Coalition NBN notes: Some truth, mostly fiction


analysis Last week Crikey leaked a confidential document which appeared to contain a large number of speaking tips for Coalition politicians to help them discuss policy areas in public, including with respect to the National Broadband Network. But to what extent is the document accurate when it comes to the NBN? Read on to find out.

The so-called ‘speaking notes’ document published by Crikey last week (full PDF here) contains an extensive three to four page section on the NBN, marking it a major policy area alongside other areas such as border protection, the ‘carbon tax’ and more. In it, the document divides its tips for Coalition MPs speaking about the NBN into two sections. The first, perhaps predictably, deals with criticism of the NBN project from a Coalition perspective.

“Everybody agrees that all Australians should have access to fast and affordable broadband,” it notes. “But Labor never bothered to investigate how to reach that laudable objective most efficiently and quickly. Instead, we’ve seen a series of false starts, repeated cost and schedule blowouts and a complete inability to deliver the National Broadband Network. In fact after four years and billions of dollars of spending, Labor has only delivered fibre to 4000 Australian households. The Rudd and Gillard Governments have talked an impressive game on broadband, but their record in office is shameful.”

“Just as disturbing,” it continues, “is Labor’s determination to replace the competitive, innovative, consumer-driven telecommunications market we currently have with a giant Government monopoly. Australia is the only country in the world that has totally scrapped facilities-based competition (e.g. competition for broadband customers between the owners of pay TV cables and of copper wires, where both can use their networks to provide the required services).”

The document goes on to discuss a number of what it describes as “Labor failures” when it comes to the NBN, ranging from its refusal to conduct a cost/benefit analysis into the infrastructure, its cost (the document notes that the initial projected cost for the network was slated to be $4.7 billion, but the government’s level of investment has since increased substantially), the level of scrutiny which Labor is permitting into the project and also claimed delays and waste (including advertising spend associated with the project).

“These repeated delays would be a topic for satire, except that so much money is being spent with so little to show, and literally millions of Australian households are desperate for improved broadband (or in some suburbs and regional areas any fixed line broadband),” the document notes. “In 2008 Labor cancelled the Howard Government’s OPEL plan for rural and regional broadband that would have delivered affordable new services to 900,000 under-served households across the country by the end of 2009. Nothing has been provided in its place except promises.”

In general, the Coalition’s criticisms of Labor’s NBN project contained in the ‘speaking notes’ document released by Crikey appear to display a trend of containing a kernel of truth while still broadly misrepresenting the project.

For example, it is true that NBN Co’s own figures show that currently, only a few thousand Australian premises have been connected to the NBN, with a very small number gaining access to the fibre network which is the NBN’s centerpiece. However, the Coalition’s document does not discuss the fact that the NBN rollout is currently targeting hundreds of thousands more premises by the end of 2012, and where the NBN has been rolled out, often there have been very quick levels of uptake on the infrastructure — above 30 percent in some areas already.

The NBN rollout has been gradually ramping up until this point, and has only recently switched into high gear. In addition, national infrastructure projects do take time, and it has taken a great deal of time for the Government and NBN Co to negotiate very complex arrangements with companies like Telstra as well as supplier contracts with construction and equipment companies. With all of those problems out of the way, the rollout is now cleared to go ahead at a fast pace. These long timeframes are fairly common for any major infrastructure deployment.

It is also true that Labor has substantially upped the amount of investment spend which the Government is planning to make in the NBN project – from an initial $4.7 billion, under the previous fibre to the node plan, to in excess of $40 billion currently. However, the Coalition document makes no mention of the fact that the NBN is also expected to make the Government money in the long term, with an investment return currently projected to be between $1.93 billion to $3.92 billion.

It is true that Labor has not been as transparent as it could have been with respect to the NBN; and has only reluctantly released several key documents regarding the project, such as its corporate plan. In addition, NBN Co only last week controversially blocked a wide-ranging Freedom of Information request relating to its tendering processes and the Chinese networking hardware supplier Huawei. However, in general the Government and NBN Co itself have been very forthcoming with details about the project and have communicated very strongly and publicly about countless details regarding it.

There are other examples in the document; but these ones should serve to illustrate the fact that when it comes to Coalition criticism of the NBN, the Opposition is encouraging its members to criticise the project on grounds that have a kernel of truth. However, the organisation’s speaking notes do not provide its members with anywhere the whole truth about the NBN. The document picks small facts out of the NBN project and abuses them to attempt to illustrate a broader trend, which usually does not exist. And where they do exist, they do not invalidate the rationale for the whole NBN project; most of the issues raised can still be addressed within the framework of the overall initiative.

The same is true of the second section of the Coalition’s speaking notes on the NBN, which deals with the Coalition’s own rival policy.

In a section labeled ‘The Coalition alternative’, the document notes that if elected, a Coalition Government would immediately “conduct a fully transparent cost-benefit analysis to assess the quickest and most cost-effective means of upgrading fixed line broadband in all areas of Australia where services are currently sub-standard or unavailable.”

In addition, the Coalition would deliver “superfast” broadband using whichever technology was appropriate and cost-effective, make use of existing network infrastructure where possible, encourage competition in the telecommunications sector, put downward pressure on broadband and telephony prices and provide “transparent subsidies” in rural and regional areas.

However, although its document used substantial detail to heavily criticise the Government’s NBN policy, it does not outline virtually any detail of how the Coalition’s rival policy would function, including what technology would be used, what services would be guaranteed to Australians, how a Coalition Government would deal with the current NBN Co organisation and its future, how the telecommunications industry would be incentivised to provide its infrastructure towards the Coalition’s model and so on.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has repeatedly demanded this level of detail from the Coalition when it comes to its alternative broadband policy; although it is also important to note that Conroy and the then-Kevin Rudd Opposition did not provide this level of detail for its own NBN policy before taking power in late 2007.

Lastly, the Coalition’s speaking notes document also contains a number of key quotes which it recommends MPs employ to make their case against the NBN policy. Of the five quotes, three are from conservative newspaper The Australian, while several are from the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. All of the quotes heavily criticise the NBN project using emotive language. But the full context which the quotes were drawn from is not included.

For example, the Coalition recommends its MPs quote Peter Martin, who has heavily criticised the NBN project several times over the past few years. Martin wrote in The Age in June 2011: “You know a business case is hopeless when the company that’s drawn it up has to bribe its competitors not to compete against it. The NBN Co business case has a tenuous relationship with reality. The publicly released corporate plan reads like a cry for help and also an exercise in laying down a paper trail so its executives can say “we told you so” when their targets are nowhere near met.”

In general, the Coalition’s speaking notes document leaked last week contains a somewhat similar approach to the ‘Connecting Australia’ newspaper about the NBN which the Labor Government was last week revealed to be distributing to Australians to help educate them about the project. Both documents contain quite a lot of truth in their pages. However, they also only present one point of view, and omit a huge amount of detail about their subject matter; so much so, that an uninformed reader of either document would be misled about many of the core facts regarding that subject matter.

In Labor’s case, anyone reading its ‘Connecting Australia’ newspaper would witness a portrait of the NBN as a paragon of modernity and efficiency. The reality is that it is a very positive, but still flawed project that has not yet delivered on its promises. The Coalition’s document paints a picture of the NBN as a colossal waste of taxpayer resources, with aims that could be better met through a different, primarily market-based approach. However, the truth is that the NBN is at least partially aimed at resolving telecommunications market issues which were at least partly the creation of the Coalition itself.

However, the Coalition’s speaking notes document goes a great deal further than Labor’s own promotional material when it comes to the NBN.

Labor’s material regarding the NBN appears to be broadly accurate; it errs only by omission (it does not present the whole truth). In the Coalition’s case, its speaking notes document displays what appears to be a deliberate distortion of many of the key facts about the NBN. An informed reader is forced to conclude, upon reading it, that the Coalition is providing information about the NBN to its MPs that would lead them to mislead their constituencies about the project.

I believe the Australian population will put up with the odd bit of propaganda regarding headline projects, such as we’re currently seeing with regard to the NBN. But we should never tolerate political attempts to mislead us wholesale with regard to major projects. I would very much encourage the Coalition to closely examine its speaking notes document and consider whether it actually reflects the truth about the NBN. Because right now, I do not believe it does.

And in my personal opinion, this just isn’t good enough. Although there is some room for politicking, I believe politicians should be broadly focused on telling their constituents the truth, not a heavily biased and censored version of it which is favourable to their own interests. This would do much to illustrate a principle of leadership which appears to currently be lacking in Australia’s political environment.


  1. This paragraph:

    The same is true of the section section of the Coalition’s speaking notes on the NBN, which deals with the Coalition’s own rival policy.

    Note the repeated “section section”, did you mean “second section”?

  2. “how a Coalition Government would deal with the current NBN Co organisation and its future”

    a Coalition Government would immediately “conduct a fully transparent cost-benefit analysis to assess the quickest and most cost-effective means of upgrading fixed line broadband in all areas of Australia where services are currently sub-standard or unavailable.”


    • Great news! In my area FttH is unavailable and services are currently sub-standard so I’ll be getting fibre with the coalitions plan after all. That’s a relief! Bring on the fibre!

      • How do you work that one out Hubert, no one will be getting fibre to the home under the Coalitian, if your comms is substandard now, it will be substandard under the coalition.

    • CBA has already been said by many, from industry experts, to economists and even top bankers to be useless for a project of this size simply due to the fact it cannot gauge the full effects and flow-ons this project would deliver. I cannot see why, other than political gamesmanship of the worst kind, the Coalition would ignore such statements.
      As for cost effective, cost effective to whom? the tax-payer who would fund it now and get a future return, or the tax payer who would fund it whenever private industry gets around to it and see no return but higher costs over time as the companies recoup higher RoI costs and cherry pick with second rate tech? I am sick to death with the line ‘cost effective’ in regards to this as it does not look at the end game, but rather the shorter political terms.
      And who determines sub-standard? I class my connection as sub-standard, especially seeing as I am very limited in whom I can connect with. But would a bean counter who is only interested in the costs involved in changing this agree? Probably not as I CAN connect at greater than 12mbit, even though when it rains heavily it degrades to dial up.

    • Yes the main objective is to get the Coalition back in… the rest is of no importance eh?

      Great to see some have their priorities in order.

      *rolls eyes*

  3. “..areas of Australia where services are currently sub-standard or unavailable.”
    Is this what you call mealy-mouthed????

  4. “…from an initial $4.7 billion, under the previous fibre to the node plan, to in excess of $40 billion currently”
    Where did you pull that figure from? The Australian?? :P

    • No, that $4.7b number is correct. It was the planned cost of the original Labor FTTN plan.

      Heres what gets me though. 5 years later, the Libs want to roll out pretty much the same thing, except it will cost (in their opinion) $6b… So they wait 5 years, come up with the same plan, and increase the cost by around 30%. Nice.

      Using Coalition logic, the same thing will happen with FTTH as well. They will get into power, and 5 years after the initial FTTH idea they will roll out the same thing, only for 30% more cost…

      • Neither of those costs includes how much it will cost to get Telstra on board. After all when that 4.7B became 20-25B because of Telstra’s greed it was decided to be more feasible to skip FTTN and go straight to FTTH.

      • “Using Coalition logic, the same thing will happen with FTTH as well. They will get into power, and 5 years after the initial FTTH idea they will roll out the same thing, only for 30% more cost…”

        Not to mention whatever money they waste trying to implement FTTN, and the money the economy could have gained with FTTH being rolled out without them delaying it.

      • I’m sure I’ve seen Renai pull up the Coalition for using any figure other than the official $36 billion. But by all means, round it to the nearest $5 billion. What’s a few dollars between friends!

      • It’s quite funny to think the coalition will be going into the 2013 election with essentially the same patchwork plan they had in 2010 which was the plan quite rightly dumped by labor after 2007, it’s even more disturbing when you realise they most likely wont start it until about 2016 anyway. By that stage most people would say the smart thing to do is continue rolling out the fibre. So ~10 years to come to a conclusion everyone else came to years earlier. That will be the coaltion legacy for you.

      • That’s funny. Citigroup have independently costed the Coalition “plan” at $17b. Probably about what it would cost to complete the NBN as it is, by the time they get into office.

    • As GongGav mentioned, the $4.7 billion was the government contribution to the project (with the expected total cost of the project to be around $15 billion if I recall) however since Telstra owned all the copper, the problem became clear that the project needed Telstra on side, and they weren’t interested.

      The NBN Mark II (as people seem to call it) was proposed to cost $43 billion at the time to reach the goals, a implementation study by McKinsey-KPMG showed it was going to cost around $38 billion to implement (in the best case scenario if I recall) with the total government contribution capped to approximately $26 billion. The rest of the funding for the NBN is due to private investing although the NBN Committee had suggested to the NBN they should be seeking private funding sooner rather than later as planned. The $40 billion figure is a sort of ‘ballpark’ figure of the total cost of the NBN MkII plan, whether it will cost more or less than that remains to be seen as the project is currently ramping up.

      • If Telstra wasn’t interest back then when FTTN had some sort of useful life how disinterested will they be in 2016 when it’s already obsolete? They would have to pay Telstra every cent it cost to build. They aren’t dumb enough to waste their own money of a deadend technology.

        • Dont sell Telstra short, they have some very clever people working there. Their Top Hat program is being rolled out everywhere, including areas that are getting NBN in the next 12 months. They arent competing with NBN with these installations, but they ARE locking people in to a 2 year contract…

          By which point they will have switched them to NBN, and locked them in. After which people will be impressed with the service and stick with them. A relatively small investment now, for a medium to long term reward for the company.

          • Yes, there is a monetary gain to made there. The fact you have them on a contract the other is the money paid to move them onto the NBN.

            The choice for Telstra would be to roll out FTTN that would be obsolete in 4 years of starting the rollout for 10B and say 5B from the government that will be obsolete in 4 years, probably before the rollout is complete or spend around 25-30B to rollout FTTH with a life of 50 years (remember they have a lot of backhaul they don’t have to buy off themselves like the NBN)

          • Actually probably what they will do is cherry pick areas to roll out their own FTTH with the $11B they get and use the subsidies to roll out FTTN is the areas of bad return for the government then get subsidies to support them.

  5. Right at the end of the Comm’s/broadband section (go to Corp Law and go up a page)

    “The Coalition broadly takes the view that any additions or extensions to media regulation should not proceed unless they clearly and directly address an observable market failure, and there is a compelling argument that they have a high probability of successfully addressing it.”

    I wonder what would address an observable market failure for them… HFC rolled past 30% of the population then… stopped? ADSL not always available in metro suburbs, let alone ADSL2, or rural communities? Vertically integrated business structures that hinder competition at the wholesale level?

    Anyone want to add to the list, feel free.

    • There seems to have been a “market failure” when if comes to getting people over the Harbour Bridge/Tunnel when they want to travel. Do we see the market filling that need anytime soon?

  6. There’s a “Cui Bono?” here. Questions about funding, technological benefit, environmental benefits and overall long term positive impact of the NBN have been met. So it’s left to ask – why oppose it? To whose benefit would an alternative contribute?

    1. Telstra. The libs are happy to say FTTN – but no-one lives at an N. When pressed on how they would achieve the structural separation of Telstra, they mumble “rassum frassum we’d do it somehow”. Telstra is smarter than the Libs. Even Turnbull. So it stands to reason that Telstra would benefit. Why would the libs, those champions of competition and innovation, use their government power to prop up a corporation unable to improvise to anyone’s benefit besides shareholders?

    2. The Liberal Party. Despite being virtuous, free market supporting Hank Rearden types, it’s almost as though the Liberal party is a bunch of petty political moochers, with their grub-like desire to win power at any cost and then do nothing with it but prop up rich friends. But that’s bananas.

    3. …you know what? I can’t think of anyone else who would benefit from the Liberal alternative, which is hinged on leaps in physics and demography that will materialize in the next few years “because”. I still haven’t heard a suggestion on how long a comprehensive rollout of FTTN to meet the same goals as the NBN would take. 6 years? 8 years? 10 years?

    I don’t get it, I honestly don’t. I don’t see how anyone can dispute the NBN. I haven’t heard a single good argument against it, just stuff that reduces back down to “I don’t like government/I don’t like LABOR government/I think businesses should have more power than elected officials because communism obama feminism”.

    • Once the service was “better” than it is now, what would be the catalyst for moving to the next level? Public dissatisfaction with bully boy Telstra’s usual tactics? Pacific Highway all over again?

      Bottom line is the Libs have this thing about public infrastructure: near enough is good enough. “People prefer cars to public transport.”

      • 2012
        Liberals: “We wil incentivise Telstra and Optus to invest”

        Liberals win election

        Telstra: “We’re comfortable with our footprint, and the generous incentives guaranteed by contract to us so far.”
        Optus: “What Telstra said.”

        • Internode, Iinet, iPrimus, Exetel et al: “We will continue to fight for Australian’s right to cheap internet”…..*offers staff quick end by giving out cyanide pills and holding a “This is just pointless now” after election party*…..

  7. I would like to comment on two items from this piece.

    Firstly the uptake of the NBN.

    If we take into account the delay in the final signing of the agreement with Telstra to give access to the ducts the NBN has only been in a position to roll out properly for less than 9 months. A certain amount of time would have been needed to get the needed information and do the planning. It seems to me that the NBN roll out is picking up speed and they are doing OK. The other thing is that a lot of people who could use the NBN will be on contracts and will not move until the contracts expire. The fact that people don’t transition to the NBN immediately it is available doesn’t mean that they wont or don’t plan to in the future. The so called uptake rate is really not an indication of the success of the NBN at this stage. We wont really know what the uptake rate is for about two years.

    Secondly is the cost of the Coalition plan.

    The Coalition are telling us that they are going to provide “transparent subsidies” in rural and regional areas. I am not at all sure what this really means apart from an ongoing cost in the budget which is not imposed under the current NBN plan from what I have read. Do they plan to ensure that the cost to consumers in rural and regional areas will be no greater than for those in the metropolitan areas.

    I find it strange that someone is saying we are going to do it faster and cheaper and then says by the way we are going to provide an open cheque for the hard bits where it will cost more than in the city.

    The very people who are crying for a CBA for the NBN couldn’t provide one for their own proposal simply because they can’t know what the final subsidy cost will be.

    • A couple of things Bob.H – firstly, the uptake of the NBN. This is pretty much what Renai is trying to get across.

      What the Liberals say is technically correct – the uptake rate IS behind the predictions. So when the Lib’s point that out, they can say its the truth. What they dont do is point out the reasons why its behind. But Labor did the same thing last week with its pro-NBN ‘newspaper’ – its also full of information thats completely true, but presented so its taken well out of contect.

      Both sides are playing dirty politics on this. They give half the story, and conveniently leave out the parts that undermine their ‘point’. They leave it to the audience to try and get to the real truth. And I’m realist enough to admit that is happening on both sides. Personally I think Labor is presenting a set of facts much closer to the truth than the Liberals, but I recognise that they arent telling the full story.

      Having looked at the first few pages of the linked pdf, its a tactic they are employing throughout their stance. Much of the first few pages are around budgetting issues, and at no point do they even mention the difference in funds between the Liberal Govt’s honeypot days, and the post GFC world that Labor has had to work with. That fact alone undoes the first 22 points of propaganda.

      Secondly, the cost of the Libs plan. What plan? They havent given any details that can be fleshed out into anything resembling a plan. Just vague snippets that hint to any unstarted contract being rewound from FTTH to FTTN (or worse, cancelled totally), and vague discussions around subsidies.

      • When will people stop saying “the Coalition isn’t giving us any details of their plan” and start saying “the Coalition don’t have a plan”?

        Even the sensible people are giving the Coalition too much credit.

        • To be fair (to me), I did start that line by asking ‘what plan’…

          There seem to be snippets from Turnbull that could be fleshed out into some sort of plan (2nd rate though), but they keep getting hidden behind resounding smacks to the collective public head by Abbott and Hockey.

          • Their plan will be “cheaper and faster and they are the superior managers (they said)”, what more do we, the obviously dumb plebs, need to be told?

  8. “Conduct a fully transparent cost-benefit analysis to assess the quickest and most cost-effective means of upgrading fixed line broadband in all areas of Australia where services are currently sub-standard or unavailable.” – Coalition Speaker Notes 1 July 2012

    Malcolm “12 Mbps is enough for anyone” Turnbull has suggested “a rapid upgrade in broadband services to at least 12 mbps as soon as possible — ideally within twelve months – and should have access to 24 mbps within forty eight months..”
    Malcolm Turnbull address to the National Press Club, Canberra, 3 August 2011

    So what that tells us about the coalition is twofold:
    1. They will conduct a fully transparent CBA. But it will be limited in scope to only providing fixed line upgrades in areas where an ADSL2 equivalent service is not already available. I.e. they will set the goal posts to where it suits them. Would anyone want to bet that they won’t then point at FTTH and say “see, FTTN is cheaper, our CBA says so”?
    2. They have no intention of improving national broadband. Their policy amounts to a blackspots program.

    “We will also ensure competition is encouraged wherever possible to encourage innovation and put downward pressure on broadband and telephony prices.” – Coalition Speaker Notes 1 July 2012
    This is essentially just a get of jail free card for when the market continues to fail outside of commercially profitable areas. What this shows is that the coalition have no intention addressing broadband at a national level. But will instead…

    “Provide transparent subsidies to ensure high quality services are available at comparable prices to services in the cities in rural and regional areas where the market alone would not deliver this outcome.” – Coalition Speaker Notes 1 July 2012
    So instead of addressing the failure of the market at a national level we will spend from the budget on an ongoing basis. But it’s ok because at least it’s transparent?

    So let’s see if we’ve got this straight. They want to spend to get sub-ADSL2 areas up to speed, bandaiding a failing and increasingly expensive network. They want to encourage competition in commercially profitable areas; encouraging that good old commercial rate of return. They want to spend on transparent subsidies outside of those areas, covering up the higher costs of the unprofitable areas.
    Mind you the vast majority of Australians who are already on ADSL2 equivalent speeds will get nothing for this spending. We also forgo the majority of economic and social benefits of improved broadband, largely because the mojority of broadband isn’t improved.
    But that’s ok becuase at least it’s cheaper and faster to implement?

    Is it just me or is there a very definite lack of logic?

    • @ aka Sam

      Nah, it’s just you aka Sam :P

      The logic is perfectly sound- It’s political logic. That is, it’s perfectly logical, right up to the point where it fails….followed by “it’s the previous government’s fault” and new statements issued that decry the LACK of logic of the “previous government which got us into this mess.”

      Other than that, great post. Covers it perfectly. Problem is MT and TA WON’T engage the actual criticisms of their “policy” because…..well because they don’t have any answers. That’s the only reason I can see. The public and technology analysts have been asking for YEARS for a properly fleshed out policy…and we’ve gotten nothing. Now, yes, we’re still 15 months out from an election….but the Coalition are already starting their campaigning on the Carbon Tax, MRRT and Paid Parental scheme…why not the NBN? Because they KNOW they can’t come up with a better policy. Just a cheaper one.

      Problem is, when crunchtime comes, will the public see through the rhetoric and actually vote for the BEST policy for the country NOT the cheapest?

    • Sam here’s what the then Howard government said about their broadband policy (released months after the Labor opposition’s policy) prior to the 2007 election.

      They were comparing their WiMAX vs Labor’s initial FttN (ironically now the Coalition’s very own technology of choice 5 years later) option…

      “The Government will deliver a national broadband network, sooner and cheaper than the Labor plan.”

      Hmmm, lightning striking twice? Perhaps you can fool all (well the majority) of people all the time!

      • Yeah, it’s sad that politics gets in the way of what’s best for the country. Funnily enough when I started voting I simply followed my parents voting habit; your average disinterested young voter. The disinterest was largely due to a low opinion of pollies. This issue hasn’t helped my opinion of (most) pollies but it has given me an interested in policies; in not just what we’re told but the truth behind them.

        In terms of policies, I don’t particularly care what the past policies were, or how well fleshed out opposition policies have been in the past. I have been following the development of Labor’s policy since fttn. The important thing is that the state of our communications infrastructure is holding back economic development, particularly in IT industries but potentially affecting any industry.
        IMO, it’s time our politicians stopped squabbling over political points and started thinking about what’s best for all of us. The mining boom won’t last forever, world class communications infrastructure has the potential to support IT and knowledge based service industries into the future for the prosperity of all.

        • Indeed…

          I just find it ironic that then and now, the Coalition have both times simply grabbed onto a cheaper alternative than Labor, simply to say we can do it sooner and cheaper (implying superior managerial skills).

          And for some reason a lot of people say great, instead of, umm, how ‘s the quality?

          Ironically, looking at our complete future needs (as per the mathematical laws) we will need FttP, meaning the Coalition’s sooner and cheaper will in fact be neither.

          But I’m not here to bag the politics, just to support what I believe is best for Aussies and that’s the current NBN, imo…

  9. I don’t get it. “Not yet delivered on its promises”? Specifically, FTTH to 93% of the population in 10 years.
    Yeah, I promised my little brother I’d get him a bicycle for his next birthday, but that’s not for another half a year, so I haven’t yet delivered on my promises. I must be a terrible person.

    • Like many projects, the NBN has targets along the way to gauge how its going. According to those targets, its behind in many areas. The Libs are spot on with that statement. But like most of the comments they tend to make, it only tells half the story.

      The first stage tenders took far too long, notably because Telstra clearly didnt want to do a deal at the time, so the whole rollout was delayed some months as a result. Net effect is the timetable moving backwards 6 months or so (I’m sure someone will correct these random guesses…).

      So yes, they havent met their targets yet, but for the most part theres a good reason. Not all, there have been some delays that would be the responsibility of NBNCo, but the main delays were outside NBNCo’s control.

      This is just the Lib’s having a cheap shot (as usual) without telling the full story.

      • It’s ahead in one very important one. During their delay negotiating with Telstra they effective got all their pits and pipes dug up and installed with “digging a trench to every home”

        • +1

          Good point. But you’re not going to see that mentioned in any Liberal release. Cant be seen to be praising them doing something so right it potentially cuts years off the build…

      • I was drawing attention to Renai’s words: “The reality is that it is a very positive, but still flawed project that has not yet delivered on its promises.” not the liberal half-story. But if he’s simply regurgitating the liberal half-story in an “analysis”, then I think that is a problem.

        I’m curious what exactly the flaws are. Or is it simply that it isn’t perfect? Well is anything in the world perfect? Is there anything TECHNICALLY wrong with NBNco’s plan? Is it technologically inferior? Is it economically unsound? Is it corrupt? I don’t ask to be snarky, having only recently started following the NBN discussion and getting up to scratch, I am genuinely curious.

        When I hear the word ‘flawed’ to describe something, to me it means flawed as a whole because of its flaws, not simply that ‘it has flaws’ (i.e. that it isn’t perfect). That is, when an approach is flawed, the end result will not be as intended.

  10. I really can’t stand that the fact that people think infrastructure competition is a good thing. It hasn’t worked in the past and shows no sign of working in the future. Why do the Liberals think that it’s somehow a perfectly good idea?

    • People hear the word ‘monopoly’ and think of Telstra and how that hasnt been a beacon of competitive light, and think the same mistakes will happen again.

      They dont remember the Telecom days when everything worked fine, just the privatised Telstra push for profits.

      • More annoying is that those who sprout the whole ‘competition is good, monopolies are bad’ mantra clearly didn’t pay attention in Microeconomics 101 when studying Natural Monopolies.

        We can see it with our own eyes that when companies compete in infrastructure, consumers are always left to pay more for services than they otherwise would with a single provider charging monopolistic prices. When two companies each spend hypothetically $2b for a network, there is $4b that they are then looking to chase from consumers instead of just $2b had a single entity built the network.

        It’s far better to have a government monopoly who is accountable to parliament than a private monopoly who only answers to shareholders.

        People (and the author of this article) seem to conveniently forget why exactly Telstra and Optus mutually agreed to halt their HFC rollouts in the first place.

    • I’d say it’s because of Telstra’s behaviour. When people think of monopoly they don’t think of power lines, water pipes and gas pipes. That is where telecommunication infrastructure should be today. A delivery mechanism for products and services. And hopefully they go the route of FTTH so it can just sit in the ground for 50-100 years and be done with.

      FTTN, being only a short term solution reminds me of the days people had oil tanks and gas bottles at their homes.

    • Perhaps infrastructure competition is a mantra that the the ideologues have borrowed from their ideological masters in the USA?

      There’s a perfectly good case study on how that works out…..Optus and Telstra rolling out their HFC networks with ~70% overlap…..billions of dollars lost by both companies.

      • Yeah, pity there was no carbon tax for Telstra and Optus to blame, like Bakers and Funeral Homes, now have ;-)

      • “Perhaps infrastructure competition is a mantra that the the ideologues have borrowed from their ideological masters in the USA? ”

        To be fair to the Yanks, the big push for deregulation and infrastructure competition originally came from Margie Thatcher. She and Reagan become lockstep on the idea…

  11. Comments broken, or was there a purge? Mine has gone.
    RSS only showing 10 comments.

      • Was asking about the “investment return currently projected to be between $1.93 billion to $3.92 billion”.
        Where these figures came from exactly, and over what period of time are they for. Per year? For the duration of the installation? For the life of the NBN until the ‘proposed’ sell off?

      • Sorry, my bad. Was other article “is-abbott-consciously-lying-on-nbn-costs”, but you had mentioned the same figures in this recent article.

          • You covered exactly what I wanted to know, thanks seven_tech.
            160 page documents aren’t exactly what I like to read, either on my free time or work time.
            $1.93 billion to $3.92 billion really isn’t much of a return by 2035, but, the NBN isn’t intended to make a huge profit, so there isn’t any argument there. But, the fact that it has (will have) paid for itself (and I would hope, continues to pay for any maintenance and upgrades) is the best part.

          • Lol midspace. No kidding about the reading. I do it cause I’m passionate about it, but most people would rather EAT the 160 pages than read them to get a simple explanation :-D

            This has been a failing of the Labor party in not making the information easily available. The latest ‘Connecting Australia newspaper’ will hopefully address some problems but It’s very cheesy.

            Fact is, while the Coalition continue to spout FUD about the NBN, with buzzwords and soundbites, the facts are always going to be much harder to push. They just don’t MAKE good headlines or soundbites.

  12. While there are omissions (rather than outright lies) on both sides, some omissions are more important than others. Say, for instance, if I borrow money from you but I don’t bother telling you that I will never be able to repay you, this is more pivotal than telling you that I did really well at school but forgot to mention my chemistry results were pretty bad.

    In the first instance, it is crucial to my performance (repaying you). In the second it does not really detract from my overall performance.

    Likewise with both parties. One is telling us how wonderful they are and how horrible the other one is but does so disingenuously by omitting important details . The other party is telling you how wonderful they are but fail to mention some of their shortcomings.

    The problem with the opposition is that they are like a salesmen competing against a company with a very good (albeit not perfect) product. The problem is that don’t have a product good enough to offer. So, they do what most bad salesmen do. They bag the opposition, made vague unrealistic promises and worry about the problem later. All, they are interested in is getting the sale. Forget after sale service.

  13. The coalition handed the unloseable 2010 election to Labor, by causing many of its supporters to vote for cross bench candidates, even as many disaffected Labor voters (inexplicably) supported the Greens.

    In 2013, the cross benches will again take a massive chunk of Liberal and Nationals votes, unless the coalition stops this infantile dummy spitting over the obviously appropriate NBN and its funding model.

    The coalition machine is receiving advice from many constituents just now that they will not contribute campaign donations if the party continues to sabotage its electoral prospects by opposing the NBN.

    The fact is that the cost-benefit analysis for the NBN has already been done, and its results are on the public record.

    Laying fibre to premises comprises $12 billion of the ten-year NBN construction cost (the other elements being satellites and ground stations, wireless towers, backhaul, billing systems and network infrastructure, plus around $2 billion covering end-of-life equipment replacement and maintenance over that decade).

    In 2007, three years after John Howard called for a universal solution to break Telstra’s region-stifling monopoly, the coalition set a universal standard of 6 Mbps with its $6 billion OPEL consortium idea, but found it could still not guarantee its goals if double that amount was spent.

    Kevin Rudd’s FTTN failed its CBA because its $4.7 billion budget turned out to be $26 billion, comprising $11 billion to construct, plus $15 billion compensation to Telstra for the use of ten million copper tails to premises. (Incidentally, Telstra then planned to spend that windfall building a private FTTP network that would attract every customer off the taxpapeyr-built FTTN.)

    The publication in May 2010 of the NBN Implementation Study means that the CBA has been available for over two years, which the coalition has spent retarding the project in parliament, with our tax money. The primary benefit is a universal service of at least 12 Mbps to every Australian. The most cost-effective solution for the 93% in an urbanised context is fibre to the building, where it is cheaper than provisioning wireless capable of 12 Mbps per subscriber, and superior to satellite.

    The coalition must either adopt the NBN or provide a universal alternative which:
    – delivers an agreed bandwidth to 100% of Australians; and
    – costs the taxpayer less than the NBN; and
    – delivers a retail environment at least as good as the one we now see in the first release NBN areas.

    If they do not, then in 2013 they will certainly lose eight or ten regional seats to, if not Labor, then the cross benches, and will lose another unloseable election.

    These Speaker’s (sic) Notes prove how far short the coalition is from a real alternative. At this pointin time, they are handing a Green Labor minority government the next election on a platter.

    • +1

      The way the Coalition is pushing negatives, and not only with the NBN, I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to see another hung parliament in 2013.

      • Surely we will have had enough of hung parliaments by then and, after the forthcoming scrutiny of Tony Abbott’s policies on this and other matters, we will actually make a decision.

        • The decision could well be that we decide we don’t trust either of the major parties and the minor parties or independents become the only alternative. I just have a feeling that the swinging voters may be seeing the influence of minor parties as a way of “keeping the bastards honest” and more concentrated on the national interest rather than their own interests. I could of course be dead wrong.

  14. One of the key phrases for me is ‘cost effective;.
    I’m sure it wasn’t cost effective to build Sydney Opera House, but it’s been used as a draw and as a marketing image for Australia for decades.
    I’m sure foreign aid isn’t ‘cost effective’.
    You can’t right decades of telecoms inaction cost effectively, or leap frog into the future of communication infrastructure.
    No one wants to waste money, but for me the coalition put way too much emphasis on ‘cost effective’ when discussing the NBN.

    • Yet, muso1, “cost-effective” certainly describes infrastructure that refunds its entire cost with interest, without drawing budget funds from other government spending, while delivering economic and social benefits.

      Such is the NBN. Cost-effective par excellence.

      Catch up, coalition.

    • “I’m sure it wasn’t cost effective to build Sydney Opera House, but it’s been used as a draw and as a marketing image for Australia for decades.”

      I’ve used this example before but the NBN can actually be used the same way. From a tourists POV if they are making a decision on where to have a holiday say AU or the US. In Australia with the NBN if they’ll be able to back up their digital photos as they go with ease or without wasting any time and in the USA it wont be consistent. Considering digital photo and video sizes are increasing all the time if I was a tourist I’d know which country I’d prefer.

      • Move aside the ubiquitous side of the NBN, imagine two competing hotels (Hotel Lab and Hotel Lib). Both hotels are in close proximity to your destination, both offer 5 star comfort.

        Hotel Lab costs slightly higher per night ($10 extra) but will offer a fibre connection via WiFi (at no extra cost) that is trustworthy and will rarely drop below satisfactory speeds (lets say they’re using a 100/50 connection being shared between 50 guests).

        Hotel Lib is slightly cheaper per night but only offers ADSL2+ connection at a rate of $10 per night, it will have substandard speeds (imagine 50 users sharing a realistic 12Mb/s) and that is if you can connect in the first place.

        Now even the mildest of tech savvy tourists will know which is the better option. I bet most will have iPads as well hehe

  15. Small Business loves the NBN: end of!

    The regions love the NBN too….

    Abbott will be replaced….

  16. Why didn’t we have a faster cheaper Sydney Olympics?

    Simple. Because we are better than that. But only if we AIM to be better.

    Does anyone regret the greater effort now?

  17. The issues over the NBN are ideological and Political , plus a healthy dose of venality by certain vested interests.
    Yes there may be areas to work on, however that could be achieved with a measure of intelligence and good will for the Best National Interest

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