What Do You Think Of Coalition Broadband Policy?

What Do You Think Of Coalition Broadband Policy?

We already knew that the Coalition was opposed to the NBN, but today it spelled out its alternative vision: essentially, spending a lot less money and leaving the job of offering increased speeds to the commercial sector. Is that enough to ensure that we’ll get decent broadband in the future?

The policy does involve slightly more than that (see the link below), including the reintroduction of free PC filtering software for parents and improvements to fibre backhaul in some locations, but it does seem, as Nick over at Gizmodo put it, a whole heap of nothing when compared to the much more detailed NBN policy pursued by Labor (and backed by the Greens).

Its principle selling point appears to be the notion that government should not invest in infrastructure, certainly not to the tune of $43 billion, if commercial companies can be persuaded to take on that investment. The failure of competition to always provide adequate services (think Telstra blocking others from exchanges or Optus not offering cable to unit block residents) was notable by its absence.

The reaction so far has been pretty lukewarm and came in for a fair bit of bagging during today’s ICT debate. Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde provides a fairly representative and scathing analysis on his blog:

When it was in power the Opposition had ten years to come up with a proper broadband plan for Australia and they failed to do so. In 2004 their Minister for Communications, Richard Alston, argued that Australia didn’t need broadband. At that time the Coalition Government was unable to stop Telstra’s aggressive monopolistic behaviour under its previous CEO, and its lack of political vision and action on this matter became part of the reason for the Coalition losing the elections in 2007. Why do they think they will win the forthcoming election by leading the telecoms market back to those dark days?

What are your thoughts on the Coalition policy? Will it influence the way you vote? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Liberal Party Policies


  • It’s a sensible policy – it’ll deliver what Australia needs using the most appropriate technology mix. Wireless makes perfect sense for a country like Australia. US telcos are aggressively rolling out LTE (aka 4G) wireless because of the amazing speeds achievable.

    Fibre-to-the-home is another pie-in-the-sky scheme aimed at appeasing all those who think that they’re entitled to Gigabit unlimited broadband for $5 a month ‘because that’s what they get in Korea’.

    • It’s got very little to do with the speeds we achieve at home or how much we pay for broadband! The NBN rather, has positive implications for business productivity, E-health, transactional banking, telecommunication, the transfer of funds, lower emissions, better data collection and greater speeds for almost all industries. These great benefits simply would not be achievable (or very unlikely) under the coalitions proposed plan as it stands.

    • “as Nick over at Gizmodo put it, a whole heap of nothing when compared to the much more detailed NBN policy pursued by Labor (and backed by the Greens).”

      Detailed policy? Huh? This is the same NBN policy that consisted of an uncosted, one and a half page press release. No business case, no economic modelling, no analysis. Oh and isn’t it funny that the second stage of the NBN rollout has been announced for Western Sydney – how many marinal seats are they targetting there?

      Let the private sector compete and deliver a broadband network. Save the $43 BILLION to either pay of debt, or provide more pressing infrastructure such as a proper national highway, or address water management, or hospitals or schools. Much as I’d love faster broadband, I think there are a few more pressing priorities for this nation at this point in time.

      +1 for the coalition’s policy. Time we started thinking about living within the nation’s means.

      • It’s not wise to confuse those silly NBN TV ads with reality – the magical portals to the world where you can chat to your GP are meaningless marketing mechanisms.
        You could pick up the ‘phone and talk to a GP today … if doctore were available.

        More bandwidth via fibre will not transform Australia into a Jetsons future, merely be an embarassment in a few years when those tens of $bn of fibre lay unused because some new technology has superseded them.

        If the NBN policy was a decade or so ago, the government would be plugging a scheme to provide solid-gold 56K Roadster modems to every household.
        Where would those modems be now ?

        By all means use the technology we currently have to realistically and economically update as many peopel as practical to reasonable bandwidth but don’t spend $2000 per person to fibre the whole disseminated landmass.

      • Rob, can you tell me how a national highway or hospitals or schools are going to make the money back? The NBN is an infrastructure project that will turn a profit that comes out of the future fund and will be put back into the fund when it turns profit, which it definitely will!

        The private sector has been doing a crap job of letting our nation compete. Australia is unique because it is an extremely large country with an extremely sparse population. Without government intervention to allow for equitable access to an NBN, there will never be competition for areas that aren’t in major centres. Encouragement in these areas could do wonders for our economy.

        The NBN policy has a bit more than a one page press release. There is already a major rollout in Tasmania. There are detailed rollout maps that clearly show where its going to be and tenders are being sought for more technology. These things don’t happen overnight mate.

        In terms of $43billion, that is an estimate and a lot of credible people have actually costed it lower. We are in a unique situation to take advantage of this and get the whole nation on an even technological footing and we shouldnt just be thinking of ourselves and think of the endless benefits for business, health, education… all those things that you say we should be spending the money one!

      • Yeah Rob,

        Let the private sector roll out the technology.
        There are huge parts of the country in desperate need of decent broadband…… so why haven’t the companies moved in already?

        The answer is that it is not profitable outside of the capital cities. The coalition policy is full of pie in the sky crap.

      • Imagine if we can get everybody who can working from home 2-3 days a week or more. It would be fairly easy to reduce the commuting population by 10% – a bit like commuting at xmas time. So that means extra roads don’t need to be built, extra rail line or extended platforms need to be built. 10% less pollution and carbon. New buildings don’t need to be built.

        It is pretty easy to see how $43bil can be re-couped.

        I have just come back from the UK with working from home is more common than not – it only works because they have the equivalent of Liberals ‘broadband policy’ already.

        Fibre to the majority of homes is game changing. We will be using it for things we can’t imagine at the moment.

  • It’s total ass and exactly what I expected when they said they were going to have a policy.

    That said, I’ll take a ass broadband policy over a NBN-with-net-filter anyday.

  • Shortsighted patchwork.
    If the private sector had any intentions of offering us proper broadband infrastructure they would have done it a decade ago.

  • It Sucks! Only a fibre based network will stand the tests of time. Anything else will simply be outdated in 10 years time.

    The only good thing the Libs have done is oppose the filter. Its safe to vote Labor now as both the Greens and the Libs will block the filter. So you can have NBN without the filter 🙂

  • Fine if you’re goal is to let end users (home) to have decent-ish broadband in the short term. It’s absolute crap if you want Business to benefit expand and grow.
    Also has the same relationship to nation building that Pork Barreling does to getting re-voted.

  • It’s hardly a policy. It’s just them saying, yeah we’ll make a few changes here and there and hope for the best. They haven’t really said how 97% of Australia will have 12Mbs broadband, considering a good chunk of Australia would already fall under this category in the way the government like to count (ADSL2+ and NextG, or perhaps look at the broadband guarantee scheme).

  • I’m with David Reimers – For the past month I’ve been using Vivid wireless in perth and I can’t believe 4G is this fast and reliable. Why would you spend so much money in laying cable when you can get better service and better price on wireless?
    Is building up 4G cheaper than dsl/cable? For metro areas I would assume it would be heaps but I’m no expert (please somebody chime in here)…

    On top of that you don’t have to worry about moving house with services, line issues are non-existant etc etc… Surely the upkeep is much cheaper for providers as well as customers.

    Country is a different story but at least save money in metro and spend money in country.

    Still voting liberal on a “lesser of 2 evils” basis.

    • Jimmy O,
      4G Vivid is great for you right now because there’s hardly anyone on it. The problem with wireless isn’t the maximum theoretical speeds but the scalability and bandwidth problems when more people get on it. If you put the whole nation on wireless you might as well go back to dialup. This is a major technological hurdle that will not be solved easily.
      The NBN has the scalability and bandwidth to handle 22million people a lot better than wireless technology and it always will. That’s why you don’t hear major wireless providers spruiking wireless as the best alternative because it’s not and never will be. Sure it’s great but it’s just not viable for ultra high speed applications that are vital for the future such as in E-health, business and education.

    • Also,
      you’ve got to be kidding me that Liberal is the lesser of 2 evils?
      1. Have you seen or heard the leader of the Liberal party?
      2. The guy and the party has no idea about the economy and if you think they do you need to do some more reading
      3. Their health policy (except for their mental healthy policy) is ridiculous
      I could go on but i’d really like to know what you mean by lesser evil? What makes them less evil? Seriously? I have a lot of trouble even contemplating how anyone thinks they’re less evil?

      I can understand if you want to vote for them cos they’re gonna do something that will directly benefit you, because that is pretty much the liberal motto. Target policies that benefit the individual which apparently benefits society as a whole. But really…. a lesser evil? What, than the devil?

  • No way. NBN has scalability. About time Telstra was broken. The net is as important to business and consumers as power and water. NBN will reduce the bottleneck and makes business more competitive and give consumers more bang for their buck.

    Libs are no longer libs – they are conservatives and want to give competitive advantage away to entrenched oligopoly type firms.

    I’m all for competition – NBN.

  • Neither proposal has mentioned affordability. Although I suspect although a NBN will cost more in taxes, the monthly usage charges for such a service will be much cheaper, than having to rely on a much more expensive wireless/3g service..

    But Libs are generally more cashed up, so paying thru the nose for basic internet doesn’t take food from their table.

  • I said this over at Gizmodo – The Libs plan is like polishing a turd – it might look like shiny and new but in the end you have to realise in the end all you have is a piece of shit.

  • Rubbish. Tendering for building the backbone which will no doubt go to Telstra and reinforce their monopoly, guaranteeing a “peak” 12 Mbps, lower even than existing ADSL services. This policy may have been adequate in 2000, but to build it in 2010 is the equivalent of a coal-fired power station. Dinosaur thinking.

    Even more ingenuous: a “national broadband database”? have the Liberals never seen Whirpool.net.au?

  • It’s rubbish. I have been a lifelong Lib and this frustrates the hell out of me. The Labor plan is visionary and prepares us for a solid digital economy future. With developments in optical switching 100Mbit/sec is just the beginning and multiple Gbp/s is achievable. For the Libs to offer 12Mbit is a joke! I know Mr Abbott disagrees but I really do see this in the same light as previous governments investing in telephone, road and rail. I’m not sure I can stomach another 3 years of Labor infighting and waste – but this is such an important nation building exercise I may have to vote for them. Shame they wasted so much on the BER!

  • Labor: I like their NBN, hate their filter (although it’s very unlikely to pass the senate now), and don’t agree that the NBN should be privatised once construction is complete.

    Liberal: I find their broadband policy inadequate, and I don’t agree that the broadband infrastructure should be handled entirely by the private sector, but I agree with their approach to filtering.

    Greens: They back Labor’s NBN, oppose Labor’s filter, and believe the NBN should remain in public hands, which I agree with on all counts.

    A snippet on my thoughts.

  • It’s an unimaginative joke. Their only real argument is that their plan is the cheapest they could find. It would be like your kid’s high school calling you up to say that they’re halving your school fees because they found a dirt cheap teacher. He might not know very much but he’ll get your kids over the line and that should be enough.

    Brilliant. Agree with Peter R., Greens have it.

  • There is no way that a combination of wireless, DSL and cable is a ‘policy’, it’s just an extension of what we have now!
    Wireless cannot deliver on a mass scale, once people start using it frequently, it just won’t handle the traffic.
    DSL is using, in some cases, cable that is over 50 years old, and we expect this to supply fast internet?
    An NBN is the only way we can guarantee we will stay a competitive nation on the world market, doing something because it’s ‘cheaper’ is just ridiculous when it comes to major infrastructure.
    Would we have liked electricity to come to ‘most’ households, or some to get less power?
    The NBN construction is the next ‘electricity’, we can’t leave it in the hands of the Liberals.

  • Clearly all those that speak against the NBN live in the “Big Smoke” where BB options are many, they clearly are not stuck on Telstra’s lame 8000/364 that has trouble streaming a Youtube video let alone something like iView Hulu or BBC iPlayer.

  • The fibre NBN will future proof Australia by providing a fibre backbone. The end cost will likely be less than the $42b because of access to telstra equipment (or more importantly, trenches).

    The coatiliton proposal seems no different to doing nothing. Apart from offering telcos incentives for providing better services, which is unlikely to help anyone but rural communities that do not have access to ADSL.

    HFC is shared bandwidth, once you use it, you understand that your maximum speed is irrelevant when you struggle to get google up during peak times.
    Wireless has high latency and doesn’t come anywhere near theoretical bandwidths.
    DSL will reach it’s limitations soon enough, and has limited rollout due to exchange capacities.

    Fibre to each home is the way to put Australia ahead of the pack. Regardless of the technology used the with fibre, if an upgrade is require in the future, the cost of replacing hardware on each end of a cable is minuscule compared to laying the cable itself.

    Australia is in a healthy economic position, why are we so worried about getting into debt? I’m sure a lot of people here are happy to take on loans and mortgages despite to GFC because they are in a healthy financial position. I’m sure a country with a AAA credit rating can handle an investment of this scale.

    We, as taxpayers have already contributed a significant amount to the tender process, the initial contracts and the NBN Co., the coalition is guaranteed to waste this if the cancel the NBN plan. I’d really like it it governments actually looked ahead of 4 years and saw how much the future will rely on broadband. We have to spend it eventually, why not now?

  • All the supporters of Wireless internet seem to forget one simple thing. The more users on it the slower it gets! FACT!

    Every tried to get wireless internet at things like the Grand Prix? You cannot. And they roll out extra towers and base stations to help and you still cannot get enough.

  • The market should decide. That way resources are efficiently allocated and not wasted. Technology always moves faster than policy. There are more serious problems we face than wasting 40 billion on technology we already have. Both parties addicted to deficits and spending and telling people how to run their lives. Our freedoms are under attack. We should reject both parties and vote for small government.

  • What sort of cobbled-together electronic pus is this “policy”?

    Embarrassingly inadequate, under-thought and ill-conceived…

    And to those who would prefer no NBN to one with filtering – use your brain and consider the following;
    The filter has no bipartisan support, so it’s not going ahead anyway.
    Even so, the filter could be thrown out at any time at the flick of a switch.

    Why forgo the greatest infrastructure project in recent times for something that is so transient? This opportunity to build the NBN may never be revisited…think twice before dumping it!

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