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The $3.5 billion investment in the NBN is not an upgrade

By Laurie Patton

The Coalition has announced that a further $3.5 billion will be poured into the NBN. But, don’t get it twisted, this is not an upgrade.

In the end, it was inevitable. The government couldn’t risk heading into another election with the NBN in the mess that has resulted from Tony Abbott’s fateful instruction to his communications minister Malcolm Turnbull to ‘demolish’ Labor’s state-of-the-art fibre model.

With millions of Australians struggling with slow and unreliable Internet connections – especially people in highly contestable rural seats held by increasingly nervous National Party MP’s – current communications minister Paul Fletcher has finally hoisted the white flag.

NBN Co will now spend $3.5 billion replacing inferior connections with the fibre they should have had from the start.

Of course in all likelihood, this will blow out (perhaps to more than $5 billion). After all, Turnbull’s so-called multi-technology mix model was supposed to be built for under $30 billion but now sits on the books at well over $50 billion. This includes a $20 billion-plus debt to the government needed just to complete the dud network we have now.



To be fair to Mr Turnbull, he took advice from a few of his ‘techie’ mates who should have known better. He also relied on the communications department who should have warned him that Telstra’s copper network had been let run down for years in anticipation (by Telstra) that it would be replaced with fibre.

Don’t let anyone tell you this is just an upgrade, or that it was planned from the start. Most of the FTTN technology out in the field will be redundant and will have to be junked.


The other flaw in the MTM version was the decision to use old pay television cables. The entire Optus network had to be abandoned and it’s costing a bomb to remediate large sections of the Telstra/Foxtel cabling.

Curiously, we are now told that NBN Co can roll out fibre for less than half the costing they’ve used in every financial report since 2013 to justify using copper.

This is a total surrender and a complete repudiation of the Abbott/Turnbull folly.

We’ve spent billions of dollars on a dud technology that has left a third of the country behind in a digitally-enabled world.

And don’t let anyone tell you this is just an upgrade, or that it was planned from the start. Most of the FTTN technology out in the field will be redundant and will have to be junked.

Paul Fletcher is to be congratulated for having the courage to admit the mistakes of his predecessors. Stephen Conroy and Kevin Rudd have been vindicated.

Access to technology and ‘digital literacy’ are two of the most critical issues confronting us in the digitally-enabled 21st Century.

During the Coronavirus crisis, many more people have become accustomed to working from home. Predictions are this phenomenon will continue long after we return to a ‘new normal’. What’s more, real estate experts are now predicting a technology-led increase in decentralisation as many more companies and their employees realise that they don’t need to operate from overcrowded and expressive capital cities.

Over in New Zealand (where they persisted with fibre) they found ways to reduce their per premises installation cost by around 40 per cent. The same would have occurred here. Chorus NZ (the equivalent of NBN Co) is already delivering gigabit speeds to many of its customers.

Thanks to petty politics we’ve just wasted the better part of a decade. As I’ve been saying for more than five years now, we need #BetterBroadband!”


This article was originally published The Big Smoke.

Laurie Patton (AKA “The Lucky General”) is a former journalist and media executive. He’s been a prominent advocate for #BetterBroadband as a tool for maximising the benefits of a digitally-enabled world, and decentralisation as a means of providing more affordable housing and creating more liveable communities. His personal blog is theluckygeneral.biz. His posts are frequently re-published and he is often interviewed on radio and television.

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  1. Jack Cade

    We are the very image of a banana republic. A cabbage as a PM, a turnip as a treasurer, a rancid potato running our national security system, and enough vegetables in the parliament to feed the entire country.

  2. Alc

    Fibre to the node, abolition of a carbon tax, only two examples of an inefficient mob disregarding pertinent policies benefiting the majority, if not all purely for the sake of their parochial misguided political positioning. Right from the top, anyone who professes that Brian Houston is their mentor has profound very serious problems. This “ faith” obviously influences government decision making, belying the premise of separation of church and state. The Labour Party front runners are impressive in the main, but they may have to look soon at Albanese, who does not appear to be cutting through. Might be time for a change soon, to give the new leader time to put their stamp on the political scene.

  3. ajogrady

    5G is the future and the business sector has finally figured out that 5G will not work with any form of copper in the network as the delivery is done through photonics. This was widely reported that L/NP mix and match NBN would be a lemon and now the big question is what are the going to do with 50,000 kilometers of copper wiring that taxpayers bought and is now redundant. As usual under their masterful and expert dereliction of duty and their corrupt guiding influences the L/NP, with their usual ability to disregard any practical use of due diligence or forward planning, has Australia destined to become a major economic backwater and an internationally recognised pariah state.
    Scotty from marketing,the periferous penticostalot Pinocchio, with his conga line of corrupt theives and con artists masquerading as a government are doing what they do best, deceiving and destroying gullible Australians lives and living standards while they funnel taxpayers monies into the pockets of L/NP donors who mostly do not pay taxes. Corruption 101.
    Australians keep voting for the party that does not represent or respect them. A party that is an insult to Democracy and an embarrassment to good governance. A party that is built on nepotism and corruption. A party that is big on rhetoric but small on achievement. A party that has overseen the collapse of Australian living standards. A party that has been the architects of the most failed policies in Australian history. A party that has decimated the economy and the emvironment. There has been enough evidence in the public arena for many many years that the L/NP are a criminally corrupt cabal of foot soldiers for big business. The fact that the L/NP shake hands with devils and turn their backs on angels is indisputable. Greed and corruption is their religion. Lies and distortion is their game. The L/NP are a parasitic pox on good honest hard working Australians. “1984” was written as a warning … not as an instruction manual for the L/NP.

  4. New England Cocky

    Well, I think both Jack Cade and ajogrady have both said it all and more fluently than I am able to do. Thanks guys!!

  5. pierre wilkinson

    and where are the Labor politicians decrying this for the massive backflip it represents?
    and the MSM calling out the waste and incompetence in the process of ignoring the science?


  6. Kronomex

    Jack CadeSeptember 24, 2020 at 1:19 pm
    We are the very image of a banana republic. A cabbage as a PM, a turnip as a treasurer, a rancid potato running our national security system, and enough vegetables in the parliament to feed the entire country.

    Agh, all I can see is a horrible image of 25 million odd people with severe food poisoning.

  7. Al

    ajogrady, are you sure about copper not being able to handle 5G frequencies?

    From Dr Tim Schoechle’s work ‘Reinventing Wires’:
    “Why has the Internet been growing in an inefficient, insufficient, and unsustainable direction? Is wireless access being oversold? Why are existing copper phone lines being abandoned when current protocols allow them to deliver data at gigabit speed?
    Buried across North America are large networks of copper wire and state-of-the-art optical fiber that provide the bedrock for a health-safe national communication system of the future. For too long we have been misled, turned astray by corporate propaganda, by compromised politicians and by our own technical ignorance into accepting inferior, problem-ridden and expensive wireless systems. Importantly, wireless systems also have negative economies for speed, such that adding speed becomes progressively more expensive, which then requires more spectrum and cell sites.”

    Wireless 5G was designed with IoT / AI in mind, not humans, and it’s going to give the average Aussie a sway of health problems over time. The latest iteration of radio-frequency communication, 5G will just add to an already heavy toxic environment (2G, 3G, 4G). Current levels of non-ionizing radiation are over a billion times that of natural background. This however is good news for Big Pharma who will be asked to repair bodies in the not too distant future while the ‘white coats’ will walk around scratching their heads saying ‘we don’t understand what is happening’. Their lack of understanding is by design as medical colleges do not teach the effects of EMF on human biology as a core subject.
    So, why don’t the Heads of Medical Colleges know this simple fact? Or do they?

  8. ajogrady

    The prime minister and his ministers have either been corrupt, criminal, delinquent or missing in action in the performance of their ministerial duties or in Scott Morrison case he has managed all of the above with no shame or any sign of a conscience.

  9. ajogrady

    This is not wireless as the bandwidths are to small. Photonics is the delivery system for fixed 5G or in simple terms light travelling through fibre optics. Light will not travel down or through copper. It is false to think that copper can operate in on a fixed 5G network.

  10. Matters Not

    Whom to believe? Seems to me that ajogrady persuades with: 5G will not work with any form of copper pointing out that:

    Photonics is the delivery system for fixed 5G or in simple terms light travelling through fibre optics. Light will not travel down or through copper.

    One assumes ajogrady knows what he is talking about and chooses his words carefully but in the post above he also speaks of: 50,000 kilometers of copper wiring that taxpayers bought. So if taxpayers bought lots of copper wire, when, how and why did they do that? Did the taxpayers put it out for tender? Were all taxpayers consulted? Or is it the case that taxpayers didn’t buy anything? That government (broadly defined) did the buying using what was once money owned by taxpayers but paid to government under legal duress? etc. etc.

    As for 5G:

    going to give the average Aussie a sway of health problems over time.

    Perhaps there’s a link to a credible source (someone who works in the medical field)? Yes there’s lots of talk, bullshit etc which gives social media a bad name so a few links would be in order. Here’s one from me.

    Opponents of 5G have made all sorts of alarming claims. It’s killing birds! It’s a weapon used by the military! It’s going to trigger a cancer epidemic!

    None of these claims are particularly plausible, and most of them are downright far-fetched.

    Yep – downright far-fetched


  11. Tim Jefferson


    Wireless (mobile) broadband will never replace fibre. It’s a shared medium, i.e. the more people on it at once, the slower it becomes. It is expensive, and don’t forget about the data caps.

  12. Johnyperth

    I live in Victoria Park in Perth.
    I have got fiber to the unit that I live in.
    One of my two sisters who lives in Glenroy in Melbourne and Glenroy has just gone on to the NBN and she has told me that everybody in her street has nothing but problems with drop outs etc.
    A mate of mine who lives in Alfred Cove in Perth has also just gone on to the NBN.
    Nothing but problems.
    As an example if somebody uses the internet, then, their home line phone can’t be used as well as mini iPods!!
    Alfred Cove is part of the so called “blue ribbon” in Perth.
    Two states with the same problem.
    So, who do we blame?
    Abbot or Turnbull?
    Abbot want to destroy the Labor NBN!!
    He would had to consult Turnbull for a so called cheaper NBN so he decided on Turnbull’s vision.
    Look at the mess the NBN is now in!!

  13. Jak Sayla

    Has anyone asked Turnbull for comment?

  14. New England Cocky

    @Johnyperth: My experiences with Telstra.

    1) 1998-99. Telstra Internet connected via copper telephone line scheduled for uncompleted upgrade to fibre in 1993. On a good day we would get 1kps….. when it worked. Upgraded to satellite ASAP and we were only about 10km from Armidale Telstra tower.

    2) 2004 Moree NSW. Clear line of sight to Telstra tower. The speed was about 5kps on Telstra copper wire. Agricultural people still voted for Nazional$.

    3) Armidale 2010, got the first installation of original Labor high speed Internet, 100kps on fibre FTTP. New England voted Independent Tony Windsor.

    2013 Toxic RAbbott had Muddles Turdball construct a very inferior mixed mess slow speed Internet FTTN that the present Scummo mob are now replacing with the 2010 Labor model at a cost estimated today at $3 BILLION but mostly likely to increase considerably by completion. New England voted Barnyard Joke, the amoral, adulterous, alcoholic bigoted, corrupt, deceptive, egotistical, fraud, misogynist representative of the Nazional$ in New England.

    Guess which political party IS NOT the best financial manager of the Australian national economy.

  15. Al

    MN, is this good enough? 1971 Naval Medical Research Insititute study, 106 pages, 2300 references:
    Chapter #1 is a 5 page listing of bio-effects, it mentions ‘headaches’ twice. However, there’s another 130+ bio-effects.
    Apparently, authorities here cannot find any health dangers associated with non-ionizing radiation. Pigs.

    Re your link to Dr Karl, he makes a suitable presenter for ToddlerVision but his knowledge about RF/EMF is a non-event.
    For those looking for the latest advice on trends in Hawaiian shirts, well that’s another story.

  16. Matters Not

    Al – thanks for the link – which is to a compilation of ‘research’ (of varying quality), now 50 YEARS old (yes that time period is worth shouting about). Lots of (scientific) water under the metaphorical bridge since then. You might be pleased to know that there’s been even more alarm bells over those intervening years (the pressure to publish being now overwhelming) but the informed scientific opinion remains positive. 5G does not penetrate much at all which is actually one of its downsides – technically speaking.

    That’s why Kruszelnicki reported as he did. His credibility depends on accurate reporting and not omnibus compilations including the rats and mice end of what is published. (As an aside, it’s a pity you are distracted by irrelevancies such as clothing worn (or not).)

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