news An informal online poll taken by the ABC appears to have shown that voters have already rejected the Coalition’s rival National Broadband Network policy, with 78 percent of some 5,700 readers noting that they didn’t support the policy revealed last week.
On Tuesday last week the Coalition published its long-awaited rival NBN policy. The policy promises Australians download speeds of between 25Mbps and 100Mbps by the end of 2016 and 50Mbps to 100Mbps by the end of 2019, at a projected reduced total cost of $29.5 billion. Unlike Labor’s NBN project, it will make extensive use of fibre to the node technology (where fibre is rolled out to neighbourhood ‘nodes’ and much of the existing copper network is maintained), but will also utilise fibre to the premise, satellite and fixed wireless solutions in some areas.
Debate has swirled continuously since the policy was launched. A number of high-profile commentators, including telecommunications experts, academics and even property owner groups quickly rejected the Coalition’s policy approach. However, some analysts have praised it as being more achievable than Labor’s more comprehensive vision, and Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also come in for praise for reforming the Coalition’s broadband policy since the 2010 Federal Election.
If a poll taken by the ABC over the past week is any indication, however, the Coalition’s policy is overwhelmingly unpopular with the electorate. The poll conducted on the ABC’s The Drum opinion site (which has recently hosted a number of articles both positive and negative towards the policy) has found so far that 78 percent of readers were against the Coalition’s new policy, with 20 percent for it and a further 2 percent unsure.
Critics of the ABC have long argued that its audience is slanted towards the left-wing side of the political spectrum, meaning that the poll may not be taken seriously by the more conservative or traditional liberal side of politics.
The news comes as the Coalition continues to face increasing criticism from the public at large over its broadband policy. Turnbull’s Facebook page, for example, has been inundated with hundreds of comments severely criticising the Member for Wentworth over his policy plans. “I’m no fan of the Labor government, but the Coalition deserve to lose the election on the basis of their NBN policy alone,” wrote one commenter. “FTTN is a complete waste of time and money.” In addition, the #fraudband hashtag continues to be popular on Twitter, with those opposing the Coalition’s policy using it to gather ridicule and opposition to the policy.
The polling results mimic ongoing popular support for Labor’s NBN vision over a multi-year period. In October last year, for example, a new study by Swinburne University found that two thirds of Australians support the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network project, with most planning to connect to the network when it’s connected to their premises.
The news comes several months after an independent review commissioned by the Federal Government found that rural and regional Australian communities were strongly committed to the NBN, with a focus on maximising the potential of the infrastructure when it arrives in their area. The review’s findings echo a recent analysis of rural media coverage following the announcement of the three-year rollout plan for the NBN, which showed overwhelming demand for the infrastructure from a large number of rural and regional Australian communities, with many expressing disappointment that they had been left off the list for the NBN’s first few years.
The popularity of the NBN in rural areas is consistent with polling figures which have consistently shown high levels of popular support for the project Australia-wide. In February, for example, a poll released by research houses Essential Media and Your Source showed that the NBN policy has continued to enjoy strong levels of popularity, especially amongst Labor and Greens voters, since the last Federal Election.
The pair polled their audience with the following question: “From what you’ve heard, do you favour or oppose the planned National Broadband Network (NBN)”? The response displayed an enduring level of support for the NBN, with 56 percent of total respondents supporting the NBN in total, compared with 25 percent opposed and 19 percent stating that they didn’t know.
Just 10 percent of those polled strongly opposed the NBN, while 20 percent strongly favoured the project. Amongst Labor and Greens voters who responded to the poll, support was the strongest, with 80 percent and 77 percent supporting the initiative, 42 percent of Coalition voters supported it. Over the past 14 months since September 2010, Your Source has asked respondents the same question on three other occasions, with respondents displaying a very similar support rate for the project — ranging from 48 to 56 percent. Those opposing the project have ranged from 19 percent of respondents to 27 percent.
This data was largely echoed in April, when another similar poll showed support for the initiative continues to grow to record levels. According to the polling data, in total, 42 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Liberal or National voters stated that they were in favour of the NBN, while 40 percent in total opposed the project and the remaining 18 percent didn’t know. Of that 42 percent, eight percent were strongly in favour of the Labor plan, with 34 percent being in favour, and of the 40 percent against, 14 percent strongly opposed the NBN, with 26 percent opposing it. Amongst Labor and Greens voters, the numbers are much more strongly in favour of the NBN, with 80 percent of Labor voters and 68 percent of Greens voters for the plan, and with a much higher proportion of those polled being strongly in favour.
I’m not surprised by the vitriol which has been directed at the Coalition over its rival NBN policy; nor am I surprised that the policy continues to be overwhelmingly popular amongst the electorate. The NBN has always been an extremely popular policy for Labor, and why not? Most Australians would like dramatically faster broadband, and even if the Coalition’s policy will deliver many of the same aims, most people will doubtless see it as inferior on purely technical grounds.
I’m sure these poll results will be criticised on the basis that the ABC’s audience has a prevalent left-leaning swing. Personally, I’m not too sure what validity such a claim would have — I haven’t seen any concrete audience demographics from the ABC for some time — but I do know that when I personally have NBN-related articles published on The Drum, I get many comments from both sides of the debate; meaning the ABC has readers on both sides of the debate and from all walks of political life.