The following article is by Kieran Cummings (@sortius), an IT professional and opinionated writer who writes both for his own blog and a variety of other sites including Independent Australia, Australians for Honest Politics and New Matilda. It first appeared on his blog and is re-published here with permission.
opinion There’s been a bit of hoohah about the use of the hashtag #fraudband recently by [Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull] & his cronies, decrying every use as ‘poor form’ & the like. Yet when you look deeper into the use of the term ‘fraudband’, the reality is that the Liberal & National parties were using it LONG before anyone supporting the NBN was.
I was tipped off to a blog post by Nationals Senator Fiona Nash on 19th June 2007 titled “LABOR’S RURAL FRAUDBAND” (screenshot in case they take the post down) which is the earliest use of the term I can see in regard to the NBN or Coalition’s plan. While I’m no fan of the LNP, nor of their tireless negativity, Fiona Nash raises some interesting views on FTTN & why it will fail rural users.
“In spruiking their flawed Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) plan, Labor are doing one of two things; they are either deluding themselves, and at the same time the Australian public, if they think a FTTN will deliver high-speed broadband to rural and regional areas, or they are being deliberately deceitful and are trying to trick the public into supporting a plan they know is flawed. A plan they know is unfeasible, un-costed and whimsical at best.”
It’s interesting to note, when the same rhetoric is applied against Turnbull’s plan, the shoe fits. When applied against the previous iteration of the NBN, it does too. Even back in 2007, I was sceptical of the benefits of 12Mbps (or even 25Mbps) FTTN. After having worked for Telstra & seen the quality of the copper network first hand, any decision to reuse it instilled little confidence.
While in government, the Liberal Party even saw fibre optics or fixed wireless as the only options for rural Australia, with [then-Communications Minister] Helen Coonan stating of their fixed wireless services ”It’s been specially developed for rural and regional areas, where [with] fixed broadband you’ve got to actually run a fibre optic [cable]“. So I’m not sure what has changed between 2007 & now to mean FTTN is so much better. If anything, fibre developments have ruled out any case for FTTN.
So what does Turnbull know now that wasn’t possible back in 2007? Why does the LNP now see FTTN as the panacea of the catastrophe that rural broadband is? Who knows, all we can do is look at what the Liberal Party said in 2007 & what they are saying now about FTTN to see gross misrepresentations of technology that, even back in 2007, they saw as a furphy in rural areas. The amusing thing is, the Nationals were pushing for FTTN in regional areas, but just 24hrs later, Nash posted her blog post in opposition to FTTN.
The confusion among Liberal & National party senators & MPs alike is there for all to see, with some deriding the Labor party’s plan while at the same time spruiking a similar FTTN plan. It’s clear to see that the politicising of broadband has nothing to do with value for money, technologies, or societal benefits, but decrying anything the opposing party calls for. Both plans were myopic, relying on technology that is, and always has been, a last ditch effort to keep the copper network running.
With all the rhetoric surrounding the early stages of the NBN, when it was $4.7b, FTTN, & a guaranteed 12Mbps, the truth about the Liberal party’s position is laid bare. From $4.7b being “economic vandalism”, to FTTN being the worst thing to deploy in rural areas, to Telstra trying to put the government over a barrell, looking at past cases against FTTN, it’s clear to see rampant hypocrisy in among the Coalition’s ranks. Even back in 2008 OECD were estimating users would require 50Mbps services by 2011. Not far off the reality, with data consumption going up & users demanding higher speeds for their insatiable desire for higher fidelity content.
The more I look into the LNP’s past rhetoric, and failures, on national broadband, the more I see a bunch of hypocritical politicians who don’t actually care about doing what’s best for the country, but instead prefer to politicise technical arguments & muddy the waters with childish rhetoric that can be fact checked in minutes. The irony of the debate is that we’re talking about Internet technology & the detractors of the current plan assume that no one has access to the internet to fact check claims. The LNP’s history with broadband is telling, & I think Conroy hit the nail on the head back in 2008:
“During its 11 years in office, the previous government presided over 18 failed broadband plans. The opposition has a shameful and embarrassing record that has left Australia’s broadband performance languishing.”
For the Opposition to cry about their aspirations dressed up as policy being called ‘faudband’ is laughable, since a Nationals senator coined the term in 2007. One thing Turnbull needs to remember: don’t cry about having the same mud flung at you as you have flung at others in the past.