news Bill Shorten appears to have confirmed Labor will retain elements of the Coalition’s controversial Multi-Technology Mix policy if it won power in the upcoming Federal Election, in what the Labor leader described as a “hybrid” version of the NBN.
Speaking at Sky News’ People’s Forum last night, Shorten said Labor wouldn’t “rip up everything that Mr Turnbull has done” with respect to the NBN, because he didn’t believe “everything that the Liberals do is bad”.
“So we will do a hybrid of some of what he’s done but we will have in our announcement, which we will be putting out pretty soon, a greater proportion of the use of fibre and we will also look at the proportions of fibre and we think we can provide more of that to more Australians,” said Shorten.
He added that he believed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, as Communications Minister, could have “done a better job” at providing more fibre in part of the NBN rollout, because that it would allow for better speeds and less buffering than the current system.
Shorten said Labor a government would be less reliant on the ageing copper network and will use a greater proportion of fibre in its plan.
The comments confirm what a number of commentators — including the writer of this article — have been predicting for some time.
It is believed that Labor is likely to retain the HFC cable component of the Coalition’s MTM version of the NBN, as well as Fibre to the Basement of apartment buildings. However, it is believed that Labor is likely to shift to a Fibre to the Distribution Point model for much of the remainder of the network build.
This will allow Labor to position itself as deploying significantly more fibre and higher speeds into the NBN build.
However, it is possible that Labor and the Coalition will end up supporting very similar NBN policies in this year’s Federal Election, with Communications Minister Mitch Fifield currently refusing to be drawn on whether the Coalition would support the NBN company shifting to a FTTdp model.
In a media release issued this afternoon, Fifield was scatching of Shorten’s comments.
“Labor leader Bill Shorten last night confirmed that Labor has backflipped on the National Broadband Network,” the Liberal Senator wrote.
“Bill Shorten’s credibility on Australia’s largest infrastructure project is in tatters, proving that Labor can’t be trusted to manage the transition of Australia’s economy.”
“For two and a half years Labor has attacked anything other than a network that built fibre to the premise, and attacked any use of the existing copper network. Last night, Mr Shorten confirmed that Labor would adopt the Turnbull Government’s multi-technology mix.”
Fifield said Shorten’s position on the NBN — to use more fibre — was already possible under the current NBN model, and confirmed Labor would support continuing to use Telstra’s existing copper network as part of the NBN.
“The Turnbull Government’s approach is open to the use of any technology, with a mandate to build the network by 2020 and within a set budget,” Fifield said.
“Close to two million homes and businesses can today access the nbn and there are more than 900,000 active users. That compares to Labor’s appalling record of just 51,000 users connected between 2010 and 2013. By connecting more users sooner the Coalition is keeping broadband affordable.”
“Australians are still in the dark on whether they’ll be asked to pay more tax for a Labor NBN or to wait longer.”
As I wrote in July 2015:
“There is absolutely no doubt that the Australian Labor Party will abandon its Fibre to the Premises National Broadband Network plan and adopt the Coalition’s alternative Multi-Technology Model as official policy before the next Federal Election.”
“In the next few months, [Jason] Clare and his team will be spending a great deal of time “drafting language” and “developing positioning” to plan the precise steps which will see Labor fall completely into line with the Coalition’s MTM policy.”
“It will no doubt feature a heavy emphasis on avoiding the words “Fibre to the Node” and “HFC cable” and stress how, at some vague time in the future, Labor plans on extending Turnbull’s vision to full FTTP.”
Since I wrote those words, we’ve seen the FTTdp issue come to the fore. I expect both the Coalition and Labor to shift to similar FTTdp models during the formal election campaign period.
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting