NBN debate not about technology, says Turnbull


news Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has delivered a major speech in Malaysia in which he criticised the publication of “worst of the worst” photos of Telstra’s copper telecommunications network and argued that the National Broadband Network debate should be about real end user outcomes and not about technology per se.

In early May, Delimiter published a photo gallery of so-called “worst of the worst” photos of Telstra’s ageing copper telecommunications network, which provides telephony and broadband services to the majority of Australia. This aimed to provided a realistic view into the infrastructure which the nation relies on, in the context of the current debate about upgrading it — especially the Coalition’s interest in re-using the copper in a fibre to the node scenario, where fibre would not be deployed all the way to premises as under Labor’s NBN plan.

“Over the last year there has developed a narrow but extremely aggressive campaign by supporters of the NBN to frame the debate as being a contest between copper versus fibre,” Turnbull said in a speech to a broadband conference in Kuala Lumpur this week. “One Internet site recently posted photos of some egregiously run-down components of the old copper network and then asked me ‘is this infrastructure worth upgrading?'”

“Let me make two points about this,” he added. “Firstly, politicians are relieved when the damaging photos being sent to their office are of naked copper connections, as opposed to naked other things. But secondly, and more seriously, I would make this very important point: The longevity of the copper network should be decided by the market’s desire and willingness to still purchase internet services over that network – and not by arbitrary decisions made by politicians in Canberra or elsewhere on when to shut it down.”

“In so doing, we shouldn’t think of this debate as a purely technical one – that is, which technology is best at this very moment. Rather, we should think of this about two alternative upgrade paths where the endpoint will be very superfast broadband that exceeds the capacity of current networks. In a question of technologies, the answers tend to be simplistic and absolute. But in a question of alternative upgrade paths, the trade-offs are often complex and you need to take a hard headed approach.”

Turnbull said some people in Australia had become “obsessed” with pursuing the best “theoretical technical broadband solution”, rather than searching for the best practical solution to meet the “unique needs” of Australia’s broadband market.

For example, he said, throughout the Asia-Pacific region, most Fibre to the Home (FTTH)-style broadband rollouts had focused on areas which had a high incidence of multi-dwelling units such as apartment blocks, where the rollout of infrastructure would be utilised by high numbers of people. “In Australia, however, only 34 percent of premises are MDUs,” he said, citing McKinsey data.

In questions of technologies, answers tended to be “simplistic and absolute”, Turnbull said. But in questions of alternative upgrade paths, the trade-offs were often complex, and legislators needed to take a “hard-headed approach”. Because of these factors, he said, the Coalition’s telecommunications policy would see Australia’s infrastructure upgraded with a mix of technologies — whether that be fibre to the home, fibre to the node, next-generation mobile solutions or upgraded HFC cable. “They all have their part to play,” he said. “We need a complementary combination of solutions introduced incrementally, and tailored to local needs.”

Turnbull reiterated several key planks of Coalition telecommunications policy which he has previously outlined:

  • Encouraging facilities-based competition, including reversing the shutdown of the HFC cable networks operated by Telstra and Optus and the NBN anti-cherry-picking legislation
  • Providing “open and transparent subsidies” to enable broadband services in rural areas
  • Focusing on a technology agnostic approach including FTTH, FTTN and potentially wholesale access to HFC networks.

“With this approach we are satisfied that we can complete the construction of a national broadband network faster, because a mix of technologies will upgrade services sooner than near universal FTTP, at less cost to the taxpayer and more affordably for end users, because the combination of a less expensive network and the return of competition will put downward pressure on prices,” TUrnbull said.

“In my judgement the scarcest resource is not bandwidth, or even technology, but rather technological imagination. And it is no accident that innovation is at its greatest in the markets with the most competition and the most freedom. Our opponents have accused us of wanting to destroy the NBN. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather we are determined to set it free.”

I really like much of what Turnbull is saying here. The Liberal MP, as he so often does, has brought a level of analysis and understanding to the issue of the NBN which is sadly lacking in the way which almost every other politician (including, sometimes, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy) talks about the issue. Turnbull just ‘gets’ this space much more than anyone else commenting in the area, and I like that his voice is a strong one in the debate about Australia’s national telecommunications infrastructure.

Points such as focusing on facilities-based competition; keeping the HFC networks alive and providing wholesale access to them; deploying a mix of FTTH and FTTN to match Australia’s heterogeneous geography; keeping the debate on outcomes instead of technologies and so on: All of these are very valid points which should be considered in the overall NBN debate.

The only problem for Turnbull is that it is really too late for these points to be considered.

The right time for these points to have been raised was between the years from 2005, when Telstra first proposed building a national broadband network in the form of upgrading its copper network to FTTN with government financial assistance, and 2009, when the then-Rudd Labor Federal Government outlined its ambitious FTTH-based NBN project.

The Coalition had no less than four years to debate this issue at that point, and as I and others have repeatedly pointed out, a succession of Coalition Communications Ministers and Shadow Ministers failed to do so, from Howard-era Minister Helen Coonan to Turnbull’s predecessor in the portfolio, Tony Smith. The telco policy which the Coalition took to the 2010 Federal Election was pretty much a bad joke compared with the comprehensive NBN project, already well-advanced in the planning stages at that point.

At this stage, Labor’s NBN project is very well advanced and is delivering on a wide scale throughout Australia, with a large number of sensitive agreements, contracts and pieces of legislation worked out. If a Coalition Federal Government, following an election victory in 2013 or thereabouts, rolls back key planks of the NBN, such as the requirement on Telstra and Optus to shut down their HFC cable networks, switching to FTTN in some areas instead of FTTH, and separating Telstra through different methods than Labor has arranged, it will cause, at the very least, two to three years of chaos to Australia’s telecommunications sector.

It will likely take up to six months alone for the Productivity Commission to produce the much-vaunted cost/benefit analysis into the NBN, which Turnbull has consistently said would be the first action taken by a Coalition Government, if it took power. And most of the other aspects of telco policy which Turnbull has described in his speech — re-working agreements with Telstra and Optus, investigating wholesaling their HFC cable networks, plotting which areas of Australia would receive FTTN and FTTH — would take a similar or greater amount of time.

If Coalition telecommunications policy is as Turnbull has described it this week, it could take a Coalition Government its whole first electoral term — three years — merely to unwind much the current NBN project and set its new framework for the future. In fact, many observers will note, it took most of the Rudd Labor Government’s first term, from 2007 through 2010, to set up the NBN in the first place. Only now, mid-way through its second term, is the project delivering at something like full speed. The exact same timeframe will hamstring the Coalition’s approach, and it is entirely possible that we could still be debating Turnbull’s principles in 2016.

The speech which Turnbull gave this week was visionary. It was nuanced. It demonstrated a sharp and deep understanding of the dynamics of modern telecommunications policy.

But what Australia needs right now, when it comes to Federal Government broadband projects, is not principles. It needs powerful, strong and fast implementation. We’ve been talking about this issue for long enough, and the time for words is over. Now, in the telecommunications portfolio, is the time for action.

Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull


  1. Turnbull – “The longevity of the copper network should be decided by the market’s desire and willingness to still purchase internet services over that network – and not by arbitrary decisions made by politicians in Canberra or elsewhere on when to shut it down.”

    The problem Malcolm is that most of the time the market doesn’t have a real choice. Telstra decide whether to keep selling services on old copper networks or to force customers on to 3g Networks.
    I’m all for market forces controlling prices/products etc but when it comes to broadband infrastructure, the MARKET HAS FAILED.

    The howard government should have sold of the retail part of Telstra and kept the wholesale part and then we wouldn’t need to spend Billions creating another company to do what should already have been done.

    • This. Give me the choice and I will choose. At the moment I have the choice of copper, copper or copper.
      What about wireless you say? Well, where I am I am lucky to get a constant signal due to the severe lack of infrastructure covering the central coast NSW. I might get one bar in my home on my mobile.Market failed to deliver choice that is reasonable.

      • Wrong. market delivered perfectly. You live out where population density doesn’t support big spend so you don’t get big spend. Now you get subsidised by other users to get NBN access which is exactly the opposite of market working.

        If you believe central coast NSW should get high speed access at the same rate as more densely populated areas I look forward to you subsidising my mortgage, given your belief in equality I’m sure that in exchange fro equal pricing and access to NBN you’ll subsidise my mortgage to be the same cost per square metre as your place on the central coast. Won’t you?

        • Interesting proposal Rob. You do know you live in Australia, whose government essentially has had a mandate since Federation to provide services for those in the bush so they can live in similar style to those in the cities?

          You have every right in the world to disagree with this style of governing attitude…..but I’m afraid to say that after 100 years of “entitlement” from “the bush” (I only live an hour south of Sydney, but it’s still considered “the bush” by anyone from the city, even though our population is 75000) politicians in this country believe, probably quite rightly, it would be political suicide to change attitude.

          The NBN is great infrastructure. You could argue all day it should cost more to those who are out in the sticks, but that’s not the mandate of the NBN- it’s the NATIONAL Broadband Network.

          The Coalition simply doesn’t want to see a popular idea they didn’t think of come to fruition. Especially as it costs *shock* money! to build one of the largest telecommunications networks on the planet UPFRONT. What they refuse to see is it actually won’t end up costing the Government 1 cent in the end….

        • OK Rob, then how do you explain people living within an hour of a major city, not having access to ADSL or being stuck on a RIM?

          I’m not talking about myself as I have 100Mbps cable but my friends a couple of streets over from me can barely get an internet connection at all. They don’t live in a low density populated area and they don’t want their connection subsidized. They just want a connection that is superior to dial-up.

          They’d be happy to pay more for it if it was available but it’s not. This story has been repeated Australia wide for many years. I’m astonished that 2012, close to Major cities that people still can’t expect to be able to get a reasonable broadband experience.

          • You don’t even have to go that far out. There’s plenty of people within 10 minutes of the Brisbane CBD who can’t get ADSL or Cable and have to resort to patchy and congested 3G.

            The market has consistently failed even in the more densely populated areas.

          • I know people IN the city with no access to broadband at all. Too far for ADSL, on a RIM with no ports free, cable that they won’t connect because they are in a multi dwelling, or too far back from the rd, the cable would run over the corner of some other property, many reasons cable won’t be connected. Signal too weak for wireless or if they can get it so congested both others that cannot get wired broadband it is useless. This is in suburbs 1/2 hr from the city centre.

        • The ‘market failure’ started when Kim Beazley corporatised TA into a vertically integrated Telstra, and was compounded when Richard Alston sold it off in the same configuration.

          The monopoly they created and turned loose has cost us dearly, and will continue to do so for some time even if NBN Co is allowed to complete the national NBN network. If the wrecking (Turn) ball is used to halt NBN, it will mean that we continue to get screwed while the politicians babble on.

          Malcolm Turnbull is attempting to assert that this is merely a debate among a few tech-heads about a form of technology. It’s not. It’s about providing clearly foreseeable infrastructure needs for this country. His claim that the current unspecified, uncosted Coalition proposals will deliver ‘very superfast broadband’ (whatever that is) is so laughable that it probably needs no further comment, here or elsewhere.

    • Yes, I would totally agree with this. I have no realistic choice to copper at my location.
      It’s either a slower wi-fi choice with a much, much smaller gig contract, or even slower and more expensive satellite.

    • Exactly! This is the first thing that came to my mind when I read Turnbull’s statement. It’s an area where the market can’t/won’t meet expectations because their priority is to get the most amount of money they can out of the pre-existing infrastructure.

      Even in major cities there is not a big enough market to warrant other companies building a second lot of infrastructure so there is no competition to force the copper to be upgraded. You get what you’re given, and that’s it.

    • Yes. That comment in particular really irritated me.
      A few years ago I had to support a small office (4-8 people depending on the day) where the only choice was copper. Every time it rained they lost their connection. It was sometimes lost on and off for a few minutes at a time. Other times they lost the connection for a day. Not great for productivity :(

      It was an intermittent fault that Telstra were never able to track down. By the time a tech got there things had dried out enough that they could happily declare that “it’s all working just fine”

      I’ve spoken to other businesses who thought daily drop outs were just a normal thing. Me ” that fuzzy crackling sound on your line is the sound of a crap copper line that is probably about to fall in two somewhere”

  2. I agree with your analysis Renai

    Tuirnbull says in his speech:
    “The longevity of the copper network should be decided by the market’s desire and willingness to still purchase internet services over that network – and not by arbitrary decisions made by politicians in Canberra or elsewhere on when to shut it down.”

    It would seem to me that this is saying that if we aren’t happy then we should refuse to purchase the service. Trouble is there is no alternative. Nearly all the landline service in Australia is provided by Telstra except in the major capital cities. So what Turnbull is saying is that the people who don’t live in the major metropolitan areas don’t deserve, want or need internet.services. Hasn’t he heard these people screaming for equity in telecommunications for the past decade or so? Maybe this is why the Coalition doesn’t have a decent policy. They don’t care about anyone who doesn’t live in Vaucluse.

  3. My worry with the Coalition approach is that shortly after it is rolled out the next upgrade to FTTH will be needed and it will simply be a waste of money. If we had have rolled out FTTN years ago when other countries were, all well and good. Now it seems a short term solution that at best would be 10-15 less the 5 years before it is implemented, so it needs to pay for itself in a 5-10 year period or the subsequent it will still be being paid off by customers/taxpayers at the time they also need to fund the FTTH upgrade.

  4. Renai’s analysis highlights the bigger issue we should all be concerned about.

    The cost of a change in direction at this point will undoubtedly cost billions and take years to accomplish not to mention more than likely breaking the accounting rules allowing the NBN to stay off budget.

    This will set us back a decade of progress and cause an enormous amount of waste. Being included in the budget will also mean the Liberals will have to make compromises. Either to scale back the project significantly (beyond even their current FttN plans), or make deep budget cuts in other areas, nominally the social programs which don’t fit the Liberal ideology such as public health and family support.

    • One thing. If they are giving subsides to get this built then they are spending taxpayers money with no return to cover it. If this is the case any plans on their version of an NBN better be very very cheap. The same price won’t cut it as we will be paying more for an inferior connection that we also part paid for with paid for with taxes.

  5. Are the Coalition setting up for a major backflip on the NBN? If it’s not a debate about the infrastructure, then why have they been arguing along the lines (heh) of wireless as being the future?

  6. 12 years ago, HFC was rolled out in various areas. Where did it go from there? Regional Australia? Hardly. So a good portion of the population is stuck with copper, which means ADSL2 at best.

    I’m stuck with copper. I have that ADSL2 connection, that connects at 6 Mbps, instead of the advertised 24 Mbps. As I have said repeatedly, its not a question of distance, I can see the exchange from my front gate, and there is 1 corner between me and it.

    So there is a problem. One that nobody will correct. And why should they? Theres no profit in it.

    So I have a connection thats gone from sharing net traffic between 2 devices, and one that shares between 12-14. Now that ‘best connection’ is slow, laggy, and insufficient to my needs. As time has gone on, I’ve become more connected, to the point I need faster than what current technology can deliver.

    So please tell me, where can I get a better connection? And please, give me realistic options, and ones that are going to directly cost me thousands, or hundreds per month.

  7. “The longevity of the copper network should be decided by the market’s desire and willingness to still purchase internet services over that network”

    Paraphrase: The future is all about the present, if they can sell something today they dont need to innovate.

    It is precisely why the market has failed, corporations are risk averse, and they are only getting worse at planning long term.

    I wish Malcolm would stop playing games, everyone knows hes smarter than this.

  8. I too take issue with the section many commenters have quoted. Give me the choice of selecting a fibre-based solution and I will do so! I would gladly pay several thousand dollars to be rid of my copper once and for all, but that isn’t an option. The market is not free to choose as Turnbull disingenuously claims.

  9. Turnball is too late. By the time he could possibly start ‘unwinding the NBN’ as he says – he won’t. Too many contracts have been signed – it would cost more to unwind it than to finish it. Why create a messy piecemeal solution? One clean, fair, open to all solution is elegant, much cheaper to support and troubleshoot and puts Australia at the forefront of progress, not back in the mess we’ve had for the last 3 decades. The market cannot choose to drop copper without a viable alternate, that indeed is what the NBN is…

    Turnball quotes cost savings to taxpayers but that too is not true. The NBN is NOT an EXPENSE. Expenses are costs. The NBN is an INVESTMENT. That means you count it as an ASSET, something you own. Later the government will sell it, likely at a profit, or at the very least, for what it cost. For a change taxpayers won’t lose out, yet Turnball throws numbers like $50billion+ costs around. It’s simply not true, at all.

    Let’s go forward. Fibre has so many many advantages over mixed and deteriorating copper and HFC. Give it up Turnball, you are claiming things as fact that simply are not.

  10. Renai
    You left out the bit the Australian is using to headline this item.
    “MALCOLM Turnbull has used an international summit on broadband to savage Labor’s National Broadband Network as a wasteful inhibitor of competition, and vowed an Abbott government would smash its monopoly and champion an open market.

    The Coalition’s broadband spokesman has also questioned the view that the $36bn NBN will spark innovation, noting that it is the US, which is “apparently broadband deficient”, that is the world leader in online business innovation, not the “superfast nirvanas”, Japan and Korea.”

    Point 1 Competition, in other items we have commented on here several pricings were quoted showing suitable broadband for small business bigish volume symmetrical is very expensive, in fact it could be argued a rip off. What are the packages, prices and performance of the fibred estates and what is on offer in Bris East on the Telstra Fibre. Considering they wish to repeal the anti cherry picking legislation, the high volume high profit sectors won’t be on the NBN. The leave the copper in ADSL close to the exchange will possibly stay as will the HFC, untill it overloads. All meaning NBN’s income will be massively reduced, economies of scale and a standardised broadband network will all be lost, so Abbott will be able to deliver on his promise that the NBN will cost you Three times as much.

    Sad thing is we will never ever upgrade past what we will have, no one will be game to take it on. Sure maybe some fibre in Toorak or Vaucluse, that is about all. The only quality up to date Broadband that will be available then will be in the Business, corporate and some industrial parks if you you are prepared to pay through the teeth for rental and servicing charges and the rip off broadband charges you will be forced to pay. Look after your mates Turnbull and Abbott

  11. “Coalition’s telecommunications policy would see Australia’s infrastructure upgraded with a mix of technologies”

    I nearly crawled into a foetal position at that statement. Technology mixes are inefficient and thus very expensive to maintain on any sort of scale.

    • Especially when you consider the coaltion want to have a mix of technologies just for the sake of having a mix of technologies. It is also at odds with their “technology agnostic” mantra because if that were true and our goal is 100/40mbps now and 1000/400mbps later (which it is) and you really want to be “technology agnostic” then you wouldn’t care that the solution is fibre… but they do, they are arguing for a “mix of technologies” instead.

    • ‘I nearly crawled into a foetal position at that statement. Technology mixes are inefficient and thus very expensive to maintain on any sort of scale.’

      What study in Australia indicates this would be the case?

      • alain, in this case a study is not required, but as usual, you’ll just toe the party line, so if the Coalition get in, don’t worry, you’ll get your “Cost-Benefit Analysis”. It’ll show that the NBN is more than Australia needs, but that the Coalition’s policy will cost more over time.

        It’s simple maths. FTTP NOW will allow the overhaul of the entire network and for everyone to be on level ground. Normal maintenance and repairs will be quick, cheap, easy and efficient as they will be the same in 93% of all cases.

        FTTN now will simply extend the life of the current copper CAN, which will NOT, in the majority of cases, be replaced. (how do I know this you ask? The Coalition have to get their money direct from the taxpayer, they won’t borrow it. Therefore it has to be the “most cost-effective” plan possible. In other words as cheap as possible. Fibre isn’t cheap) But in 10–15 years time, the copper network will literally fail under pressure from those who want significantly faster speeds than now…..then we’ll have to build a FTTP to fix it…..which would already be in place if we built the NBN….

        • Nailed it seven. The big problem with FttN is that it is already redundant and this means rolling out such a network could blow out to $70 billion when we inevitably have to upgrade to FttH, which is already needed. More people are demanding faster speeds already (makes sense since we are way behind) the latest figures show 100/40mbps as NBNco’s most popular plan at 37% (page 7 of the NBN product roadmap)

      • Alain, true it was such a mistake State governments taking over electricity and rail from the private sector, the mix of technologies was so efficient and such fun, moving freight and passengers between trains at the borders, Melbourne should have stayed with the private sector mix of power standards and technologies, DC, 110V 60Hz, 240/50Hz. I think there were a couple of others as well. Studies Hmmmm.
        From my years of experience in Transmission networks I can guarantee that differing makes and technologies for a specific product can well suffer compatibility issues

    • I don’t get what Turnbull is trying to say when he says this. The NBN project IS a mix of technologies, Fibre, Wireless and Satellite. Each selected depending on installation cost and population density.

  12. What Turnbull is saying is that he want market forces to decide which car i buy. not the government telling me what car to buy. Problem is the road isnt suited for any of the new cars and none of the car makers want to build a better road. get the analogy?

  13. Dylanx, the gov’t is building the roads because the private sector couldn’t do it. It’s up to you what car you drive and how fast you drive it.

    • Exactly my point. If they dont build it not matter what car i want there will be no road to drive it on. In the same way. unless the NBN is built there is no way new business existing businesses and homes can use high speed internet applications. i.e. video, gaming, education, business, web hosting. And there is no point in saying lets just use a small road(FTTN, HCF) because its already built when a bigger road is needed(FTTP).

  14. We will know before the 2013 election what a Turnbull-style government-subsidised private fibre build looks like. Malaysia has just rolled out FttP, and the taxpayers who have subsidised 30% of its construction cost will be beholden to 70% owner Mayalsia Telecom’s pricing for services on the only game in town.

  15. Using a mix of technologies is a disaster waiting to happen. We have established that FTTP is the best solution for the future of fixed line broadband. Is it FTTP cost-effective? Have a cost-benefit analysis and weight the benefits. Mixing FTTN and FTTP will create mass confusion to customers, maintenance nightmares, pricing inequality. I can see FTTN being more expensive then FTTN for customers due to the extra complexity, despite being slower then FTTP. FTTP will always be capable of faster speeds compared to FTTN, upgradable to 1gbit/sec+. And then you have to upgrade FTTN to FTTP anyways sooner or later. If FTTP is viable and cost-effective… DO IT!

    • I can see FTTN being more expensive then FTTP for customers due to the extra complexity, despite being slower then FTTP.*

  16. Turnbull must be crazy if he thinks the HFC networks can be part of his national solution. It is currently not used for business services or MDUs. He will have to roll out FTTx in the HFC footprint to cover those users. That means his change to a ‘mix of technologies’ comes down to nothing more than swapping from FTTP to FTTN in brownfield areas. If he gets the NBNCo to build it then not much changes at all (see below).

    The biggest change would be the lower performance of FTTN compared to FTTP. We need the government to come out with a set of social and/or nation building benefits for the NBN that can be used to challenge the ability of FTTN to deliver them. That fits with Turnbull’s search for “for the best practical solution to meet the “unique needs” of Australia’s broadband market.”. If FTTN can deliver the benefits then Turnbull might be right. If it can’t then he will have some explaining to do.

  17. Fantastic!! Come ON people LOOK at this speech! It is VINTAGE Turnbull. It is brilliant, well worded, eloquent, to the point and it asks some VERY sensible questions about the NBN, which Renai has pointed out in his analysis. THIS is how Turnbull should’ve been arguing from the beginning.

    The problem is….we’ve gone too far. We can’t back down from the NBN, even if we wanted to (which I don’t) because of the expense….and the Coalition, or at least Turnbull, knows this.

    I’m afraid and slightly saddened that the only reason Turnbull is taking this tack now, is so the Coalition CAN do a backflip on the NBN. I think he realises it’s inevitable. It’s such a shame he has been forced like this to come up with some of his best stuff.

    Malcolm, an A+ for effort, but a D- for timing. But keep that good stuff coming- someone from the Coalition might finally realise they should never have been that “1 vote” that ousted Malcolm for Tony….

    • Very good points. Yes, this is the best speech that Turnbull has given to date on the NBN and broadband policy in Australia. And, as you and Renai point out, it is years too late.

      If the contracts run to completion, which is Turnbull’s recent oft-repeated line, it is reasonable to project the build continuing until 2015. Which of course gives convenient breathing space to conduct any number of reviews, Cost Benefit Analyses or whatever.

      And overwhelmingly those reviews will have to acknowledge the fact that the rollout will be around 1/3 complete already, and that rolling back the clock will be impossible. The only moderate, reasonable position at that point will be to continue the bulk of the NBN rollout as planned, with some fairly minor tweaks.

      What could those tweaks be?

      – earlier sell-off of NBNCo assets (in part or in full)
      – greater role for private companies at greenfields sites
      – reduction of the 93% fibre reach – perhaps dialling it back to 90% or 85%
      – possibly some FTTN as a stop-gap in areas which won’t be getting FTTP until very late in the schedule
      – and most importantly of all, a re-branding exercise: no more “NBN”, welcome to the AFB (Australian Fast Broadband) or BFA (Broadband For Australia)

      • The first 3 are the concerns,

        Just how good a service has been provided in those past fibre estates at what price ? and will the equipment be compatible with the National infrastructure and will they also be forced to wholesale at regulated prices?, plus will any ISP using their network be forced to buy some obscure el cheepo equipment to use it plus what is their contention and backhaul ?( remember that poster whingeing that his non NBN fibre was worse than his ADSL ). Otherwise just multiple mini vertical monopolies with No Choice available, all so we can worship at the illusory alter of competition

        Sell off of assets – would be at bargain prices to “mates” either local or foreign interests (pay the piper), once again the Nation is screwed

        Drop back to 80% – As long as it is in Liberal electorates, after all they voted against it and see no need for it so why waste the money and effort, also why run fibre under their plan if there is HFC available, just leave the copper as an alternative, more savings. Also deregulate the copper and allow the market forces to weave their magic

  18. Classic straw man by Turnbull.

    He is misrepresenting Labor’s goals in order to claim that FTTN is a viable alternative solution.

    If the goal was simply to exceed the capacity of current networks, then Labor would be rolling out FTTN. He attributes the fact that they aren’t doing so to an “obsession” with FTTH. (Or at least, I think he’s saying that…he should try and make his invalid points clearer, so I don’t risk straw manning him myself…)

    If you try to point this out to him, he will claim that Labor’s goals are wrong, which would technically be irrelevant. Your opponent (hypothetically) being wrong is not an excuse to lie.

  19. I honestly thing Renai is much too accomodating here. If the market was going to give the people what we want and need, it would have done it by now. But it’s clear that ‘the market’ (which, let’s face it, is just Telstra) would prefer to fork over some money to badly maintain aging infrastructure instead of investing more to bring us a 21st century solution.

    And really, why is Malcolm saying this, when he clearly agrees that govt. intervention is necessary, otherwise he wouldn’t be offering govt. funded FttN. A FttN plan that has no revenue design to it, relies on the weakest part of the copper network, and would be in need of an even more costly upgrade to FttH in the mid-future anyway.

    Fair enough he’s finally made some good points, but it’s way too late, and them being good points doesn’t mean FttN is the better plan. Perhaps that’s why he hasn’t made them until now, if these points were made when the actual debate were going on they wouldn’t have made a difference to the outcome, but if he times it right now they might make a difference to an election.

  20. James Q
    Do agree, My concern which has not been fully addressed by comments so far relates to the definite statement by The Australian – “MALCOLM Turnbull has used an international summit on broadband to savage Labor’s National Broadband Network as a wasteful inhibitor of competition, and vowed an Abbott government would smash its monopoly and champion an open market.”

    An open market suggests a choice, we in reality have never had a choice and their model will be even more restrictive, further removing choice at the same time it in a sparsely populated country destroys what economies of scale that can be achieved.

    It was only recently that Telstra stated they would not connect to the Tasmanian NBN as the NTU was not compatible with their network, NBN is replacing those trial NTU’s, but is this going to be repeated ad infinitum with every private network, greenfield estate, and what about current fibre estates and networks, compatibility issues ? Or do we let Telstra determine what brand and model of equipment that can be used – ??

  21. Funny how you’re changing your tune now Mr Turnbull!

    Rewind to some months back and you were jumping up and down proclaiming wireless is the key and FTTH was “obsolete”. Then you switched to “copper is more than enough” and now the new buzz word is “the technology is irrelevant”.

    How can we possibly take seriously the man that was arguing until he was blue in the face that wireless was the panacea of broadband who now has changed his tune completely?

    It’s clear their broadband policy is still “we’ll just let the private sector figure it out”.

  22. “Firstly, politicians are relieved when the damaging photos being sent to their office are of naked copper connections, as opposed to naked other things.”

    At least he has a sense of humour. Regarding his whole speech, this is what a shadow minister should be doing, and as Renai says, if he said it years ago, I would have listened then and possibly agreed. Personally I think that people just outside a FttP footprint should be getting FttN, but that’s my personal opinion and possibly it’s not a good solution to the problem.

  23. Turnbull missed your point Renai

    The objective of the photos was to show the poor state of repair of the copper network. And that poor state of the copper network remains with Turnbull’s FTTN because it still relies of copper from the Node to the home. Copper is still the weakest link in the chain. Can Turnbull guarantee that everyone of his FTTN will achieve 50/20Mbps ? – no he cannot.

    The NBNCo Fibre to the Home gets rid of the weakest links.
    It is far more reliable.
    It is less costly to maintain.
    It has orders of magnitude greater bandwidth capability for the future.

  24. ” It needs powerful, strong and fast implementation. We’ve been talking about this issue for long enough, and the time for words is over. Now, in the telecommunications portfolio, is the time for action.”

    Well said Renai, time the Libs stopped banging their idealogical drum and supported the NBN as it is for the good of the nation.

    Personally, if they dont get behind the NBN as is I will be voting Labour at the next election as will many others in the ICT industries.

  25. “But what Australia needs right now, when it comes to Federal Government broadband projects, is not principles. It needs powerful, strong and fast implementation. We’ve been talking about this issue for long enough, and the time for words is over. Now, in the telecommunications portfolio, is the time for action.”

    Australia needed that back when Labor axed Opel rather than utilising it to service the 7% back in 07/08, before canning FTTN to 98% and offering… 12 Mbit wireless again.

    Australia needed that back when Conjob was too thick to realise that FTTN or FTTP, he’d end up cutting a cheque to Telstra in some form or another.

    Australia needed that back when Conjob didn’t even bring separation of Telstra to the table until, what, Sept 09?

    Both parties spend too much time talking, and too much time talking about the wrong things. Malcolm get’s points in my book for at least being technically literate but the current state of affairs in this country is the making of both parties, and despite some loud support for the NBN, it has not been free of it’s share of issues (Wasn’t NBN Mk I due to be completed in 2012, now aiming for 2021..?)

  26. * OPEL, please don’t belittle everyone’s, including your own intelligence…

    * Perhaps but with FTTP he writes the cheque and then Telstra do as they are told. With FTTN (our future under MT) they cut the cheque and then Telstra tells the government to dance and keep dancing until they say stop.

    * Telstra’s separation was never on the Coalitions agenda and they went into the last election opposing it (iirc) They jumped onboard well after the government, so…?

    I’ll say it again, the NBN isn’t perfect (nothing is) but it’s vastly superior to any other alternative I have heard.

  27. None of the Coalition’s proposed alternatives to NBN can achieve all of the following:

    1. Provide more than 90% of Australian population with equitable and ubiquitous access to a 100Mbps downstream and 40Mbps UPSTREAM (crucial for small/medium business!) connection with a clear and affordable upgrade to 1Gbps/400Mbps in near future

    2. Remove current inequities in service quality/cost relationship (where quality of service is determined by many factors other than the price charged to the customer)

    3. Establish equal playing field for ALL service providers by separating infrastructure ownership from service provision

    4. Set up the whole structure as to be profit-making, where more profitable parts cross-subsidise the less profitable ones without the need for continuous subsidy from the government (i.e. the tax payer)

    Those are the goals of the current NBN project. Judging from Turnbull’s publicly expressed views and his often contradictory alternative suggestions, Coalition does not accept these goals as valuable.

    Their “mix of technologies” approach would provide a very low and limiting upstream bandwidth to much of the population, making it unsuitable for business use and also restrict the consumer usage of already growing “cloud” based services. Instead, it would basically lock in the high downstream/tiny upstream bandwidth distortion, making the network enhancement cater mostly for entertainment uses.

    Under Turnbull’s proposed alternatives, the current costing/service quality inequities would just be exacerbated. Some would get affordable high-bandwidth HFC or fibre connections, whilest others would pay more for low-data wireless plans or low-bandwidth FTTN copper connections (where speed you get is affected by your distance from the node).

    It is almost certain that the “mix of technologies” would be cheaper to BUILD compared to the 90%+ fibre-to-the-premise NBN. However, being cheaper to build says nothing about the total cost of the project to the tax payer. The cost of Labor’s NBN to the tax payer is to be $0 (actually, less than that as it is set to generate a modest profit.) All of Turnbull’s alternative proposals so far involve subsidies of some kind, with neverending transfer of funds from the federal budget to the private operators to “incentivise” them to service otherwise unprofitable customers.

    Irrespective of the exact “mix of technologies” and ownership structure of this alternative model, it will cost the government more than the NBN in its current shape as long as it allows private operators to cherry-pick profitable areas and then pays them (out of our taxes) to subsidise the rest. And, if down the track fibre does get rolled out to most of us, it will just mean that more money is wasted. (The cost of labour in Australia is not going down as time passes, and that is the biggest factor in the construction of the current NBN.)

    In summary, Coalition’s alternative will be more costly to the tax payer, it will disadvantage small businesses without much, or any, benefit for the consumers. The only clear winners under that plan will be big businesses, mostly meaning Telstra.

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