news The Greens and the Australian Labor Party have taken a pick axe to the Coalition’s plans for the NBN following Senate hearings on the project this week, variously describing the current state of the Coalition’s vision as “a dog’s breakfast”, a “train wreck” and “broadband limbo”.
Last week NBN Co released its long-awaited Strategic Review report which examined the current state of the NBN project as well as laying out a number of potential paths for its future. The document found that it will not be possible to deliver the Coalition’s stated policy goal of delivering broadband speeds of 25Mbps to all Australians by the end of 2016 or at the projected cost, and has recommended that up to a third of Australian premises theoretically already covered by HFC cable networks effectively receive no infrastructure upgrade at all under a drastically revised deployment scheme.
The NBN Strategic Review also found significant problems with Labor’s existing NBN policy. It estimated that Labor’s all-fibre NBN will cost $73 billion and take until 2024 to complete, and increase average broadband bills by up to 80 per cent to meet the rate of return targeted by the former Government. NBN Co’s persistent inability to meet its targets reflected “a lack of deep internal experience in complex infrastructure, construction projects and project management”,” the report found.
Yesterday, key NBN Co senior executives such as executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski appeared before the NBN Senate Select Committee in Sydney.
According to Greens Communications Spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam, the committee effectively “dismantled” the technical and financial underpinnings of the Strategic Review, adding to what Ludlam described as “the extraordinary list of the Abbott Government’s policy failures and non-core promises”.
“This morning, NBN Executive Chairman Dr Ziggy Switkowski revoked the Government’s guarantee of minimum download speeds,” wrote Ludlam in a statement. “We now we have a dog’s breakfast of a network will be more expensive than promised, delivered later than committed, using technology that will be obsolete on the day it is delivered – if it ever is.”
“Key data including the guesswork behind the cost of acquiring and maintaining Telstra’s copper network, held together with duct tape and plastic bags, have been hidden from the Parliament and the public. We’re being asked to just trust the Government, at a time when trust is in very short supply.”
Ludlam said the committee was provided with detailed analysis of how the cost and timeline estimates for a fast fibre to the premise (FTTP) network were systematically inflated to make it look unaffordable.”It appears that the best we can hope for now is to try and retrieve some semblance of coherence from the train wreck that is Australian telecommunications policy, but after today’s hearing that seems further away than ever,” the Greens Senator concluded.
For its part, Labor’s own spokespeople also ridiculed the Coalition over the week’s Senate hearings. Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare and Shadow Assistant Communications Minister Michelle Rowland issued a statement claiming that evidence from the committee had confirmed that NBN construction would slow “dramatically” over the succeeding six months.
“The NBN rollout is currently passing 5000 premises per week. In evidence before the Senate Select Committee today NBN Co Chairman Ziggy Switkowski confirmed that this number would drop to just 4000 premises per week under Minister Turnbull’s new model,” the statement said.
“Last week they broke their promise to give everyone access to the NBN by 2016 and this week they have confirmed they are slowing down construction,” Clare said. Rowland added:“While Minister Turnbull and his mates tank the rollout of the NBN communities across the country are being left in broadband limbo.”
The two MPs noted that Switkowski had told the Senate Committee that NBN Co could not guarantee broadband speeds to Australian homes and businesses, “again confirming that the Coalition would be breaking its key election promise of delivering minimum speeds of 25 megabits per second by 2016”.
The NBN project has truly descended into a political farce at this point. I encourage readers to abandon all hope that it will ever be delivered in any kind of rational fashion. We must face reality: The politicians have royally screwed this one up. It may be a decade or more before the situation resolves itself into any semblance of normality and Australia sees meaningful broadband service upgrades. Hell, it’s taken a decade to get to this point, where virtually nothing has been done.