rest.

    As far as the internet is concerned, my wife and I traveled to the U.S. and U.K. three years ago, we found that rural subscribers in both countries had access to ADSL2+ internet and were dismayed at trying to get net access to Australia as the system seemed to be throttled at this end.

    Finally it is quite obvious, that the Australian people have been severely done over by foreign big business and the liberal country party over a long period of time. Who wants more microwave towers, especially in every school in Australia!!!!!!!!?. Which is what we would have if Tony Abbot gets his way. If Telecom, now Telstra, had been permitted to roll out the optical fibre as per the original plan, we would have had FTTH 20 years ago and it would be the standard for all new construction, with all the bandwidth and speed advantages that it brings us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  128. Terrible article. Very inaccurate, and wrong about almost everything, no facts or figures worth anything at all.

    Try writing about making the NBN government owned and ACCESS FOR FREE.
    How much is the telecoms business worth in Australia? You’ve just given this cash back to any people who use a phone or internet and taken it away from investors and foreign shareholders + all the other savings.
    All you need do is provide maintenance which is dirt cheap and run a bit of fibre out of OZ to a local peer which again is easily covered by a few of the NBN’s savings.

    • Ah, Peter. I hope you are a liberal stooge, as that was one of the least coherent rants I have ever seen!

      Peter:Terrible article. Very inaccurate, and wrong about almost everything, no facts or figures worth anything at all.

      Me: Unlike your post?

      Peter: Try writing about making the NBN government owned and ACCESS FOR FREE.

      Me:Why would a government infrastructure be free just because it is govt own? The post has always been a paid service, as was Telecom when fully owned by the government.

      Peter: How much is the telecoms business worth in Australia? You’ve just given this cash back to any people who use a phone or internet and taken it away from investors and foreign shareholders + all the other savings.

      Me: I wish I can work out what you are saying. Telecomunications is a lucrative market with local (Telstra, iiNet, TPG), and overseas (SIGNTEL, Telecom NZ, Vodafone). There is a vibrant market out there.

      Peter: All you need do is provide maintenance which is dirt cheap and run a bit of fibre out of OZ to a local peer which again is easily covered by a few of the NBN’s savings.

      Me: The NBN is not about backhaul. Australia is almost well served by overseas link, as even laying cable undersea, it is easy to raise capital for the investment. The NBN is a “to the curb” project, which is a major weakness and a great benefit to australians

      • Currently doing close to 35 hour day. Come on, this article is biased and drivel.
        It’s not nice to tell people what to do in my experience, merely suggest ideas and hopefully when they work out what you are saying they might come up with some ideas themselves. Try reading my post again with a bit of imagination. I’m fed up doing everything for everyone in this country and rather than whinge, decided to leave in the hope one day I may return.

        The network isn’t built yet, so don”t tell me what it will be.

        The government should be the ISP as well as the backbone and for that matter, put a sip box in the house for free home calls and some wifi stations about town or people run open networks such that mobiles are alse voipable. Oops, you just put many comms companies out of business or they just converted into sip / cloud service providers.

        To run it free as an ISP would be pretty inexpensive like any govt department or a very minimal fee compared to internet and phone costs for homeowners. Once the build cost is done, it’s just a tax on new homes really to add to it.

        The NBN can build some backhaul or I suppose rent it, but probably better to build yourself – not an expert in this area of costings.

        Again, it’s not built yet, so everything is possible. It only got started again yesterday really.

  129. @Darryl Adams.

    The ABC is free to consumers. The case for NBN being free to RSPs is that it is intended to be ubiquitous: everyone pays for it and everyone uses it and unlike Australia Post there is little marginal cost in marginal use. The cost/use issue can be handled by RSPs charging for use without being charged to run their data along the fibre.

    A price does two things: raises revenue and rations use. If everyone pays for it, rationing becomes less of an issue.

  130. @golfman.

    Reference the whole Eurocomms article

    Note they are talking about service providers, not a government (ie. the nation) building infrastructure the nation will benefit from… and not just the immediate users of the facility but the nation as a whole. Charging for use is less appropriate in such cases.

  131. Bring on the NBN I say and do it quickly. Your article says that you are happy with your speeds but you don’t take into consideration upload speeds. We may all be able to download movies and porn at acceptable speeds but with my business I need to upload files to overseas countries every day and with our pathetic upload speeds it takes 9 hours to upload 2 Gig. My upload speeds clock in at nearly dial up pace and that is with ADSL2+. I can’t expand my business because I can’t outsource work. It is actually costing me money and proving a hindrance for growth and development because we have this lack of technology and competitive edge. I know many other businesses are struggling to remain competitive because of our falling behind on a world comparison. There are 3rd world Asian countries that have faster upload speeds than us. It’s not as though the technology will become obsolete. Unless they work out a way to send information faster than the speed of light (invent time travel) the infrastructure will last as long if not longer than the copper wire that was laid before it. The government will have decades and decades of rental returns off the fiber infrastructure. Or it can do what it does with most public assets and sell it off sometime in the future for a big but short lived profit.
    Hurry up NBN. I’ll vote for whoever promises to deliver it first.

    • Of course it’s only fair people like you pay to run fiber all the way to your business yourself because here’s what you want to happen with the NBN: You want US to all pay for your high speed connection, going into $50billion in debt (or future taxes as I like to call gov debt) and then also pay to remove all competing infrastructure ($9 billion to Telstra, $bill to Optus & now maybe TransACT as well) removing any trace of competition (that’s how price control happens in democracies remember?) and then for all our effort and expense you said your high speed connection will allow you to outsource work to another country (probably third world with cheap labour) presumably putting those pesky, expensive Aussie employees out of work – ok, so you’re a free market guy when it comes to outsourcing to a third world country but you’re happy to not be a free market guy if you can get away with taxpayers paying for your legitimate business expenses like your high speed internet connection.

    • I am in an internet business that would also benefit from higher speed connections but here’s how I would like to see the NBN work:

      You just gave the perfect reason why a gov funded NBN is so wrong. If your business makes a profit from high speed then the gov should really just ensure there is an infrastructure in place whereby you can pay to have fibre brought to your premises. This is just a legitimate business expense like when a carpenter buys a ute or tools or like when a shop buys a completely new shelving system. You don’t hear these businesses crying to the government to supply their ‘tools of the trade or items required for normal operation’.

      Under the NBN a carpenter or shop keeper have to pay the gov thousands in future taxes to pay for the NBN that you make a profit from and then in addition they pay a monthly fee on a service that will have no competition and thus will be priced according to any service that has no competition – remember other ‘great’ government monopolies like Telecom or have you seen your power bill lately?
      The best solution would be for the gov to facilitate a telco ecosystem in which competition is encouraged, not eradicated and one in which we can get faster speeds with the smallest tax payer investment – because why should low to medium income earners have to foot the bill for infrastructure that you (and I) will make a profit from but which will only represent greater costs to them.

      Australia’s euphoric leap towards Fiber to the Premises (FTTH) is not being matched around the world even though many countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland had announced similar ‘ambitious’ plans. Those plans are now all on the back burner as economic realities of the GFC mean governments can no longer afford insanely expensive programs – much like what will happen to the NBN once we realize China no longer needs to buy as much of our WA dirt as Swannee predicted.

      Our needs would be met more ‘sanely’, more quickly and more cheaply if the NBN build fiber part way to our premises, to VDSL2 nodes within the neighbourhood, so that we are all within 1km of one of these nodes. This saves 10s of $billions by reusing everyone’s existing copper connections and not digging up the streets and intersections and front yards and pulling off roof tiles or drilling holes in the sides of people’s houses… we all know how well things go when this government gets involved in that kind of infrastructure ‘work’. People can continue to use their existing ADSL modems but with much improved speed because of the much shorter copper distance – or they can purchase VDSL2 modems and get speeds up to 100Mbps depending on cable quality and distance – but 40-50Mbps is easily achievable when nodes are 1km away.

      Smart countries like NZ, UK Germany have built and are still building such Fiber to the Node (FTTN) networks and when they do they lay many more fibers to the nodes than they need now (NZ lay 120 fibers per node!) because the cost of the fiber is nothing compared to the cost of labor involved in laying it. This makes the system easily upgradable to FTTH at a later date but it also makes it feasible for businesses or individuals who desperately need the extra speed now to pay for to have their premises fibered all the way, replacing their copper with fiber. So user pays instead of tax payer pays.

      As a free market guy I’d be happy to fork out the once off $2k-$4K it would cost to run fiber from my premises to the nearest node if it meant that the Australian tax payer got away with a much smaller NBN debt through the use of FTTN that has a massively improved ROI compared to FTTH.

      Many people will say that you can’t upgrade from FTTN to FTTH but that’s exactly what is happening in Switzerland, Germany, NZ, UK. It’s a classic incremental build where you get ROI all the way instead of raising insane levels of debt. Those same people will say the NBN is needed because Telstra is a big nasty private corporation and yet in the same breath they claim the NBN won’t be a debt burden because it will be sold off – and become a ‘massively humoungous nasty private corporation’ no doubt!

      The logic that has to be sacrificed for any sane person to get their head around to thinking that the NBN in its current form is a good idea is mind blowing.

  132. golfman: It’s a pity you weren’t around when they were planning the Harbour Bridge. We could have had a small one when only two lanes were needed and added bits as the traffic grew. Think how much money we would have saved when the country had the arse out of its pants.

    Leaving a bigger bill for later when the ageing population becomes a real issue and the mineral wealth has been squandered on …. tax cuts. As John Howard did in the last three years of his reign with the windfall profits of the mining boom

    • Bringing fiber into the neighbourhoods now via fiber to the node is something that must be done in a full fiber to the premises rollout anyway but it gets most of us all 50-100Mbps in 18months instead of having to be stuck on crappy ADSL, possibly until 2020 if you happen to live in a non marginal seat – not a very good solution for the nation as a whole if you’re a firm believer in the benefits of high speed broadband.

      If FTTN is done smart like in Germany and NZ you add all the extra ‘lanes’ in the ground now and hook up to the billions invested in the copper pairs that already exist and are working – right now. As I said, in NZ they lay 120 fibers to each node even though FTTN won’t need anywhere near that many – it’s like building the harbour bridge with 8 lanes even though in 1936 you could have got away with only 2 lanes. When you do eventually go to the extra expense of running fiber from the nodes to the premises the nodes have sufficient fiber capacity already there, waiting. The extra cost of laying extra fibers in the ducts that run to the nodes now is insignificant compared with the labour involved in laying them. But running fibers to each individual premises now is plain economic insanity as you can tell from the every growing NBN ‘estimates’ and the overblown cost of the field trials.

      • golman: “If FTTN is done smart like in Germany and NZ…” That assumes, without authority, the plan was “smart” and not a solution adopted because it was cheap, not because it was best.

        How long would it take to undo the deal with Telstra and then put it back together again later? If FTTN happened, imagine how much weeping and gnashing of teeth would be involved in moving to the FTTP?

        Would it in fact happen in our lifetime?

        • You and I know both know that Telstra owning infrastructure is a political and ideological one, not a technical one.

          We had the same problem when ADSL hit the streets and Telstra owned all the copper.. and yet most of us connect to the internet via an ISP that IS NOT Telstra’s Bigpond.

          There’s currently a competitive environment on the copper network that Telstra owns. OMG how is that even possible?

          Oh yeah that’s right – it was because Howard had the balls to introduce legislation to create an even playing field even though the playing field was mostly owned by Telstra. Balls – all we need is a government with more balls and a whole lot less hypocritical ideological insanity. And a whole lot less eagerness to build the world’s most ambitious FTTH network which, in the government’s own words, will be eventually sold off (that’s how they can avoid putting it’s cost in their budget figures – it”s an investment).

          If you think Telstra being privately owned is bad just wait until they sell off the NBN in a firesale to some Chinese company – then we’ll all be connecting to the internet in such a way that it’s not just Bunnings or the supermarkets acting like a tax collector for Chinese owned corporations – our internet services will all become a tax that sends money directly offshore. At least now with Telstra there’s a lot of mum and dad shareholders and our super funds that have a collective ownership in it. The same can’t be said of whichever overseas mega multinational buys ‘our’ tax payer funded NBN. The government is building a system that private corporations should be building – they (by which I mean US!) are taking all the risk with our capital (by which I mean massive debt). Taking huge risks with capital is the role of corporations, not governments.

          • “Oh yeah that’s right – it was because Howard had the balls to introduce legislation to create an even playing field even though the playing field was mostly owned by Telstra.”

            Actually the NBN was made necessary due to the complete and utter balls-up that Howard made of the Telsra sale.

            In order to maximise the sale price, he sold it as a vertically integrated entity, making it diificult to compete against.

            The he regulateed it to death to bring in competition, but the competition proved completely unwilling to spend a penny on infrastructure that they could rent from Telstra below the maintenance price.
            Telstra wasn’t prepared to spend on infrastructure because it would be forced to rent it out below cost and with no way to recover the investment.

            The simple fact is that the then Telecom Australia was planning a fibre rollout to the home (over a decades long timeframe as the most cost effective way of replacing the already aging copper network) way back before Howard even came into power. We would already have had a national fibre to the home network if Howard HADN’T stuffed things.

          • *The simple fact is that the then Telecom Australia was planning a fibre rollout to the home*

            do you remember how much Telecom used to charge for phone calls and other services? lol.

          • “do you remember how much Telecom used to charge for phone calls and other services? lol.”

            The price was falling year on year by about 4%, the same as most otehr Telco’s around the world.

            After privatisation Howard crowed about the fact that prices were falling about 4% year on year.

            The simple fact is that telecommunications have become cheaper as a result of advancing technology.
            All that changed with privatisation is where the profits went. Prior to privatisation, they went into government general revenue, after privatisation they went into private pockets, most of them overseas.

          • “The he regulated it to death to bring in competition, but the competition proved completely unwilling to spend a penny on infrastructure that they could rent from Telstra below the maintenance price.”

            Unwilling to spend a penny heh?

            Optus rolling out cable with speeds of up to 90mbps? A friend has it – on a busy night the speed might drop to 75mbps – boo hoo! On a good night my ADSL might hit 6mbps!

            Various ISPs have installed their own DSLAMs in Telstra’s exchanges.

            Many businesses have paid to have fiber infrastructure rolled to their premises via Optus or other Telstra competitors. You want to build a system using mum and dad’s hard earned tax dollars (or debt) that gives profit making companies virtually cost free fiber infrastructure – and I thought you were a lefty but you support corporate socialism to help build infrastructure for capitalist pigs :)

            TransACT have built a fiber network in the ACT.

            BTW under the NBN the competition that you claim haven’t spent a penny will get compensated (by US the tax payer) in the $billions to tear down these fully working infrastructures with very happy, satisfied customers – go figure!

            And no I haven’t received any top up payments from Tony Abbott. In fact I was pushing for FTTN back before the last election. The then, very forgettable, shadow communications minister likely didn’t even understand FTTN and the coalition seemed happy to blow the wireless broadband trumpet.

            To be clear when I say FTTN I’m including FTTC (Curb/Cabinet) and FTTB (Basement) because why would you bother rewiring an entire block of 100 units when you can simply bang a small cabinet on the street and pick up all the existing copper pairs – with such short runs (<100m) VDSL2 should easily do 100MHz (probably more) even on a single pair.

          • “Oh yeah that’s right – it was because Howard had the balls to introduce legislation to create an even playing field even though the playing field was mostly owned by Telstra.”

            So, if the NBN is built, all those on the Telstra monopoly will be on the NBN monopoly and governed by exactly the same regulations that currently govern Telstra.
            I fail to see the problem since you are saying what a wonderful solution it was. We still have a monopoly except a government owned onewhich you seem to be arguaing is better since you are objecting to the sale of the NBN to privaate interests in this same post.
            Interesting though since you seem to think the fire sale of the Telstra taxpayer funded network by Howard was a stroke of genius.

      • “Bringing fiber into the neighbourhoods now via fiber to the node is something that must be done in a full fiber to the premises rollout anyway but it gets most of us all 50-100Mbps in 18months instead of having to be stuck on crappy ADSL, possibly until 2020 if you happen to live in a non marginal seat – not a very good solution for the nation as a whole if you’re a firm believer in the benefits of high speed broadband.”

        The problem with FTTN is that the maximum speed you can deliver is what you can pass over the crappy old piece of 100 year old water logged corroded copper between you and the node.

        To get 50-100mbps over copper, you would have to pull up all teh copper and lay fresh infrastructure.
        Since it cost the same to lay copper as fiber, why would you lay copper rather than fiber all the way?

        Even where the copper is fairly new and in reasonable condition, it was layed out in a star pattern from the telephone exchange. It simply is not correctly laid out for FTTN. To use it at all you would need to put a node on every street corner, which involves effectively running fiber past every house anyway.
        Since you will already be outside the house, you may as well pull in a need fiber lead in.
        Hell, we just built a FTTH.

        • “The problem with FTTN is that the maximum speed you can deliver is what you can pass over the crappy old piece of 100 year old water logged corroded copper between you and the node.”

          Yeah, yeah, I’m sure Germany, UK, USA, Switzerland and NZ have copper networks as old or older than ours yet FTTN has been a huge success in those countries with massive ROI which means that it pays for itself so quickly that stage 2 FTTH extensions to the FTTN networks can roll out in an economically feasible way, funded mostly by the private sector in a competitive environment.

          Everyone knows that without competition the unions will control all labour on all NBN Co rollouts so after a few years they’ll be taking advantage of that situation like they always do. Without a competing network (as the NBN legislation requires the tear down of competing technologies) you can sit back and watch the costs blowout like Swannee’s budget deficit just did by 68%… Geez, who would have thought the world’s greatest treasurer wouldn’t see a downturn in Chinese exports coming with news of Europe and the USA going down the drain virtually every day for the last 18 months.

          • “Yeah, yeah, I’m sure Germany, UK, USA, Switzerland and NZ have copper networks as old or older than ours yet FTTN has been a huge success in those countries with massive ROI which means that it pays for itself so quickly that stage 2 FTTH extensions to the FTTN networks can roll out in an economically feasible way, funded mostly by the private sector in a competitive environment.”

            Excepting of course they aren’t rolling out “stage two” they are scrapping FTTN and replacing it with FTTH.

            When Bell South was acquired by AT&T they immediately stopped the FTTC (Fibre To The Curb which is the term usually applied where the cabinet is within 300 meters of the premisis and is what is necessary to achieve the speeds you quote over copper pairs. FTTN is generally considered to be a 1.5km copper run and can’t actually match even the minimum NBN speed of 25mb/s).
            They are not upgrading, they are overbuilding the FTTC with FTTP (Fibre To The Premisis which means fibre to each building but allows for a copper tail for the last few meters in places like apartment complexes etc).

            “Channel checks indicate that AT&T has plans to deploy Ericsson [FTTP] gear in applications previously slated for Tellabs [FTTC gear] and may even rip and replace deployed Tellabs access platforms,”
            – Simon Leopold, an analyst for Morgan Keegan.

            He went on to say:
            “I think there have been some limitations in the capacity [of FTTC] that would not be suitable for video in the retrofit, So if video is your driver-and remember, BellSouth, prior to the acquisition, wasn’t yet committed to IPTV. Now with AT&T running the show and IPTV being the driver, they need more capacity.”

          • And to all those who would be tempted to believe the NBN/Conroy mantra that you can’t extend FTTN to FTTH like Switzerland, Germany and NZ are doing: It is possible. It is logical. A two phased build has better ROI and thus more private sector involvement (i.e. let tax payer debt if you’re into that sort of thing)


          • “Yeah, yeah, I’m sure Germany, UK, USA, Switzerland and NZ have copper networks as old or older than ours yet FTTN has been a huge success in those countries”

            FTTH by country and provider:
            Hong Kong – provided by HKKN and PCCW
            India – Beam Telecom, Hayai Broadband
            Indonesia – Biznet Networks, First Media
            Japan – NTT over 13 million customers
            Malaysia – Telekom Malaysia
            Phillipines – PLDT undergoing trials
            South Korea – KT, Hanaro Telecom, LG Powercom
            Taiwan – Chungha Telecom
            Thailand – CAT Telecom
            Bulgaria – ITD Network
            Croatia – Vodatel
            Cyprus – CYTA
            Denmark – DONG
            France – Orange, France Telecom, Free, Cite Fiber, Neuf
            Finland – Sonera
            Hungary – Magyar Telekom
            Iceland – Gagnaveita Reykjavikur
            Italy – Fastweb
            Lithuania – Teo LT
            Macedonia – Makedonski Telekom
            Moldova – StarNet, Arax
            Portugal – ZON, Portugal Telecom
            Romania – RDS
            Russia – ER Telecom
            Slovakia – Orange
            Slovenia – T-2
            Spain – GIT
            Sweden – Telia and a number of others
            Switzerland – CATV Satellitentechnik
            Turkey – Tellcom/SuperOnline
            Ukraine – Comstar-Ukraine
            Britain – BT Openreach, H2O Networks
            Israel – Kiryat Shmona undertaking pilot scheme
            Jordan – JCS
            Qatar – Qtel
            Canada – Novus, Vic Communications, Wightman Telecom, Hurontel Telecom, Bell Aliant
            United States – Burlington Telecom, AT&T, Connexian Technologies, Mstar, Broadweave, Eatel, T2 Communications, Cedar Falls Utilities, Qlevr Media, Embarq, Windstream Communications, PES Energize, Molalla Communications, TSC, LUSFiber plus various municipal rollouts
            Brazil – Telefonica
            Chile – GTD-Manquehue
            New Zealand – Telecom New Zealand to rollout FTTH for 75% of the population

          • And of this list which countries had their networks built by a government owned bloatopoly set up using $50 billion+ of tax payer guaranteed debt and in the process set up anti democratic, anti constitutional legislation to outlaw competition by forcing destruction of any existing actual or ‘potentially’ competing infrastructure.

            Now go through the list and cross out those countries that don’t match the above and you’ll have a very different list. Most networks are built by the private sector in a market based environment requiring no or a very small amount of tax payer guaranteed debt.

            If $9 billion buys back the Telstra network which is all that is required to restore competition to the market then why the hell is the Australian tax payer going to end up paying $50 billion + for fast broadband when no other tax payer in any other country has ever been forced to become investors in the telecommunication industry?

            If you don’t like government subsidies of infrastructure that rich people can take advantage of (private hospitals and private schools) how the heck can you justify building a network that gives private companies 100Mbps at a cost that is heavily subsidized by the Australian tax payer, most of whom won’t need anywhere near that speed for a long, long time.

            While Germany’s FTTN networks provide a 40Mbps plan >90% of people opt for the 16 Mbps plan! I guess they all don’t download porn movies or send and receive gigabytes of medical files.

          • “If $9 billion buys back the Telstra network which is all that is required to restore competition to the market then why the hell is the Australian tax payer going to end up paying $50 billion + for fast broadband when no other tax payer in any other country has ever been forced to become investors in the telecommunication industry?”

            Because it doesn’t. $9 billion covers leasing of conduit, dark fiber that Telstra already has which is idle and space in telephone exchanges, but you already knew that because it is spelt out clearly in the pubically released documentation.

          • Yeah ‘buys’ was a bad choice of word as NBN is only leasing that infrastructure from Telstra but the point remains valid: $11bn ‘acquires access to’ the infrastructure sufficient to de-monopolize Telstra’s exchange and backhaul infrastructure so that NBN can use it and it then becomes the monopoly operator of back haul infrastructure.

            It would make for an interesting scenario when the NBN is eventually sold (possibly at a fire sale if the ROI isn’t quite what the gov has predicted). Presumably the new owners would then take over the lease of Telstra’s equipment and so access rights to Telstra infrastructure would have been passed through 3 sets of hands: Telstra > Gov owned NBN > Privately owned NBN. Even though outlawed it may be that Telstra is the only interested buyer in the NBN. Would they have to pay lease payments to themselves? That would indeed be funny!

          • “Yeah ‘buys’ was a bad choice of word as NBN is only leasing that infrastructure from Telstra but the point remains valid: $11bn ‘acquires access to’ the infrastructure sufficient to de-monopolize Telstra’s exchange and backhaul infrastructure so that NBN can use it and it then becomes the monopoly operator of back haul infrastructure.”

            But it is not enough to forcibly acquire the copper cable.
            The copper network was not built for FTTN, it was built for a centralised star network radiating from teh exchange.
            To be of any use at all for FTTN, it would have to be cut up into small segments each connected back to a local distribution box. Basically it must be completely destroyed and rendered useless for it’s original purpose. It is the equivalent of taking my house and dismantling so you can use the bricks to build a build a series of storage sheds. It is useless to me afterwards, hence the high price of around $20 billion compensation.
            Leasing pits, ducts, dark fiber and floorspace is a completely different matter however. At the end of the lease, those pits, ducts, fiber and floorspace are still in their original condition and immediately useful for their original purpose. Hence the much lower cost of about $9 billion.

          • “The copper network was not built for FTTN, it was built for a centralised star network radiating from teh exchange.”

            Yeah, yeah, same old anti FTTN spin … name me a copper network built since 2000 that WAS actually designed with FTTN in mind. Certainly most western countries had well established phone networks decades before the concept of Digital Subscriber Line was even thought of. The ones in Germany, US, UK, Switzerland, NZ and most western countries were not ‘built for FTTN’ and OMG – they all seem to be able to achieve excellent ROI based on successful FTTN. Once the ROI is achieved many then upgrade to FTTH reusing the spare fibers laid to the FTTN nodes in anticipation of future FTTH upgrade.

            “To be of any use at all for FTTN, it would have to be cut up into small segments each connected back to a local distribution box.”

            … and yet many western countries’ prehistoric and ‘not for FTTN’ layouts have successful FTTN networks – go figure! The cabinets don’t have to be 5 foot wide ‘mini exchanges’ – there are even new weather proof pole mount FTTN nodes that cater for 24 or 48 lines that are about the size of a small VCR which make roll outs in areas with aerial copper extremely easy – no digging, no concreting cabinet foundations. I’d bet small ground mounted versions are also available.

            Later on, after the very quick ROI on FTTN has been achieved, or on a user pays basis, the ‘last mile’ copper tails are upgraded to fiber effectively upgrading FTTN to FTTH. This is happening NOW. It’s a sensible, high ROI strategy which means the private sector can take on the risk and the debt to build it – not the mum and dad tax payers – most of which won’t need 100Mbps for a very long time. Corporates and IT professionals will however be able to take advantage of such high speed earlier and find ways to make money out of it – so the NBN is a very effective form of corporate socialism – businesses are provided a service at a much cheaper rate than it would otherwise and they can make handsome profits from it – all risk and debt associated with the build is taken on by the Australian tax payer.

            Corporate socialism is the reason why the gap between rich and poor often, but non intuitively, tends to be worse under socialist governments. You have to go to full communism and eliminate the corporates for corporations not to benefit from government ‘programs’ designed to woo voters.

            Where did all the money from Rudd’s hand outs go? Kmart, Target, Harvey Norman, JB Hi Fi and Chinese electronics makers. Where did much of the BER money go when you had school buildings costing the school (taxpayer) $1 million and the builders getting paid $600,000 – there’s $400,000 in management fees gone to some big corporate. Nice work if you can get it!

  133. The NBN is history repeating itself. Those knocking the concept and investment, in another era they would have been lining up to stop the Sydney Opera House from being built, would have joined those who tried to stop the Sydney Harbour Bridge from being built (those succeeded for nearly three decades!), they would have called for an end to the madness of the overland telegraph that literally sent South Australia broke…the list of visionary projects that part met an immediate need but long term have added immeasurable value to Australia’s wealth and social fabric is long, as is the list of names of those who oppose visionaries,
    The NBN is a telecommuncations revolution, and successful revolutions require boldness.
    We know from overseas experience where optical fibre networks have been built GRP for that region has increased between 1-3%. To increase national wealth between 1-3% will more than pay for the NBN. The NBN will be an enabler of wealth that will give Australia a significant global advantage, now and for thte next 30-50 years.
    Imagine if we had to leave the replacement of Telstra’s aging, degraded copper wire network to private enterprise…their would have been nothing ubiquitous about such a project…and one way or another the taxpayer would have paid.

  134. The NBN is history repeating itself. Those knocking the concept and investment, in another era they would have been lining up to stop the Sydney Opera House from being built, would have joined those who tried to stop the Sydney Harbour Bridge from being built (those succeeded for nearly three decades!), they would have called for an end to the madness of the overland telegraph that literally sent South Australia broke…the list of visionary projects that part met an immediate need but long term have added immeasurable value to Australia’s wealth and social fabric is long, as is the list of names of those who oppose visionaries,
    The NBN is a telecommuncations revolution, and successful revolutions require boldness.
    We know from overseas experience where optical fibre networks have been built GRP for that region has increased between 1-3%. To increase national wealth between 1-3% will more than pay for the NBN. The NBN will be an enabler of wealth that will give Australia a significant global advantage, now and for thte next 30-50 years.
    Imagine if we had to leave the replacement of Telstra’s aging, degraded copper wire network to private enterprise…their would have been nothing ubiquitous about such a replacement project…and one way or another the taxpayer would have paid.

  135. “First of all, $43 billion is a ridiculous sum of money to spend on anything.”

    A fraction of what the 30% health insurance rebate will cost over the same time and for which we receive absolutely nothing in return. This year alone it cost over 4 1/2 billion.
    This for health “insurance” that the vast majority cannot afford to make a claim against.
    Most of those with private insurance take out the barest minimum needed to avoid the extra medicaire levy. When it comes time to make a claim they find that out of pocket costs make using it unaffordable and they go public anyway.
    It is really just a measure to force the majority to subsidise a service for teh wealthy who could have afforded to pay the whole cost in teh first place.
    We pay 2/3 of the premium we pay another 1/3 out of our taxes, but only those who can afford the top cover can actually afford to use it.

  136. “A fraction of what the 30% health insurance rebate will cost over the same time and for which we receive absolutely nothing in return.”

    Uhmm, except that, like the anti private school funding ideologists keep forgetting, there would be a complete flooding of the public system which would then a) Break it catastrophically b) cost us waaaaaay more than the rebate or subsidies currently cost in building the new hospitals and services and staffing it with government funded staff . How much does it cost to build just one hospital? Wilkie told Abbott he needed $1 billion to build just a moderately sized one in Hobart.

    Let me tell you, I’ve seen both public and private hospitals in action when people I know were patients. The difference is mind boggling. Stepping into a public hospital is like stepping back 30 years in terms of its operational efficiency and in terms of friendliness of staff – geeez, it’s chalk and cheese. You actually feel like people in the private system actually enjoy their jobs. If you’re the sort of person that likes sitting around for hours waiting for ‘things to happen’ and being completely left in the dark and treated with utter contempt if you dare make ‘inquiries’ about your loved one well you’re going to love the public health system.

    I’ve seen the public and private schools in action for my own kids. One of my kids actually asked to move from a public school to a private school because he said he wanted to learn something instead of sitting in a class with people throwing objects such as chairs and broken off metal pieces of the heater into the ceiling fan. NONE of the teachers in ANY of his classes had ANY control over the class. Sorry lefties, I realize you would like to pigeon hole me as some shock jock fan boi who makes up crap to make government run entities look bad but this $hit is real. It’s happening every day unless, on day one in year 7, your kid is lucky enough to make it into the ‘extension’ classes. These are the ones who the public schools focus on – the rest just effectively operate as government funded teenager child minding. This $hit didn’t happen at the private school we moved him to. If you want to cut government funding to private schools and force everyone except the elite, mega rich 1% to attend public schools then you’d be doing Australia a great injustice.

    Sorry that got off topic but you started talking about health insurance rebates so I blame you ;)

    • “Uhmm, except that, like the anti private school funding ideologists keep forgetting, there would be a complete flooding of the public system which would then a) Break it catastrophically b) cost us waaaaaay more than the rebate or subsidies currently cost in building the new hospitals and services and staffing it with government funded staff . How much does it cost to build just one hospital? Wilkie told Abbott he needed $1 billion to build just a moderately sized one in Hobart.”

      Ummm, except that, as I pointed out, like myself most of those with private insurance will actually use the public system anyway as they cannot afford to cover the gap between the their private insurance payment and the cost of services.

      This is lose/lose/lose for the public system.
      It loses the $4.5 billion a year of tax dollars that currently gets given away free to private health funds as the 30% subsidy instead of going into public health.
      It loses the $3 billion in medicare levy that would have been paid otherwise but is instead paid to the private health funds by way of premiums.
      It still has to provide the services that $7.5 billion would have helped pay for because the health fund cover is intentionally inadequate anyway. Even where the patient DOES go private, medicare still pays the private hospital in accordance with scheduled fees.

      Abolishing the 30% rebate and lifting the ceiling on the levy would pump an additional $7.5 billion into the public system for what would be in fact a minimal increase in service provision.

    • “How much does it cost to build just one hospital? Wilkie told Abbott he needed $1 billion to build just a moderately sized one in Hobart.”

      No, Wilkie asked for an extention to an existing hospital. Abbott offered to buy him a whole new hospital for $1 billion, duplicating existing facilities, in order to try to buy his vote.

      Taking the $1 billion figure though, as I detailed above, scrapping the 30% rebate and diverting the money into the public system would pay for 7 brand new public hospitals each and every year.

      • “No, Wilkie asked for an extention to an existing hospital. Abbott offered to buy him a whole new hospital for $1 billion, duplicating existing facilities, in order to try to buy his vote.”

        Ok so what you’re saying is that a new hospital costs $1 billion. That’s what I was saying so we at least agree on that. Now we just need to ask how many new hospitals would need to be built if the private health system collapsed. Also, how many new schools would have to be build/purchased if the private school system collapsed.

        BTW if you think only the rich 1% send their kids to private schools think again. Many hard working, struggling middle class families work their butts off to send their kids to private schools. And by private school I don’t mean just the elite private schools that have their own boys club or help make up 70% of the Wallabies team.

        • “Now we just need to ask how many new hospitals would need to be built if the private health system collapsed.”

          Private hospitals existed long before the subsisidy and many will continue to operate if it were removed.
          Assuming that a number of private hospitals did close, they would obviously be acquired by the cashed up public system if and where there was a need for them.
          There are only 280 private hospitals in the country equiped to deal with an overnight stay.

          The total collapse of the private hospital system was predicted for when the medicaire threshold was raised also. It didn’t eventuate then either. In fact, the number of people with private insurance has actually increased.

    • “Let me tell you, I’ve seen both public and private hospitals in action when people I know were patients.”

      Yes, so have I. Private hospitals are all about providing service and atmosphere. Sadly medical care is the lesser concern. Watch what happens if something seriously goes wrong. The patient is packed off to the public hospital where the budget is spent on equipment and training rather than curtains and cuisine.

      “I’ve seen the public and private schools in action for my own kids. One of my kids actually asked to move from a public school to a private school because he said he wanted to learn something instead of sitting in a class with people throwing objects such as chairs and broken off metal pieces of the heater into the ceiling fan.”

      And yet interestingly, while more private school graduates start university courses, by far more public school graduates finish them.
      Private schools tend to leave students unprepared for the real world when they graduate. At best, they may open a door to the “old boys” network that would otherwise have been closed.

      “If you want to cut government funding to private schools and force everyone except the elite, mega rich 1% to attend public schools then you’d be doing Australia a great injustice.”

      So, even if everything you say in disparaging public schools were true, you are still arguing that the 90% should be forced by way of their tax payments, to subsidise private schools that they could never dream of sending their own kids to, no matter how capable or deserving they may be so that wealthier people can send THEIR kids to them even though they may well be less deserving or capable but have more money.

      Better surely to take that same money and put into public schools to provide more of those “extention classes” you refer too so that a greater number of capable kids can be properly educated based on merit and ability rather than how much money grandad left their dad.

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