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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