news A rural NSW MP from the National Party has inaccurately claimed that the Coalition’s National Broadband Network policy will guarantee speeds of “at least 25 gigs” to all Australians by 2016, with Labor’s policy to deliver a mere “100 kilobits” in comparison, as inaccurate comments about the two policies continue to proliferate.
Unveiled in mid-April, the Coalition’s NBN policy is based on the core pledge that the group will deliver download speeds of between 25Mbps and 100Mbps by the end of 2016 — effectively the end of its first term in power — and 50Mbps to 100Mbps by the end of 2019, effectively the end of its second term. According to the Coalition’s statement upon the policy’s launch, the 25Mbps to 100Mbps pledge applies to “all premises”, while the higher pledge by 2019 applies to “90 percent of fixed line users”.
In comparison, Labor’s more ambitious plan, which relies more strongly on the provision of universal fibre broadband (as compared to a more limited fibre rollout under the Coalition’s plan) promises to deliver top-range speeds of up to 1Gbps by the end of 2021 to most of Australia, with some rural and regional areas to receive satellite and wireless speeds of up to 25Mbps.
However, in a TV segment on Prime Seven news last week, Federal Member for Calare John Cobb — a member of the National Party and an MP since 2001 — appeared to have gotten his figures on the two policies wrong.
Cobb claimed that the Labor Federal Government had recently cut 20 percent of its planned $43 billion investment in the NBN project, and so residents of the city of Bathurst, in the Calare electorate, would need to wait “even longer” for faster broadband to their area. “Probably it’s looking like way out into 2020 before we get hooked up to what is supposed to be Internet speeds of 100 kilobit,” Cobb said. Later in the segment, Cobb claimed that the Coalition “has said and will guarantee at least 25 gigs for everybody by 2016”.
In contrast, in the same segment, Labor candidate for Calare, Jess Jennings, said Labor was “almost” not calling the Coalition’s policy a broadband plan, because of its continued use of Telstra’s copper network to reach from neighbourhood fibre ‘nodes’ to premises, instead of fibre as in Labor’s plan. “If you’re going to continue to use copper technology out in the regions … copper is really struggling,” said Jennings.
The misleading comments by Cobb come as both sides of politics have made a number of inaccurate statements regarding the NBN over the past several years.
In the days after the release of the policy in mid-April, for example, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd made a factually inaccurate statement on Twitter regarding the Coalition’s rival National Broadband Network policy, falsely claiming that much of his electorate will see “zero upgrade” from the policy, when in fact the Coalition’s plan covers 100 percent of Australia, as does Labor’s own.
Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull immediately responded to Rudd’s false claim, stating on Twitter: “Not correct; Our plan will improve your area’s bband speeds by taking it from ADSL to VDSL – most would have 50 megs – 25 is the minimum.” He added in a follow-up tweet that 25Mbps was the minimum speed which the Coalition was guaranteeing under its predominantly fibre to the node plan — but that VDSL had the potential to deliver much higher speeds for “most customers”.
However, the Coalition has also made a number of misleading statements about Labor’s NBN project over the past several years. In one of the more blatant examples of misleading commentary, Federal Shadow Education Minister Christopher Pyne inaccurately claimed on national radio in October that the National Broadband Network has not connected any customers at speeds of 100Mbps, despite the fact that in fact, 44 percent of NBN customers connected to the project’s fibre infrastructure at that point had taken up such speeds. There have been several dozen other similar examples over that period.
The amount of misleading statements made by both sides over the past several years has led academics to label the NBN debate as being full of falsehoods.