news Opposition Leader Bill Shorten today said Labor wasn’t satisfied with the Coalition’s Fibre to the Node technology for the National Broadband Network, but stopped short of commenting on Labor’s plans for the up to a third of the NBN that will be covered by HFC cable technology.
The NBN as originally envisaged by Labor featured a near-universal Fibre to the Premises rollout, in which fibre would be delivered all the way from telephone exchanges to Australians’ homes and business premises.
However, the Coalition has since modified the rollout, incorporating the legacy copper and HFC cable networks owned by Telstra and Optus, in an approximately three way network rollout split between FTTP, Fibre to the Node and upgraded HFC cable networks.
Labor has not yet revealed its election NBN policy, but it is believed the party 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.
FTTdp essentially brings fibre to the gate outside premises, delivering most of the speed advantages of FTTP.
In response to a caller on ABC Radio today, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten appeared to confirm this plan.
“What we will do is have a greater proportion of fibre in our solution on NBN,” Shorten told the caller.
“We are not going to rip up everything the Liberals have done because I think something that drives people crazy is if I came in here and said that everything that happened is just all bad and we will start again at scratch, that doesn’t help anyone.”
“But what I can promise, Eugene, is there will be much more fibre in our NBN propositions and we are not satisfied that just sending it to the node is a sufficient solution. We will have more to say in the next couple of weeks.”
Shorten also attacked Malcolm Turnbull for his stewardship of the NBN as Communications Minister.
“Mr Turnbull promised in 2013 that he could build it for $29 billion. Now it’s $56 billion and the price is rising … it’s double — $27 billion so far,” said Shorten. “Of course NBN and Mr Turnbull never like hearing the bad news as we’ve seen.”
The ABC host, Steve Austin, said it was “hardly just their fault”, referring to the NBN company and Turnbull, alleging that Labor didn’t put together a business plan when the NBN was started.
“Steve, at what point does the Liberal Party take responsibility for the last 1,000 days?” Shorten fired back.
“I’m sorry but for the last 1,000 days mate, they’ve been in charge. And it would be a terrible mistake having looked at their last 1,000 days to give them another 1,000 days. Did you know Australia has dropped from being ranked 30th in the world for internet speed to 60th?”
Shorten said his criticism of the NBN under the Coalition was that its version of the NBN relied “excessively” on copper technology.
“We will announce our policy before the election but I can say that is the critique we have of Mr Turnbull’s maladministration of NBN,” Shorten said.
The Coalition has given a number of signals over the past several weeks that it does not intend to change its NBN policy for the election, while the Greens have not yet signalled whether they will release a new NBN policy for the poll.
I think it’s pretty clear at this point what Labor are going to announce as their NBN policy for the election.
They’ll keep rolling out FTTP where it is being rolled out, particularly in new estates.
They’ll dump FTTN and replace it with FTTdp where they can.
They’ll keep the HFC cable plans.
They’ll keep the FTTB plans.
And of course they’ll keep the satellite and wireless plans.
Out of all of this, the area that I have the most problem with — and the area that Shorten and others in Labor keep on ignoring — is the HFC. In my opinion the HFC cable networks are as large a problem as FTTN over the long term.
But nobody is talking about them. As far as our political system goes, HFC cable might as well not exist. All anybody thinks about is FTTN — they ignore the fact that a third of the MTM NBN is slated to be HFC, which has many of the same long-term upgradability problems, and many other issues in the short-term (such as slow upload speeds).
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting