Turnbull launches national broadband survey


news Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has launched a new national broadband survey which the Liberal MP said would allow Australians to determine the speed of their existing broadband services and which would provide data to help make better broadband available to “those who need upgrades” the most.

In a statement issued this morning, Turnbull said the survey – available online here – would provide important information to the Coalition about the speed of existing broadband in Australian cities, suburbs, towns and regions.

“We want every Australian to have faster broadband sooner and more affordably,” the Member for Wentworth said. “Many suburbs and towns are inadequately served by existing fixed line and mobile broadband. But Labor’s NBN is not the answer. It reduces competition, will increase the monthly cost of broadband and is, for many Australian households, many years in the future.” Turnbull said that the Federal Government had originally promised some 511,000 households would be on the NBN fibre network by next June.

“But despite providing billions of dollars to the NBN, Labor now admits the real number will be just 54,000 – after almost six years in office!” he said. “So Australians have every reason to be suspicious about the Government’s promises of improved broadband. And it is households and businesses in those areas where broadband is poorest that have been hit hardest by Labor’s delays.”

Turnbull said the Coalition’s “commitment” was to fast-track upgrades in these areas – where broadband speeds were poorest – and to roll out the NBN infrastructure according to “need rather than politics”. “In contrast, the Labor NBN has not prioritised better broadband for inadequately served areas,” he said. “It will not reach some Australians until the 2020’s. And it will increase prices: the NBN business plan states that the monthly revenues it earns from each customer will triple between now and 2021.”

“The Coalition has a better plan. We will encourage competition instead of stamping it out, and leverage existing infrastructure to complete upgrades sooner. We will ensure families have more choice and pay less for their monthly internet bill. We urge all Australians to complete the broadband survey to help us ensure better broadband is available across the nation sooner, and those who need upgrades the most get it first.”

Turnbull has used the same ‘survey’ approach in the past with respect to other policy areas. For example, in April 2011 he published the results of a survey into community values on same sex marriage, receiving more than 4,000 responses in a little over four weeks.

However, more comprehensive broadband speed data already exists. For example, the broadband speed test operated by ZDNet features some 1.7 million responses from Australians – showing an average broadband speed of 7.79Mbps. Similarly, broadband forum Whirlpool conducts an annual survey featuring a comprehensive spread of questions. The survey in early 2011, for example, saw some 23,513 individuals respond.

Turnbull’s statements this morning are broadly accurate, but do not tell the whole picture with respect to the National Broadband Network rollout process. For example, the Liberal MP is correct that NBN Co’s current corporate plan estimates that some 54,000 customers will be connected to the NBN’s fibre infrastructure by June 2013. However, by that stage there will be a total of 341,000 premises passed or covered by the NBN’s fibre, with hundreds of thousands more under construction. By June 2014, the number of active connections is slated to reach 487,000, as the NBN is currently in its rapid deployment phase.

Secondly, it is not yet clear that the Coalition will be able to deploy its rival infrastructure – focusing on a Fibre to the Node-style rollout rather than all the way to the premise – in a more timely manner than Labor will be able to with its Fibre to the Home-style deployment. Turnbull has committed to commissioning the Productivity Commission to conduct a cost/benefit analysis into the national broadband situation upon a Coalition Government taking office, which would be expected to take a significant period of time – perhaps between six months and a year.

In addition, the Coalition would need to re-negotiate NBN Co’s contract to use Telstra’s existing copper infrastructure. The negotiation of that contract initially took several years and was one of the prime reasons why the current NBN rollout has been delayed by six months.

Lastly, the Coalition has consistently declined to answer a number of core questions about its own rival NBN policy – ranging from technical details to financial information. Turnbull has not presented a formal policy document with respect to the policy – but has given a number of speeches outlining its core tenets.

To be honest I’m a little befuddled by Turnbull’s broadband survey. I mean, what is the politician seeking to accomplish through publishing it?

With the limited number of responses which Turnbull will receive (probably less than 10,000, going by the previous gay marriage survey), it will be virtually impossible to use the data to show which areas of Australia currently have poor broadband speeds. The data will simply not be sufficiently detailed to show this kind of information, and therefore I’m not really sure what collecting this kind of quantitative data will accomplish.

With respect to the qualitative parts of the survey (for example, people’s views on how good their existing broadband connection is), I don’t think this will really help Turnbull or the Coalition either. I don’t think there is much likelihood of it showing that most Australians are happy with their broadband connection. And if it does, then that still doesn’t provide grounds for setting Australian telecommunications policy for the next decade, when users’ needs will have grown substantially. If it shows most Australians are unhappy with their current speeds, then that will only give impetus to Labor’s NBN policy, which is a much more comprehensive and long-term vision than the Coalition’s current rival policy.

In the meantime, there remains the fact that the Coalition has still not answered basic questions about its policy and shows no sign of doing so. How long does Turnbull plan to keep on conducting these little sideshow-style exercises before the Coalition gets to the real deal in terms of its broadband policy? Only the Shadow Minister knows. But I hope it’s soon.

Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull


  1. A survey that doesn’t allow comments to be added. A survey that doesn’t even ask if you support the NBN (as it stands) or not.

    Pretty directed if you ask me.

    • It is also a little bit confused.

      I indicated I was at work, It made a point to ask me to complete the survey at home also… it then asked me what internet access I had at home, and then proceeded to perform a speedtest … on my work internet (obviously).

      It is a very hastily constructed survey.

  2. The emotive side just won’t work. Those with a slow connection generally have it because they either think that’s all they need or have just grown used to it, and thus will say it’s acceptable. Those with an extremely fast connection would be those who are tech-literate, and will probably say their speeds are inadequate and should always be better.

  3. They might need to look at their own hosting infrastructure before asking others about theirs:

    Error 503:Service Temporarily Unavailable


  4. “Labor now admits the real number will be just 54,000 – after almost six years in office”

    Oh FFS… the Liberals had 11 years and connected zero.

    • No wonder the Coalition are having such trouble understanding anything more technical than two cans and a string.

      Labor was elected in Nov 2007, which means they have been in office for less than five years.

      This suggests the Earl of Wentworth can’t count up to five, which may explain some of the glaring clangers in his approach to that NBN whatchamacallit thingy.

  5. Having just completed the survey I can conclusively say it’s not worth the 2 minutes it takes to complete. Questions are very vague. There is no question along the lines of “do you like the current NBN policy”.

    There’s also a mickey-mouse speed test at the end that doesn’t work very well (sitting on a ISP connection with over 100Mbps and it shows up as a 5Mbps / 5Mbps link).

  6. Site is down.

    Service Temporarily Unavailable

    The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later.
    Apache/1.3.42 Server at malcolmturnbull.com.au Port 80

  7. I for one will be tweaking my connection to get the minimum speed possible and play some video while doing it to keep the latency bad Buggered if I am giving them a data point for a good ADSL2 connection that I am just very lucky to have.

    • Work done. 1.14Mb down 0.41Mb up. No wonder grabbing the latest code from the US is slow as a dog and any conferencing/virtual desktop is an exercide in pain.

        • I was going to slow my home connection down. That is my WORK connection. Sad isn’t it.

          • I just gave them a datapoint that their system will think was for ADSL2 because even though they asked if I was at work, they then started asking me what internet access I had at home.

            So apparently I get 50/20 at home on my ADSL (and I think that’s too slow!).

            Bad survey is bad.

          • The bottom line is he is running this ‘survey’ off his own site. It is clearly not an independent survey, and can’t therefore be given a lot of credibility. There is no way to verify whatever results he chooses to publish actually relate to the data he collected.

            Is the speed test hosted at his site or elsewhere? If it is hosted as his site, the speed test is ultimately flawed because it is limited by the up/down speeds of his web host. That might also be the case if it is hosted away from his site.

            Too many questions about the veracity of this survey.

  8. I would be interested to see Malcolms costings he has promised to release before the next election (most likely the night before the next election) and check some of the following:

    Are the specific incentives to promote competition in the industry included in the budget?

    Are they really going to promote rival networks running down the same street? How could this possibly lower the build cost for any NBN project and achieve better pricing?

    If the network is built by private business, how are they going to acheive national pricing under their scheme? Profitable capital cities will recieve great prices however I doubt the same will be achieved in regional areas.

    Are there going to be any performance guarantees with the NBN as delivered by the Libs? How will they avoid the blame/cost shifting where connection issues arise due to poor copper etc.

  9. Some1 tell Malcolm That i will think about voting for him after the elections(same time his costings are released). Till then its Labor in both houses. Seriously we should all be telling others to Vote labor, to make the libs realize what the people really want which is not what the Libs tell us we want.

  10. It is not too difficult to guess what the outcome of this “survey” will be. Something along these lines:

    30% of respondents are happy with their internet connection.
    68% would like better download speed.
    73% don’t care about upload speed.
    23% are currently on Telstra or Optus HFC. 89% of these are happy with their download speed.

    Conclusion: Coalition’s visionary and future-proof yet affordable (even when not costed, but you can trust our gut feel on it. Promise!) and quickly deployable alternative NBN with fabulously transparent perpetual subsidies to Telstra and Optus is going to be more than adequate for Australian needs for several electoral cycles to come. Stop Labour’s waste!

  11. Can see why Malcolm could be bothered with this survey because I cant and they won’t be elected at the next election anyway.

  12. So much for Turnbull apparently being concerned for the quality and truthfulness of political discussion. He has just tripped over the barrow he was pushing there! Not only has he come out with this ridiculous survey idea which will provide no grounds for deciding policy, but he now admits he lied about having a fully costed policy ready to go, and rolls out some more untruths in the announcement of his survey. Another case of do as I say, but not as I do from the Earl of

  13. As someone who has taught Research Methods for many years, I can, after a very quick look at the survey, see the following problems.

    it cannot give any indication of what is good for the country as a whole.
    I will, however, give subjective evaluations of what some people have or need.
    At best, it will give a snap shot of what is today, but says nothing about future needs.
    The makeup of the population and its needs will change overtime. (e.g. larger percentage of population will be computer literate.

    Its greatest flaw, however, is that its sample cannot be representative of the country as a whole because it is a self selecting and not a random survey. It is, therefore, opened to manipulation and doesn’t account for demographics or regional and geographical differences.

    In other words, it is a Mickey Mouse survey worthy of a politician, appearing to do a lot but achieving nothing.

  14. What a ridiculous survey. How easy it would be to game the results. It doesn’t even validate your location by IP address or anything – just asks you to self-report location and connection type. I could say I was on dial-up in Brewarrina and reported download speeds of 15Mbps. I may or may not have done so.

  15. Renai, when ever I see one of your articles that have Turnball, Abbott, Hockey, Fletcher or Truss in the heading I can’t be bothered to read it. Even knowing your gone to a lot of trouble to produce it. There negative attidute towards everything the government does has turned me completely off them, especially about the NBN, I guess its fatigue. Even though Im not in the 3 year roll out I still get a buzz when I hear that other towns and communities have been passed or taken up the NBN fibre or fixed wireless. Could it be possible, maybe as a sub-article to your main articles to keep us informed of the amount of premises passed or the amount of people that have taked up fibre or fixed wireless. Everyone I hear about makes me feel like I’m a just a little bit closer to getting my own fibre connection one day.

    • +1 to your comments about fatigue.

      “Could it be possible, maybe as a sub-article to your main articles to keep us informed of the amount of premises passed or the amount of people that have taked up fibre or fixed wireless.”

      We only get updates on this every few months (at the very maximum) from NBN Co — sometimes only every six months. So this would be a bit meaningless, unfortunately :(

      • Thanks Renai for your reply, pity, it would be nice to hear something positive for a change regarding the NBN.

    • @MikeK

      That’s not Renai’s job. He is a journalist. He reports the news as it comes and his opinion on it, which he marks clearly. I agree on being tired of the Opposition. Their opposition has filed, they just don’t know it yet. Unless they RADICALLY change their tack, they will go to the election neck and neck, compared to before the Carbon Tax when they were almost unassailable. But Renai talks of tech, not politics. And he reports news as it comes to light.

      There are several people and threads on Whirlpool that have month by month fibre rollout updates and wireless too.

      • I’m well aware of Renais job seven tech but I would truss Renai’s figures fare more than others.

        • @MikeK

          I understand. But the figures that are produced at Whirlpool are direct from pulls of the NBNCo rollout data via contractors. No massaging of figures. Just raw data.

      • “compared to before the Carbon Tax when they were almost unassailable” — I find it more than a little ironic that we can look back and point to the Carbon Tax as a turning point in Labors favor…

    • > Could it be possible, maybe as a sub-article to your main articles to keep us informed of the amount of premises passed or the amount of people that have taked up fibre or fixed wireless.

      NBNCo seem very reluctant to share this information. The only time the figures are published is in reports for the semi-annual NBN committee meetings, which are only released months after the fact. For example the Review of the Rollout of the National Broadband Network – Third Report of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network published in June , uses data provided by the Shareholder Minister’s second report received on 9 April 2012 for the six month period ending 31 December 2011.

      A sceptical man would suggest they have something to hide, especially when Quigley is able to selectively provide current figures to Estimates Committees.

      • @Matthew

        Really? That’s funny, I was sure they produced a ‘Monthly ready for service plan’ every month on what areas are connected, detailed info on where and how many premises/greenfield stages are being connected and an expected ‘ready for service’ date, indicating when they believe construction will be finished in that area.

        Oh wait, that’s right, they do….

      • They produce regular reports on all those this Mathew. I can’t think of an endevor where there is so much information available. The LNP alternatives or roads and railways, where are the detailed plans and costings, progress reports for them?
        A person (no scepticism needed) would think you were pushing the LNP party line.

      • “A sceptical man would suggest they have something to hide”

        I’d be more inclined to call those sorts of people paranoid and tin foil hat wearers.

  16. ” But Labor’s NBN is not the answer. It reduces competition …”

    This point stuck with me a little and not in a good way. 1 year ago I was trying to get a ADSL 2+ into an apartment in Ivanhoe, Melbourne and my experience with competition was: Telstra had no available ports, Optus no available ports. In the end TPG did have a port available (probably better this way, but that isn’t the point).

    I’ve since moved and conveniently I’m in the NBN fibre footprint with a service being connected next week. I had more than 10 RSP’s all willing and able to offer me a service.

    Dear Malcolm, go jump.

  17. I’m not prepared to do a survey for a politician, which asks for my name. Is he looking for a hit list?

    • I’m reasonably certain that when I did a run through of his survey I put a bodgy name, and postcode in. I guess that proves the pointlessness of this survey.

  18. I’m pretty sure the reason it took 6 years was because of the Liberals constant attempts to derail the project.

    • I am pretty sure it has taken longer than initially thought is the geo-spatial data was far worse than anyone imagined.

      Anyone paying attention may have noticed that NBNco has brought some of their software contractors inhouse and have rolling releases into production environment. There is a reason for that.

    • It also took that long because, ironically, they spent some time considering and accepting tenders on a FTTN network, before realising it wasn’t the best idea. Which Turnbull seems to have forgotten about.

  19. It would be interesting to see a timeline of the NBN, starting from 207 and listing the key delays and milestones along the way. Like when they announced the change from FttN to FttH, when the Telstra deal was expected to be done and when it was done, first turning of soil both Tassie and mainland, etc etc.

    Put EVERY detail in (red/green crayon style), and see where the delays actually came from. You may find a lot came from unexpected delays, you may find the delays came from politicians (both Labor and LNP), or you may find its spread.

    Either way it would give people something to look at and make up their own minds.

  20. The biggest howler in Malcolm Turnbull’s FTTN and wireless plan is NOT the fact that:
    – it will require at least 70,000 large fan-cooled cabinets in residential streets to receive council approval;
    – it will require tens of thousands more mobile towers than the NBN to gain approval;
    – it will hand gatekeeper pricing control back to Telstra’s board room; or
    – it will need to be replaced with fibre the end of the decade, which will delay fibre until nearly 2030.

    No, the biggest howler in Malcolm Turnbull’s FTTN and wireless plan is that whatever its cost, it will exceed the $12 billion one-off permanent fibre rollout to premises, and that we already knew this fact when NBN Mark I was abandoned on cost grounds in 2009.

    • You’ll find it likely there will be more than 70,000 FTTN nodes to cover 93% – (if Turnbull were to match coverage).

      The original Optus tender response for NBN Mark 1 included 75,224 nodes, to cover between “80 and 90 percent” of the population.

      Given the “further out” you go towards 93%, the more sparsely the population covers the landscape, look at 80,000 as a minimum.

      (ref: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/axia-shows-its-nbn-hand/story-fna7dq6e-1111118278188 )

      • @Michael Wyres

        Indeed. I would guess at closer to 150 000. After all, don’t forget the Optus/G9 and Telstra proposals wre for 12Mbps. Turnbull is promising about 25% 80Mbps and the rest up to 50Mbps.

        • No, I can’t see it being more than 80,000 – 85,000.

          The problem he is going to strike is when he discovers just how many phone lines in the ground there are that are not viable for carriage of VDSL signals, and therefore just how many phone lines will need replacing all the way back to the node.

          • HE wont discover it, NBNCo will. And somehow be guilty of deception. I can see MT accusing them of playing favoritism and favoring a FttH option, so doing everything they can to undermine his “masterplan”…

            Getting cynical over this, I know, but I can see him playing politics and passing blame with every hiccup, conveniently missing the point that Labor went through the same hiccups to get to where we are today.

            Politicians are hypocrits by choice, not circumstance, and if the Lib’s get in, thats not going to change.

            I’m banking on close to 100k nodes myself if they aim for 90% plus.

  21. “This information will enable us to ensure that if we are elected to Government the roll out of the NBN can be accelerated and targeted at the communities which need upgrades most.”

    Same old rhetoric about getting it done faster and cheaper, without any mention that the NBN currently being used is not at all the NBN he’s talking about.


    “Your broadband survey is Rubbish!!!
    At the end it purported to show I get 3.22 Mb download speed.
    I am limited to 1.5 and never get that. Speedtest.net shows I was getting 1.4.
    All conclusions you draw from you survey are flawed, unreliable and USELESS.”

    • @John Rankine

      While I wholeheartedly agree his survey isn’t worth the pixels it takes up, there are reasons Speedtest could show you getting a lower overall connection.

      Or are you ACTUALLY on 1.5Mbps ADSL1? If that is the case, then yes, that’s an utter lie and I’d be reporting it as misleading.

      • I am on 1.5.
        My ISP confirms that is the maximum on my plan. I have complained to MalcolmTurnbull’s web site, as expected no reply.

    • You must be mistaken. Surely he couldn’t use a test out by more than a factor of two. He prides himself on being so accurate with all his figures. eg. The NBN will cost 100B. FTTN is 1/4 to a 1/3 the cost of FTTH. NBN plans cost 3 times more than ADSL2 plans See, total dedication to accuracy.
      What would he have to gain by having peoples speeds artificially inflated?

        • I am not mistaken – His survey is false.

          As a point some years ago, before Telstra was privatised I was invited to a Telstra long-term planning briefing for Government. Te senior planner then said their strategy then was for FTTP. He cited longevity and upgradabilty (gBps was being considered even then) as well as significantly reduced need for tech staff as justification. They believed it would pay for itself. So why opt for a Kludge for short term savings.?

          • I was being sarcastic. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Turnbull’s survey was taotally inaccurate.

  23. You’re going to put a node in at the end of my street (about 1.5-2 km away … I’m the last house in a dead end street) and use the old copper wires that can’t give me any more speed at the moment, and your telling me my speed is going to increase to 25 megabit. When did you have this dream?

    I have a friend who can’t get ADSL. It’s not because it’s not available, it is. It’s just that every one of the copper wires in the street is being used by other residents and there is none left for him.

    Because your mate Johnny Howard sold off Telstra to private enterprise, they will not upgrade the lines in the street for one house. How will putting a node at the end of his street help?

    surprisingly this was a question posed by a Katter Party candidate to the Goulburn Post

Comments are closed.