The National Broadband Network (NBN) story of the day is that NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley has announced his intention to resign once the board chooses a successor. While that has been fuel to the fire for those opposed to the current model of the NBN, the fundamental reality remains: the shape of the NBN might change, but its elimination is unlikely. More immediately, your NBN options will not alter tomorrow because the CEO is changing.
On this point, I’d mount much the same argument that I did when Senator Stephen Conroy stepped down earlier this month: the argument over the NBN is no longer about whether we need one, nor (in any substantial sense) about whether it should be delivered by a government-backed group.
Quigley himself made the same point in a media conference call on Friday afternoon:
What’s good about this project now there seems to be very little debate in Australia that an upgrade of Australia’s broadband network is needed . . . The fundamental fact that there’s going to be a broadband network built seems to be now unquestioned. That wasn’t necessarily the case when I started with the project.
The substantial differentiator between the current fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) NBN and the Coalition fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) alternative is the technology used and the claimed cost. The former certainly deserves discussion; the latter remains somewhat speculative, especially since the Coalition plan hasn’t factored in the cost of a new Telstra deal or the potential expenses of copper remediation (and won’t see that unless the Coalition is elected). But whatever happens, there will be more broadband than we might reasonably have expected four years ago.
Quigley also shares that view. “There’s a certain momentum now in the project and there are certain assets we’ve built that are going to be useful whichever way the project goes. Both of those [FTTP and FTTN] have pros and cons and that really is a policy choice that can be looked at and worked through. There are no simple answers. Even right from the beginning with FTTP there were a lot of very complex and detailed issues to be worked through, and I think the same would be true of a FTTN approach. It doesn’t mean they can’t be worked through.”