Turnbull has “saved” the NBN, says Kohler


blog It’s hard to recall, given Tony Abbott’s enthusiastic support for the Coalition’s ‘NBN lite’ policy released this week, but there was a time when the Opposition Leader and others in the Coalition had pledged to “demolish”, “dismantle” and any other ‘d’ word you can think of, Labor’s National Broadband Network policy. In an article for the ABC’s The Drum site, Business Spectator founder and News Limited employee Alan Kohler points out how far things have come (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“I don’t know how he did it, but Malcolm Turnbull has turned the Liberals under Tony Abbott into an NBN party. In the process, he has saved Abbott from a terrible mess if he had gone to the election still promising to dismantle the NBN … Making the last bit of fibre user pays, as opposed to taxpayer funded, is a dumb, short-sighted decision in my view, but no big deal. It’s certainly better than dismantling the whole thing …”

Whether you do or don’t like the Coalition’s alternative NBN policy, there’s really no disagreeing with Kohler here. I personally have no doubt that if Malcolm Turnbull hadn’t taken on the communications portfolio under his arch-nemesis Abbott, and if Turnbull hadn’t chosen to use all of his intellect and persuasive skills to bring the Liberals to the party on the NBN, that the project as a whole would be being dismantled come September this year. Personally, like most readers, I would prefer to have fibre directly to my doorstep rather than merely to a neighbourhood node, but either is better than the ADSL I “use” (except when it rains too hard, when it becomes unusable) now. And the Australian public will have Turnbull personally to thank for that. FTTN might not be as good as FTTP, but I doubt many will be calling it “fraudband” if the Coalition can manage to deliver it in the next two electoral terms it is promising.

Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull


  1. It’s most certainly an improvement over their last policy that’s for sure, but I agree with you Renai, I think Australian’s would still prefer FTTH.

  2. The whole “user pays” is going to be interesting, there are people at work who are one street out from a current 1yr rollout area that will likely be in place prior to the election. That area is obviously getting it installed free of charge to the end user, how then do you turn around and say “well yeah those people in the next street got it for free, but since we got voted in you now have to pay $’s for it”.

    It’s definitely going to ruffle a few feathers with people.

    • It depends if the people in the next street are pissed off because they have (free) FTTN and the next suburb has (free) FTTH.

      Lack of a outcry when the highest speed BB at the time the HFC rollout stopped dead in its tracks all those years ago would indicate that most residences won’t give a stuff.

      • Yeah because they totally rolled out HFC networks for Broadband. It’s not like there was something else they were trying to deliver, like PayTV or anything….

      • Not next suburb, the current ALP NBN rollout is based on geographically delivery points not suburb boundaries, not that that really matters the main point is keeping delivery standard especially in close geographically areas.

        In other words if a particular area has spots of the current NBN rollout then the whole area should be done, otherwise you end up in a situation where you have different conflicting delivery types. Much easier on the support side of things to keep things standardised. But I’m pretty confident long term thinking isn’t in the LNP proposal.

        Well there is actually a big difference between the Telstra/Optus HFC and the NBN, that being that the HFC networks were privately funded by individual corporations, the NBN however is being primarily paid for by the government as an infrastructure project.

        • “but either is better than the ADSL I “use” (except when it rains too hard, when it becomes unusable) now.”

          actually I think it is based on Exchange Service Areas, but with a certain amount of fudge factor. If you happen to be in a good ESA but it is more economical in practice to provide your service from a different one, you might fall off the roll-out timetable.
          Likewise of course, you may jag it and get connected early because it would be uneconomical to extend services from your “proper” service area when the current roll-out stops 20m from your property.

          ESA’s area after all, just a line on a map. It just happens to be the line that determined where cables and conduits were laid.

        • I don’t think the support problem is a issue on different delivery types after all we have different delivery types now with ADSL2+, HFC, and NBN.

          Under a Coalition plan there will be only one wholesaler of Fibre to Node, Fibre to the Home and possibly the Telstra HFC, the new Coalition NBN Co.

          • And what about the FttH part which is “user pays”?

            Who owns the fibre to the home… is it the company who supplies it? The copper into my place now is owned by Telstra, but because of the open access nature, I can choose different providers, as I would be able to do with the real NBN.

            So once you are a “paying user” using a providers fibre to your home, not open access copper/fibre, are you stuck with that provider?

            I see you are suggesting a monopoly wholesaler for FttP, which would make sense. It would also make sense to have the one company do both node and premises, for obvious reasons…guess who?

            So after the NBN finally giving all competitors a level playing field (well as level as is possible) our comms will be again simply be handed over to Telstra and I’m sure iyt will be under Tletsrea’s terms with Telstra holding all the cards (such as the copper).

            There’s a real competition problem I can foresee here and interestingly, you are the first (where are the usual suspects telling us we will be forced onto FttN against our will) to admit FttN will be a monopoly.

            Funny how these excuses such as forced, monopoly, no competition etc…only seem to apply to the NBN :/

    • I don’t get how “user pays” will work. A FTTN node only needs a couple of fibre pairs back to the exchange (you could do it with two or four strands), but an FTTP fibre distribution hub requires a ribbon cable with 288 or 432 strands.

      I’m guessing that the cheap price of the plan (which is based on rollouts in other countries with completely different geography and population density) assumes they’re just going to pull less fibre, but then they’ve promised to be able to offer the user FTTH if they pay.

      So are they going to install the fibre needed to upgrade to FTTH? Because this will probably cost almost the same as a full FTTH rollout would when you add in the price of the nodes. Or are they going to pull less fibre, which will be cheaper, but then require billions of dollars in a decade to pull through extra fibre when we desperately need more bandwidth (when the already-obsolete VDSL technology will be even more out of date)?

      I don’t know if they’ve thought of this yet, or if it was just “there’s fibre in the name, so you must be able to do it”… But either way, I very much hope that when they try to cost it, they’ll work out that the FTTN system with optional FTTP and an upgrade path will actually be far more expensive than just doing FTTP in the first place.

      Either that, or they’ll go ahead and roll out the system for more than $40B, and then in a decade when we spend another ten or twenty billion dollars, they’ll just say “Well, Labor’s plan *could* have cost $90B”

      That, and the fact that it took NBN Co nine months longer than expected to negotiate the current Telstra deal, so I don’t see how their faster timeframe can work – it’ll take years to renegotiate contracts (good luck getting Telstra to hand over their copper network at no cost!) and actually design the thing…

      • “I don’t get how “user pays” will work.”

        Here’s another user pays factor that nobody seems to have thought about.
        FttN uses an active interface to feed signal to the copper. That interface is in the ugly box.
        That means Telstra pays all the power bills.

        FttP has fibre to the interface at the home/office/whatever. Guess whose meter will be ticking for that one.


        • “FttP has fibre to the interface at the home/office/whatever. Guess whose meter will be ticking for that one”

          Power consumption to run the fiber terminal will probably be slightly less than the power required to run a copper terminal though I expect teh difference to be nominal.

          FTTP MAY need a small trickle charge for teh emergency battery, but I believe the plan is to make it optional for future connections.
          FTTP however will NOT need a powered node between it and the POI. In the end the user pays the electricity costs either directly or as part of teh service charge. FTTN electricity consumption will be significantly more than FTTP.

          • Goresh,

            I think you will find there is a powered node with FTTP between the POI and the residence, it’s the FAN (Fibre Access Node), usually contained in a Telstra exchange building.

          • Goresh,

            There is a powered Node between the residence and the POI under FTTP, it is the FAN (Fibre Access Node), usually housed in a Telstra exchange building.

        • Here’s another user pays factor that nobody seems to have thought about.
          FttN uses an active interface to feed signal to the copper. That interface is in the ugly box.
          That means Telstra pays all the power bills.

          Similar to now the device at the far end (currently the DSLAM) powers the copper, on the NBN it will be node. But by your logic Telstra currently pays the power bills for any 3rd party DSLAM that’s in one of it’s exchanges.

          Negative, equipment owned by a 3rd party is powered off separate meter(s) and billed to the third party provider separately, similarly FTTN NBN Nodes would be powered directly from mains with their own meter, and billed to NBN Co.

          FttP has fibre to the interface at the home/office/whatever. Guess whose meter will be ticking for that one.

          The end user, but you’d really need to ask if the power consumption is that much greater (or greater at all in some cases) than our currently end devices (routers, etc).

    • So they get FTTN years early with the option of FTTH, why would they be angry?

      I’m in Currajong, Townsville.

      The NBN Rollout map shows that Construction commenced on September 2011. Labors NBN claims services will be available 12 months after construction commences. We are now 18 months after “construction commenced” and not a single person is getting FTTH.

      This is the slowest roll out of FTTH in the world and NBN Co has NOTHING but excuses on their rollout using Labor style spin like “mobilisation” as the reason.

      • When it is complete in your area what speed do you plan on signing up for?

        • 25Mbit or 50Mbit most likely.

          I give it another 6 months before they actually start connecting houses.

          • 25mbps or 50mbps?

            Are you considering 50mbps because you don’t know if 25mbps will be enough for your needs?

            Must be good to live in an area where you’ll be able to make that choice should your circumstances change though…

          • The choice is no FTTH at all or a FTTN Plan, bit of no brainier where the speed is secondary.

          • “The choice is no FTTH at all or a FTTN Plan”

            That’s not true at all. If you are in an area that is destined to get fibre the choice will in your case be between 25 and 50mbps. Contracts have been signed so even if the coalition win and make a mess of it you’ll still get it.

            “speed is secondary”

            Speed is secondary concern? I’m not sure if you noticed but this is a debate a broadband speeds and the fact that you are tossing up between two specific speeds is very telling.

            btw what apps do you use that require 25mbps? Surely what ever connection you are using now is sufficient for your needs? Why the rush? If faster speeds are really that important to you should pay to have a node installed in the street and pay to have fibre rolled out from the exchange to that node. There is no reason why taxpayers should foot the bill just so you can download movies quicker

  3. Saved? If by saved he means more people are in favor of the proper NBN plan as a result of them having released details of their gimped version which would result in more people not voting for the coaltion thus it will get built as planned then yes I would call that saved too.

  4. He hasn’t saved it, because it isn’t going to happen under an Abbott Government, and ironically that is thanks to Labor.

    Their stupidity by not reinstating Kevin Rudd with a big majority has guaranteed Abbott at least two terms, meaning he literally has no reason to act on any of his promises, and he won’t. If anything, he’ll dismiss the Coalitions NBN policy as “unachievable” because of some excuse about Labors debt then go about doing the only thing he knows how to do, imitate Howard.

    Infrastructure investment will grind to a halt, the tax breaks for the upper middle class will skyrocket, everybody else will get breadcrumbs, and the NBN will disappear into obscurity. We will get nothing.

      • Doing nothing probably is less wasteful than doing FTTN.

        Doing nothing was the Liberals’ original plan, remember.

        So the Liberals have switched from a plan that provides no results, to a plan that is wasteful.

        And Australians would prefer these people in power…

        • NBN Co effectively have been doing nothing for the last 3 years looking at their roll-out numbers.

          The question the NBN supporters have to ask themselves is do you want FTTN in the next 3 years or FTTH maybe in 20 years?

          Because Labors NBN roll out is going so slow you aren’t going to see it for decades.

          • Ok so you have now changed your claims of FttN will be available 8 years earlier to within the next 3 years, so which is it?

  5. but but but … he said if they didn’t have to spend on it they could build more roads…and schools… and hospitals..

    you know, all those things that coalition goverments are renowned on building..

    not sure what public things we have left to sell off tho .. that’s all they do

  6. “but either is better than the ADSL I “use” (except when it rains too hard, when it becomes unusable) now.”

    You are still working on the premis that you will get “something” under a coalition government.

    My own belief is that between CBA, contract negotiations, Telstra negotiations, staff retraining etc etc, you will not actually get anything. And because of “Labor mismanagement” it will go on the backburner with the NDIS and other social policies until “healthy” surpluses are restores.
    Of course, tax cuts to teh wealthies of Australians who are obviously struggling much more than poor people, will ensure that surpluses never actually get big enough to be termed “healthy”.

  7. Turnbull hasn’t “Saved the NBN”.

    Kohler needs to get off the drugs.

    Coalition NBN is not a core promise, they can get rid of it any time they want, especially if Telstra negotiations don’t go their way, remember last time? They tried to negotiate with Telstra?

    This is all under a FTTN scenario:

    Failed – 2005/2006 (Coalition was in power)
    Failed – 2007 (Coalition was in power still)
    Failed – NBN MK1 – 2008 (Labor RFP Process – Telstra improper lodgement)

    Under a FTTH scenario:

    Passed – NBNMK2 – 2009

    What is the obsession with FTTN as the supposed “cheaper” rollout when not all the facts are on the table?

    • Labors NBN:

      Promises 314,000 Premises Passed by June 30th 2012 – FAILED
      Delivered only 31,000

      Promised 1,286,000 Premises Passed by June 30th 2013 – FAILED
      Promised 320,000 Premises Passed in new Corporate August 2012 Plan – FAILED
      Only looking to be able to deliver ~100,000 less than 1/3rd promised only months earlier

      This is the worlds slowest FTTH and like Labor Budget and Labors mining tax the budget numbers are completely off the rails.

      Ask yourself if you want FTTN in the next 3 years or the Never-Never FTTH under Labor which is going to take decades.

      • @Truth Hurts

        Ask yourself if you want FTTN in the next 3 years or the Never-Never FTTH under Labor which is going to take decades.

        Actually, it’s ask yourself do you want FTTN in the next 3-5 years or FTTH in the next 5-8 years- just because you happen to think the Coalition WILL give it to you in 3 doesn’t mean they will. And just because you think the NBN will take decades, ALSO doesn’t mean it will. That is entirely dependent on your current situation. If you’re on decent ADSL2, you’d be happy to wait for FTTH. Same as if you’re on HFC. Hell, I’m on 8Mbps ADSL and I’d STILL be happier to wait for FTTH (Disclaimer- I’m probably moving soon to an NBN area on purpose).

        Fact is, I don’t believe that the FTTN can be done in 3 years (the first section). I think they’ll struggle to get it done in 5- That’s the same timeframe as Britain, who MT is insistent we follow and their population is much more dense than ours. And that’s beyond their first term. It’s quite feasible that they’ll have a second term if they get in- there’s about a 95% probability as there’s only been 2 first term government losses in Australia’s history- although if Abbott’s rampant conservatism shows through enough, they may be booted quick smart. So, what we’re left with is 25Mbps by half way through NEXT term and 50Mbps perhaps 2-3 years after that….or about 2021, the original date for the NBN and when 100Mbps is forecast to be “adequate” for average families. I don’t think the NBN will come in on time, but I don’t think it will be the years out the Coalition believe because one way or another the contracts will be tightened, so lets say same time (Dec) 2022. Perhaps halfway through 2023.

        Why do I give the Coalition so much less likelihood of being able to complete their plan on time? 2 major reasons:

        1- Planning- there is none. The Coalition are essentially starting from scratch. The ONLY advantage they have is a 6 month headstart thanks to the fact that NBNCo. is already in existence. They have:

        – NBNCo. board rehiring
        – Regulation
        – Equipment choice and Contracts
        – Labour renegotiation
        – Telstra Deal renegotiation
        – Copper report
        – NBNCo. report
        – CBA
        – ACCC approval
        – Testing
        – Trials
        – Rollout

        Some can happen simultaneously. Some can’t. It will be MINIMUM 1 year before they will have laid the first FTTN nodes. Minimum. Likely 18 months. That requires that they finish, being generous, approx. 30 000 nodes in 18 months. Or about TWICE what Telstra said they could manage (7 100 per year) in 2007. And that was with the SAME trained manpower Turnbull says exists now for FTTN- it hasn’t changed drastically in 5 years, because copper has been on the way out until now.

        2- Politics- The politics of the NBN isn’t going to go away. While they may be able to fool enough people into believing their timeline and costs this election because it is “close enough” to the NBN for most people, it will be IMMEDIATELY obvious at the next election, with likely less than half those supposed to be covered (and likely those covered barely managing 25Mbps thanks to inadequate copper) rolled out and costs rising, that the Coalition have done no better job than Labor did and that if the NBN had been allowed to continue, some 3-4 million people would’ve been covered by FTTH by this time, instead of around the same number with FTTN.

        So yes, the NBN has failed to reach their rollout targets. And if you believe the Coalition can do it “just because”….I think you’re in for a nasty surprise come 2016…

        Meanwhile, there will be nearly half the country who want a new connection still waiting for one 5-8 years after promising one….in which case BOTH policies will have failed. One because it wasn’t allowed to continue thanks to the assumption it had failed only 12 months in. And one because of the GROSS underestimation of the complexity of an FTTN build and the state of our copper.

        • +1

          Herein lies the strangest logic of all, regarding the chronic NBN detractors, they will swear that everything NBN will take twice to three times as long and ergo cost twice to three times as much as estimated…

          Whilst simultaneously swearing on a truck load of bibles that FttN (via their preferred Coalition, naturally) will take half as long and cost half as much as estimated.

          Seriously politicians are politicians… if you want to premeditate an outcome at least do so sans ideology… i.e. using common sense


  8. Hey everyone, it’s gotten a little feral on here over the weekend, so I’m closing the NBN threads for now. I’ll re-open new NBN threads on Monday after everyone’s had a bit of a chance to calm down. If you want to continue to debate this stuff right now, there’s always the forums.


    Editor + Publisher, Delimiter

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