The Coalition have finally announced their long awaited NBN policy. Opposition leader Tony Abbott and shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband, Malcolm Turnbull announced that their FTTN network would cost $29.5 Billion (inc $20.4 Billion in cap ex.) and be completed in 2019.
This equates to around $17 Billion dollars cheaper in capital expenditure than the Labor plan, but what is being delivered is also dramatically less. Customers can expect speeds of at least 25Mbps down with up to 100Mbps by the end of 2016, but most would receive around 50Mbps. Keep in mind that using copper networks speeds are still susceptible to local congestion, quality of cabling and distance from the exchange.
The Labor FTTN rollout will deliver 100Mbps plans initially with the speed of light technology offering future capability of 1Gbps and beyond. Given we are unlikely to ever get another chance at rolling out a National Broadband Network, it seems a strange choice to implement a solution that doesn’t increase much needed upload speeds and be future-proof.
Tony Abbott announced a 60-day review, an audit, and an independent study including a cost benefit analysis, with no timeline for the last two. Turnbull says the Coalition will deliver “Very fast broadband, sooner and cheaper than Labor”.
During Q&A at the press conference, the issue of longevity came up and Turnbull had an amazing response. He said that the network option of FTTN could be on the table in the future. That immediately invalidates the costing of the Coalition’s NBN plan. It sets up the possibility of going back to tax payers in the future for the ‘real’ NBN rollout.
They also confirmed under the Coalition NBN plan that the network would be privatised, but said it would only happen once it’s in a state to sell, giving no fixed timelines.
There’s plenty of technical reasons why FTTP is better than FTTN, but really the question before voters is do you want the ultimate solution for $43 billion, or a slight upgrade for $30 Billion. The time frame difference for completion of 2 years is not a substantial difference given the number of people who would fall into that timeframe would be a minor precent.
The Coalition have engaged in some pretty wild speculation around the real cost of the Labor NBN, putting the figure at around $90 Billion and suggest a 2021 end date. It seems these are lacking any trace of evidence so should be weighted appropriately.
The debate online is overwhelmingly supportive of the current Labor FTTP NBN plan, so it’s unclear where the Coalition received it’s data that suggested Australian’s want a lesser solution. Turnbull has repeatedly suggested that we should simply match what other countries are doing, but I ask, why not not only match what the US and UK are offering and lead the way for once. We have the opportunity to be the envy of the world.
The biggest difference about this infrastructure investment compared to most government funding is that it will make money in the future rather than simply being a cost.
The official Coalition detail on their NBN policy is available at http://www.liberal.org.au/fast-affordable-sooner-coalition%E2%80%99s-plan-better-nbn