news Veteran telecommunications analyst Paul Budde has praised the Coalition for publishing an extensive ‘frequently asked questions’ regarding its rival National Broadband Network policy unveiled last month, noting that the additional explanations of the policy “make sense” and that the Coalition is “moving forward” on the issue.
Last month, when it first formally published its rival NBN policy to stack up against Labor’s current NBN vision, the Coalition published a number of lengthy policy documents regarding the policy, including a background briefing paper which it hoped would answer the questions of many in the telecommunications industry.
However, in some quarters the Coalition has struggled to convince segments of the population and technology sector experts that its vision is comprehensive enough. “The Opposition’s NBN plan has as many, if not more, questions attached to it as they claim the government’s plan has,” wrote Budde after the plan was first published. “All the issues they have raised regarding cost blowouts and delays are equally present in their own plan. There are no guarantees that their plan is technically workable – nor, indeed, that it will deliver a cheaper and faster outcome. Far more detailed plans will be needed to make such judgements.”
In another example, technology media outlet The Register complained that the Coalition has not answered all the relevant NBN questions. It published an extensive list of questions about its policy which it said the Coalition had not answered. “We’re not asking these questions out of any desire to promote the Government’s NBN policy,” The Register wrote. “We at Vulture South feel instead feel answers to the above would go a long way to explaining the NBN installation experience the Coalition imagines.”
To address the complaints, over a week ago Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull published on his website a comprehensive article listing answers to several dozen frequently asked questions about the Coalition’s NBN policy. For example, in a section labelled ‘costs’, the document publishes an extensive amount of information relating to how much the Coalition’s policy will cost both the Government as well as individuals connecting to the Coalition’s version of the NBN infrastructure.
It also attempts to debunk, in another example, the claim by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy that individuals will pay up to $5,000 to have fibre extended all the way to their premises under the Coalition’s policy, as well as the claim that accessing the Coalition’s NBN will be more expensive in remote areas of Australia.
Writing in an updated post on his blog late last week, Budde said he didn’t expect that Turnbull would come up with further explanations so quickly, but that having read them, most of Turnbull’s answers “make sense”.
“The key points that I took away from the latest information is a much clearer view and explanation on how the Coalition is taking into account the planning towards FttH via the in-between step of fibre-to-the-node,” wrote Budde. “While I am not a financial expert the information given on what the financial advantages could be does make sense. Also a firm confirmation that the Coalition will continue the rollout of the current NBN, and only begin to make major changes once they have properly assessed the situation, is important.”
“Further ideas on how to incorporate HFC, and the background information they have gathered on the quality of the copper network – backed up by comments from Telstra’s CEO – are appreciated.”
Budde noted that there were still uncertainties about the Coalition’s rival NBN policy — and he questioned the point of opting for a fibre to the node-style rollout, when over a decade-long period, $14 billion wasn’t a significant amount more to spend on a national infrastructure project. However, he also pointed out that had the Coalition unveiled its current policy before the 2007 Federal Election, it would have been enthusiastically received by the public, as Labor’s updated NBN policy was in April 2009, and that such a policy might have helped the Coalition win the election.
The news comes as ongoing polling continues to show that Labor’s existing NBN project has maintained its overwhelming support with the population, with Australians overwhelmingly preferring the project over the Coalition’s alternative. However, analysis of polling data has also shown that the release of the Coalition’s rival policy somewhat polarised the electorate, with traditional Coalition voters now being more likely to support the Coalition’s plan, and Labor and Greens voters more likely to support the existing Labor policy.