Opinion: Labor’s NBN Policy Shows It Is Learning From The Coalition's Past Mistakes

Labor’s broadband plan includes few surprises and fulfils Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s commitment to responsibly increase the construction of fibre to the premises (FTTP). At the same time, it would ensure the completion of the National Broadband Network (NBN) is not delayed further. It also shows the party has listened to the concerns of pundits and factored in their feedback when they developed the NBN policy.

Mark A Gregory is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering at RMIT University

It shifts the focus back to providing Australia with broadband infrastructure that would slowly arrest the country’s slide in the global broadband rankings. Importantly, this would help business compete in the global digital economy.

Under Labor’s broadband plan, NBN Co would connect an additional two million premises to the NBN with FTTP rather than the technically inferior fibre to the node (FTTN). Existing contracts for hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) remediation, upgrades and new construction would continue under Labor.

If elected, then according to Labor’s projections, by the time the NBN is completed in June 2022, connections to the NBN would include 21% FTTN, 39% FTTP, 34% HFC and 8% fixed wireless and satellite.

The public equity contribution to the NBN remains capped at A$29.5 billion and the total funding is capped at A$57 billion under Labor’s plan. This is A$1 billion more than NBN Co’s current projections.

Good For Business And Consumers

An all-fibre-access network is vital for business to compete in the global digital economy.

Labor has listened to the growing criticism that Australia has retreated from the “gigabit race”, where nations are competing to build superior broadband networks using the latest FTTP technology to support new business opportunities and innovation.

Labor has also listened to consumers who want the NBN rollout to be completed as soon as possible and preferably with the quality and reliability of FTTP.

There is a correlation between broadband quality, speed and capacity and the introduction of new business opportunities and innovation.

The entry of Netflix and other video-streaming services into the Australian market has brought about rapid growth in streaming services and a corresponding increase in data usage. This, in turn, increases revenue for service providers.

New high-bandwidth education, health, eGovernment and entertainment services, including immersive virtual reality, are being developed. These will add to the demand for gigabit broadband connections and as more consumers shift to using cloud services, the demand for faster upload speeds is increasing.

The Coalition’s Plan

The key criticism of the Coalition’s broadband plan centres on the government’s failure to listen to Australian technology experts. In late 2013 and early 2014, it carried out seven reviews and audits by hand-picked teams, including consultants from Europe. The reviews went to considerable effort to provide justification for the shift to the inferior multi-technology-mix approach.

The Coalition government under Tony Abbott ignored Australian broadband technology experts. Fundamental data used in the reviews and audits have been found to be questionable, if not way off the mark.

For example, the predicted download speed figures required by consumers in 2025 that underpin the 2014 NBN cost-benefit analysis are already lower than the connection speeds available in many countries today. The growth in demand for higher connection speeds and increased capacity is not expected to abate.

The Coalition’s broadband plan has unravelled over the past two years. Significant time and cost blowouts have occurred. And, in an embarrassing move, Turnbull’s 2013 broadband plan has been removed from the Liberal Party website.

The NBN is now mentioned as part of the Liberal’s infrastructure policy. Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has criticised Labor’s plan, saying the Coalition would have “every home and business in Australia” connected to the NBN by 2020, two years ahead of Labor.

Infrastructure Australia Review

In an effort to address a range of issues, Labor has announced it would commission Infrastructure Australia to investigate and provide a report that includes options on how to proceed.

The independent review would take into account the views of technology experts, consumer groups, business and the telecommunications industry.

As well as considering questions about FTTN and HFC, Infrastructure Australia would be able to consider and prioritise infrastructure needs. This includes a third NBN satellite, increased fibre capacity in regional and remote areas, and the opportunity for NBN Co to roll out a wholesale wi-fi network.

Malcolm Turnbull was the key driver of the Coalition’s NBN plan. It is time for him to look again at the time and cost blowouts that occurred during his time as the minister for communications and to consider seeking a bipartisan position with Labor.

It is vital for future jobs that Australia builds internationally competitive broadband infrastructure that will return the country to the upper echelon of global rankings. We need to do this within the next decade.

Labor’s NBN plan is positive, forward-looking and takes a pragmatic approach to ramping up the construction of FTTP, ceasing construction of FTTN and ensuring the NBN is completed with fiscal restraint and without further delay. The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation


Comments

    It would be nice if Lifehacker got out of politics. The heading is an opinion. The conversation is very often a place for political commentary. Lifehacker is meant to be something else isn't it.

      Hi woofwoof,

      Thank you for the feedback. We really do appreciate these kinds of comments as we look to improve the content on Lifehacker.

      We generally don't cover politics unless it's something that relates to readers' wallets and the NBN. Yes, this is an opinion piece and does speak positively about Labor's NBN plan but it is written in a way that is not over-the-top. I have added "opinion" into the headline to minimise confusion.

      We do and will continue to review crossposts from The Conversation to ensure that they are relevant to readers' interests.

      Hope this helps.

      Kind Regards,

      Spandas

        Hi Spandas,

        I appreciate your motivations for re-posting the article. Whilst it is sometimes amusing to read the banter that ensues from any NBN post, if you read too many you quickly see the political polarisation of the submissions. This article is terribly biased from a political perspective. One may argue about things that the government have done wrong but there is not a single positive thing said about the government's policy or management. Therefore it cannot be considered balanced, and is clearly a proponent of Labor's policies. It detracts enormously from the site both from the perspective of it being apolitical but also the tone of the discussion it generates.

        BTW: I like the articles you write yourself. :)

      Its not an opinion, Its a cold hard fact. LNP NBN is a POS. Them be the facts. And the reason there has not been anything positive said about the LNP is because they have not done anything positive, Another fact.

      https://nbnmyths.wordpress.com/why-not-fttn/

      Last edited 17/06/16 11:25 pm

    Out of curiosity - what is Lifehackers mission these days. It isn't immediately obvious to me why some articles are on this site rather than Giz?

      If you look at the Lifehacker banner at the top of the story, there are three menu items right below it - Life, Work, and IT Pro. Thats the clue to what Lifehacker is about, and each of those has sub elements to them that you can see by hovering over the menu item.

      This falls into the IT Pro area, specifically the deployment sub field.

      Most expect Lifehacker to be less technical (me included) and be more the Life and work side of things, with this sort of thing to typically fall under Giz's banner, but there IS crossover between the sites in various areas. The NBN is one of them.

      Hi thom,

      We're predominantly an advice based website with a tech focus but we also report on broader topics that we know our readers are interested in. Sometimes the content does fit on Gizmodo as well (and vice versa). Every now and then we do run reader surveys to decide on what topics we cover. Occasionally we publish articles to gauge interest in a particular area and if we see that people aren't interested in reading them we usually scrap it.

      Lifehacker is constantly evolving. I would like to stress that we do care about what you guys want. Constructive comments are invaluable to the growth of this website so keep them coming :)

      Cheers,

      Spandas

        Thanks Spandas! I feel like a bit of an idiot - I've been reading the site for years and never picked up on the IT slant.

        Incidentally - I don't have any problem like this. You guys can be as political as you want as long as the reporting remains accurate!

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