The NBN has turned into a complete farce. What was once the dream of an Australian-wide, high-speed network is now anything but. Today Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull discussed the strategic review into the NBN progress he commissioned after being elected in September. The result is a ugly, bloody mess.
The now Coalition powered, NBNCo would now like us to refer to the NBN as MTM, which stands for multi-technology model. This refers to the mixture of technologies used for the Coalition’s solution 24% of FTTP, 41% on FTTN, 28% on HFC.
The review (PDF) states that just 22% of premises would have access to 25Mbps by 2016 under the FTTP plan, while the MTM strategy would see that number at 43%. This is substantially different to the election promise from Turnbull who sold voters on the 25Mbps minimum download speeds to all Australians by the end of 2016. It would take until calendar year 2020 for 25Mbps download speeds to reach 98-100% of Australians, some 4 years after the promised timeline. Of course the upload speeds are not even mentioned.
Only 57% would have had access to 50Mbps by 2019, but the Coalition claims they could get to 91% by 2019. What the report doesn’t show is how long and how much it’ll take to get 1Gbps speeds on the Coalition’s plan, they reason is simple, we won’t be.
Just remember what was on offer with Labor’s plan. It was the rollout of Fibre-to-the-premises to 93% of premises. There’s no doubt the project had issues and may well have taken longer than planned as the construction contractors struggled to skill up the workforce required for such an aggressive rollout. That doesn’t mean there was a problem with the technology chosen, just the methods used to roll it out. Time can be a variable that blows out without necessarily impacting the cost.
Turnbull said that the strategic review indicates that building it once, building with fibre is not the best economic approach. He claims there’s evidence to suggest that building a MTM network now and replacing it with a FTTP would still be cheaper, even if that replacement happened in 5 years time. It’s hard to see this as anything more than spin, this can’t possibly be correct given the cost of MTM model, plus the FTTP would be well in excess of $100 Billion dollars. Sure over time the cost of fibre will go down, but wages required for capital works will increase over that period.
Labor’s response in parliament was from Jason Claire, who says the estimates of maintaining the copper network, was as high as $600-900 Million dollars each and every year. He argued that taking that money and investing it into a fibre network would be a far better use for those funds. He also highlighted that in the shadow of Holden’s announcement, it indicates that the jobs of tomorrow are not in areas of manual labor, but the jobs of the future are by skilled technology workers.
Just remember Australia, you voted for the Coalition, or at least a majority did and they now have the power to run this project as they see fit. The biggest disappointment of the NBN is that we’re now not looking at a scenario where the internet speeds you receive were limited simply by what you wanted to pay, but still limited by the technology coming into your house or business.
You can read more detail over at ZDnet, where Josh Taylor does a great job of presenting the facts, despite the spin we heard today.