news Opposition Leader Bill Shorten this evening promised Labor would deliver Australians a “first-rate Fibre National Broadband Network” if his party wins the upcoming Federal Election, but stopped short of confirming that that network would consist of a full Fibre to the Premises rollout.
The previous Labor Government created the National Broadband Network with a near-universal Fibre to the Premises model, representing the best possible broadband technology to meet Australia’s long-term needs.
However, since the 2013 Federal Election, the Abbott and Turnbull administrations have substantially modified the NBN project, replacing Labor’s model with technically inferior Fibre to the Node and HFC cable models which rely on the legacy copper and HFC cable networks owned by Telstra and Optus.
Labor has not yet confirmed what model it will take for the NBN to this year’s Federal Election. Instead, it has only given several tantalising hints of its future policy.
This evening, at his Budget Reply speech in Parliament House in Canberra, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of making “broadband slower” in Australia.
He went on to add that the most important piece of infrastructure for any 21st century economy was a “first-rate Fibre NBN”.
Shorten also told Parliament that it was important that the Government focus on teaching children coding skills, computer skills and technology and science skills, stating that these were the skills Australia needed for the future.
The comments echo similar comments Shorten and Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare have made in the past, where the pair have referred to Labor’s policy supporting more Fibre than the Coalition’s NBN policy, but without committing to a full Fibre to the Premises rollout.
In early April, Shorten appeared 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.
There is substantial speculation that both major sides of politics will commit to a Fibre to the Distribution Point model for the NBN, which features a similar cost profile as the Coalition’s preferred Fibre to the Node model but substantially higher speeds, as well as retaining the HFC cable, Fixed Wireless and Satellite aspects of the existing MTM model.
Fighting words from Shorten, but I wouldn’t read too much into them. I’ll be waiting to see the fine print on Labor’s NBN policy before counting this as a victory.
I am especially concerned about Labor’s ongoing silence with respect to the HFC cable aspect of the Multi-Technology Mix. The HFC is a significant problem for the NBN network’s future upgradability and structure. I’d like to see Labor commit to letting the HFC go from the MTM mix, replacing it with FTTdp to ensure a uniform national build.
This shouldn’t be too much of a stretch — the NBN company has barely rolled out any HFC upgrades or extensions at this point.
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting