news An online poll taken by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation this week has shown Australians overwhelmingly believe focusing on the National Broadband Network should be Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott’s highest priority in his first 100 days in office, eclipsing issues such as education, the carbon tax, border protection and the environment.
The poll asked some 4,166 Australians visiting the ABC’s website what they thought Abbott’s number one priority for his first 100 days in office should be. The NBN was rated as the most popular response, with some 546 respondents supporting the project as Abbott’s highest priority. A further 287 respondents demanded that Abbott focus on keeping Labor’s fibre to the premises-based NBN policy intact, instead of shifting to the Coalition’s less ambitious fibre to the node rollout style.
Other important national issues, such as education, health, the carbon tax, the environment and border protection, rated less popular than the NBN as an issue with Australians.
The news comes as dissent regarding the Coalition’s plans to substantially modify the NBN continues to grow, with other signs of the will of the Australian population on the issue being the creation of a fast-growing petition and the publication of a landmark article by the ABC on the issue.
A petition placed on popular website Change.org on the issue following the election, demanding the Coalition reconsider the FTTN technology and focus on the superior FTTP option, has already garnered in excess of 193,000 signatures, with tens of thousands more Australians putting their names to the issue every day.
“As currently proposed,” the petition states, “the Coalition’s FTTN solution relies on the existing copper lines to supply individual premises access to the National Broadband Network (NBN) over the last mile or so. However, copper wiring solutions are rapidly approaching a century of implementation, with its inception dating back to the 1920’s. As such, its technological limits as well as associated weaknesses are rapidly developing … I and many Australians urge you to reconsider your proposal of a FTTN NBN in favour of a superior FTTH NBN. As your policy currently stands it is merely patch-work; a short term solution to a long term problem.”
Dozens of comments have been placed on the Change.org petition supporting its argument. In addition, the petition is only one of many such petitions placed on the site over the past year which demand the Coalition support Labor’s NBN project. The petition’s author Nick Paine has pledged to forward the petition to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, as well as Turnbull.
Another indication of the likely ongoing strength of support which Labor’s NBN policy will continue to enjoy came on Monday in an extensive article published by Lateline presenter Emma Alberici, who hosted a debate on the NBN issue during the election between Turnbull and then-Communications Minister Anthony Albanese.
The widely respected journalist and commentator argued strongly that the Coalition was “brushing off” the need for faster broadband speeds with its technically inferior policy.
“The World Wide Web was all but ignored when it was unveiled by the British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee in 1991. Those who did react were sceptical that the web would ever entangle more than a few academics across the world and few could imagine that anyone would ever read their news on a computer,” wrote Alberici.
“Mr Turnbull is adamant that it’s “very unlikely” Australians will need 1 gigabit of download speeds. That’s what they said about the World Wide Web.”
The article attracted 412 comments, the vast majority of which were hostile to the Coalition’s NBN plan and supported Labor’s, although many commenters also acknowledged Labor had done a poor job of implementing its policy.
The ongoing support for Labor’s NBN policy — despite the fact that Labor lost the election on Saturday — is consistent with the policy’s high levels of support in the electorate over time. For example, an informal online poll taken by the ABC after the Coalition’s rival policy was unveiled in April showed voters had quickly rejected the policy, with 78 percent of some 5,700 readers noting that they didn’t support it. A subsequent poll showed the Coalition’s NBN policy had boosted support amongst some Coalition voters, but confirmed that Australians en-masse still overwhelmingly supported Labor’s version of the policy.
The dissent train against the Coalition’s plans to substantially reform the NBN just keeps on growing. As I wrote earlier this week:
“Well, well. Looks like the Australian electorate isn’t going to just take this one lying down. From here, it’s relatively clear what is going to happen. Given that the Australian electorate has always been staunchly behind the NBN, it is very likely that Turnbull, and the Coalition in general, are going to face an ongoing and high level of antagonism from the public as they attempt to radically modify Labor’s NBN project into a FTTN-based alternative. And the only thing which will dull this criticism is extremely fast delivery of the Coalition’s FTTN infrastructure. The more delayed the Coalition’s own rollout becomes, the more frustrated the Australian population will become with the situation.
Turnbull, in particular, has just one chance to get this right. If the incoming Communications Minister is not able to kick the Coalition’s FTTN project into gear and get it deliverying very quickly, he is rapidly going to become public enemy #1; the politician who not only tore down Labor’s NBN vision, but also proved incapable of delivering on his own vision. Because the public angst on this issue is just not going to go away.”