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The NBN: Worth voting for

We’ve heard every argument for and against the National Broadband Network (NBN) from the moment it was launched. It’s fairly blatant that those who oppose it do so for political reasons, whereas the most vocal support in favour of it comes from industry experts down to just about everyone who knows how to turn on a computer. That’s an argument that has been debated fiercely since the launch of the Liberal Party’s broadband plan – considered by everyone bar Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull to be a dud – but with the strong likelihood of an Abbott victory in September we look like inheriting a dud, in more ways than one.

This speech in Parliament by Independent MP Rob Oakeshott on 19 June represents one of the best arguments I’ve heard in favour of keeping the NBN plan rolled out by the Labor Government. His message no doubt fell on deaf ears in the Press Gallery. We in the independent media are not so deaf, so here is Oakeshott’s speech:

There is a view and mythology that loiters in Australia and in the corridors of this place, that the National Broadband Network build is some sort of expensive luxury spend. The urgency of this debate today, proved by a laugh received from a parliamentary colleague, is that this is an urgent, essential item and an investment with a rate of return for the Australian taxpayer. I raise it as a matter of public importance today, not just to make that point again but based on the most respected and most accurate report that comes out on a triennial basis, known as the Cisco Visual Networking Index. That is the global guidance for all governments around the world on global intranet traffic and what is happening with regard to the uptake and movement of data.

This is the most respected and the most accurate index that we have internationally. It normally errs on the conservative side, and it is indicating in its most recent report that we in Australia, regardless of the policy options on the table, have a problem of congestion that will emerge in the next five years. There is no question that by 2016 our network, if we continue to rely on copper, will be overwhelmed. The idea, the analogy, of pushing a pumpkin down a hosepipe has to start being the driver of policy solutions from all parties in this chamber. That is why this is urgent. This is not some long-term vision splendid and splash of money; there is an urgency about building this now to deal with the exponential growth in data that has been exposed by the most respected and accurate global index that we can get our hands on.

I am not lining up just one side of this parliament. This is going to be an issue for all policy. We should have addressed a failed, redundant, waterlogged, asbestos-riddled network a long time ago. By rolling out the NBN as per the corporate plan and the shareholder minister’s letter we are going to have transition issues on the back end of a 10-year deal, as exposed by this VNI—this virtual networking index from Cisco, the most respected index that we can get our hands on. We will have issues with transition on the back half of the current corporate plan and of congestion in communities which are not yet on the rollout list. That should not be denied and there should be a consideration from the existing corporate plan and NBN Co., right now, on those issues of transition and congestion.

The answer is not to go backwards. The answer is not to continue to rely on copper in any form. That is why this most recent information from the global index really is a call for the Liberal and National parties to reconsider their position on this last-mile copper-to-the-node policy; to look at the exponential growth that is happening in global internet traffic and reconsider relying on copper. That is quote after quote, evidence after evidence, that that policy simply will not work.

The vice president of Cisco global technology, a gentleman called Dr Robert Pepper, currently sits on the board of the Federal Communications Commission of the USA and its UK equivalent, Ofcom. In these roles, he briefs governments and network operators from around the world on infrastructure and what to expect from future data requirements and modes of broadband usage based on the reality of traffic statistics and growth curves. He is an American; he has no dealings in Australia or with Australian politics whatsoever. This is what he said when releasing these most recent Cisco VNI figures. There are about eight items.

He has said that all roads point to the requirement of optic fibre being implemented deep into both wired and wireless networks. He does say the future is indeed wireless but it will be mostly wi-fi and not 4G, and he emphasises that this is complementary to a fixed-fibre network as the skeleton of the communications network in any country. He says that Australian mobile networks will soon have to join the US and the UK in the concept of offloading data onto local wi-fi networks in order to avoid congestion, which is the emerging issue of our failing communications network. He said that, as an example, a 4G mobile user—and there are many in this room—uses 28 times more data than a 3G user. That is part of the lead-in to this exponential growth in data demand. He says that the new wireless spectrum needs to be opened up as quickly as possible. I would say that is urgent to cope with the growth that we are seeing. He says that as much wireless traffic as possible needs to be seamlessly offloaded onto the wired networks to avoid congestion. Again, this is the emerging issue of this moment. He also says there is a huge increase in requirement for low-latency data transfer and high upload speeds. People have been listening to this issue of download speeds.

The issue that has been identified by the experts on global internet traffic is not download speeds; it is upload speeds that are the political and policy issue of the moment. He also said—again, not knowing anything much about Australian politics—that fibre needs to be very nearby every internet connection, whether wired or wireless. Here is the killer blow. Again, talking about internet trends generally—not just in Australia, but really making this point about last-mile copper—he has said that fibre-to-the-node infrastructure which relies on a last-mile premises connection using Australia’s current copper infrastructure—its current HFC networks—or fixed 4G-like wireless will not have the symmetry, the contention ratio, the bandwidth or the latency to keep up with demand by 2016. He makes that point, but under the coalition’s policy within four years the network will be overwhelmed. He makes the point that it will be overwhelmed before it is complete.

That is why this is urgent before this chamber. We have three months before a very significant decision will be made at the ballot box, on a policy difference in how we build our communications technology for this country. There is a corporate plan in place and a shareholder minister’s letter that is currently delivering the rollout. It has a rate of return of over seven per cent. It delivers on telecommunications industry separation, which is long overdue in Australia. It drives an upgrade of the pits and pipes that were identified only a fortnight ago as being absolutely rubbish. This corporate plan actually drives an upgrade of this network of pits and pipes that was not necessarily built by Telstra and maybe not by Telecom, but maybe even by PMG—a long, long time ago. It is rubbish infrastructure that needs to be upgraded before we get into the issues of speed, reliability, pricing and rate of return to the taxpayer.

It absolutely does my head in when I hear members of parliament, who should know better, in conversations with their communities trying to spread the fib that this is a $90 billion spend or even a spend at all. This has a rate of return on investment to the taxpayer. It is an investment, not a spend. It is not a luxury item; it is an essential service for the future of this country. If we do not do it, we are going to have congestion on our internet in this country like we have never seen before. And it is going to be an enormous problem in business and in all forms of communication: health, education, personal, entertainment, whatever. Congestion is going to be our issue from 2016 and beyond.

The current government plan at least tackles it on the back-end of its 10-year rollout. If we allow this last mile of copper to be the winner of the day we are going to set ourselves up as the country that wants to put pumpkins down a hosepipe, that wants to build a one-lane Sydney Harbour Bridge and all the analogies you can think of. What are we doing even having a policy debate on this when the most respected, the most accurate global indices are saying we are going to have exponential growth and are going to hit a zettabyte by 2016? I am scared someone is going to ask me what a zettabyte is. My only response is that it is a lot. And it is a lot more than what is happening now.

A zettabyte, I am told, is over 11 times more than all the internet traffic globally in 2008. That is the type of exponential growth we are seeing. I am told that in 2016 or 2017 alone—depending on who you want to listen to—the NBN will deliver as much if not more global internet traffic than all the years of internet traffic before it. That is the exponential growth. We are becoming more and more reliant on and are grabbing the opportunities that are provided by the internet in all aspects of our personal and business lives.

The best we have got is saying we need to build fibre as deep as we possibly can into the infrastructure. Why are we arguing the toss on what is as deep as we possibly can when we get a rate of return by building it to the home? It just does not make sense that we are still stuck in the bog of a political debate when this is the opportunity for some really good visionary nation building.

I know everyone in every pub talks about what this country should do and what this parliament should do. Why are we blinking? Why are we falling for some sort of argument of max speed of download below what will be the international average speed? Why do we choose to set ourselves up so that by 2016 we will only just be ahead of Africa on the average speeds that are being offered by the Liberal and Nationals parties? We will just be ahead of the Middle East and Africa. We will be rivalling South America but we will be blown out of the water by the US and Europe. Why as a first world country can we not demand better than that? Why are we choosing the African model of fibre to a node that is going to be overwhelmed before it is complete?

Yes, many think this is a waste of money. Yes, many think this is a luxury item that we plucked off some top shelf of luxury items of policy and do not understand why we are delivering an upgrade to a 60-year-old redundant network that is going to blow its lid in the next four years unless we upgrade it. I urge the government to consider all those issues of transition that in my view are not as explicitly dealt with in their corporate plan and by NBN Co. on the back-end of their 10-year rollout. Post-2016 is going to be a problem if the policy settings stay as they are.

I urge my friend at the table, the shadow minister, to really do more to drag your side from blowing up this NBN network, and I give you credit for doing that, but to drag it that last mile of copper and get it to the home. That is what delivers ubiquity, delivers the rate of return and delivers on the issue of congestion that is emerging quickly.

I agree with Rob Oakeshott. The National Broadband Network is worth voting for.

38 comments

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  1. girlseule

    The NBN is due to begin rolling out in my street in October. I’m worried with the election in September it will be put on hold. I reckon the internet was faster when I was living in Guatemala then it is at my house in Newcastle!

  2. Michael Taylor

    Reblogged this on Café Whispers.

  3. mark delmege

    using copper wire is like filling gas bottles.

  4. Fed up

    Well if one is to develop the north, NBN needs to be on the top of the list plus transport.

    I have never seen a argument yet, that explains why one should settle for second best, and in the long run, costlier scheme.

    I Imagine to get full benefit, one would have the ablate for high speeds at both ends, Yes, for those that send, and those that receive.

    It is said, as soon as the Turnbull lite is finish, some 18 months before the NBNCo time-frame, it will then immediately begin, going to the premise, that will be needed at that time.

    It will cost very little less in the short term. Will be more expensive to maintain, and will cost more to extend, In fact the money spent to get to that stage will be mostly wasted.

    Yes, a little cheaper in the short term. Must dearer in the long term.

    What is worse, it lets Telstra back into the game, as it is now, at the expense of other ISPs.

    As the PM said, do right, do it once.

    After all Telstra said over two decades ago that the copper was crapped out, and needed to be replace with fibre. If this occurred, we would be much further a head, than we are now.

    If Howard did not waste 19 attempts, the same is true.

    If Abbott gets in, I believe I will never see a decent scheme in my lifetime. My kids might also miss out.

    All because of a man, and his desire to wife out all that Labor has achieved. There is no other explanation that holds water.

    The choice is a mismatch number of connection options, that is as Strong as it’s weakest link, the crapped out copper wire or a simple fibre scheme that will meet the needs of this century, Will put us out in front, in the technology that is essential to survive in the Asian Century.

    This is the choice the volunteer will be making.

    Like the CEF, Gonski and I suspect NDIS, there will only be one chance.

    Now or never.

    It is not really about whether one hates Abbott or Gillard. It is about what we have to gain or lose.

    Do we invest in infrastructure and human capital for this century, or do we go back to the last century.

    Do we get conned in by fairy tales, that I have been hearing all my life for the top end, or do we stick with reality, what is essential, what is doable..

  5. Fed up

    I have on many occasion on ABC local,. on the Central Coast, the Gosford Chamber of Commerce, saying with excitement, they expect the NBN to save the city of Gosford. A place that has been in the doldrums for a decade or more.

    They believe they will be place, to introduce new industries, industries of the future.

    I do hope they are correct. The Gosford of my childhood was a bustling place, to see it now is depressing. The development of big shopping centres, has been it’s death smell..

    Sadly, for my area,I am last on the list, unless I sell up and move.

  6. horatio

    Has anyone seen Abbott use a computer in any form? Calling Turnbull ‘Mr Broadband’ at his policy launch says how out of his depth he is in this area.

  7. Möbius Ecko

    .”..considered by everyone bar Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull to be a dud.”

    I’ll correct one thing. Turnbull considers Abbott’s fraudband a dud, so this leaves Abbott and a few of his more anserine cronies alone in believing they have a good broadband plan.

    You only need look at the press interview with Abbott and Turnbull to plainly see Turnbull not only didn’t believe what he was selling, he despised selling it.

    Also Turnbull’s actions speak for themselves. Why would he twice invest in a technology and system he says is too expensive and unnecessary.

  8. Jenny Fallon

    Conspiracy theory anyone?

    This is so bleedin’ obvious I have struggled to work out the Coalition’s motives. How can Malcolm Turnbull, who shows some signs of recognition of the 21st century, all of a sudden start backing Fraudband and Direct Inaction?

    Does he realize that when people have to start actually comparing policies that they will say hang on….these guys have nothing? Does he suspect that Tony might actually lose the unloseable election?

    After all, if Tony wins then Malcolm can hand in the captain’s hat that is collecting dust in his wardrobe. But if/when Tony loses, Malcolm can step up to the plate and resume his rightful position as LOTO with a shot at the top job next time.

    It’s the only credible explanation for perpetuating this farce.

  9. Joy Cooper

    Well said, Rob Oakeshott. It is a disgrace that LNP MPs are actively promoting the lie that NBN Co will cost the taxpayers $90 billion when it won’t & will, in fact, deliver a return to the taxpayers on the actual $30 billion injection by the government. The already discredited substitute offered by the Coalition will be the one that will cost us heaps & only the wealthy will be able to afford the best service. As usual.

    People as a whole don’t understand what the NBN is all about. Its concept is so huge it is hard for them to get their heads around it so they give up & believe the untruths the Opposition spouts.constantly. All they really need to do is see how the mobile phone market has exploded. When we first acquired a mobile phone & gave up our landline in 1996 there were hardly any of them around. Now nearly everyone uses them. These all use net space. Has anyone notice at certain times of the day their internet becomes slower? We do & it is only going to get worse if the NBN is allowed to become a second rate infrastructure. Many of those in the Coalition are not tech savvy & haven’t the ability to even question their own party’s platform. They then happily spruik the lies without any fear they will be challenged by the complicit media who, in turn, fear they will become less relevant with NBN Co. .

  10. CMMC

    Off topic, but “Insiders” just started and I had to turn the TV off, they’re doing it again.

    Its like watching chimpanzees masturbate.

  11. Möbius Ecko

    Did the same CMMC.

    Cassidy put the entire blame of the speculation and dominance of it in the MSM headlines on the Labor Party. Click, switched off the TV.

  12. Roswell

    Is Insiders just an analysis if the stories made up by the media?

    It reminds me of a sketch on the Two Ronnies from long ago where they were cricket commentators. Rain had washed out play so instead they gave a ball by ball description on what might have happened if it hadn’t have rained.

  13. VOYAGER

    Labor and running any project is always very sus.
    Time , cost and performance probably their biggest failures on delivery.
    NBN is therefore under threat.

  14. Möbius Ecko

    Haha from a supporter of the most wasteful government in our history, Howard’s, and Howard who over blew and underperformed on so many projects and policies.

    The lover of a LOTO who runs the most expensive office in our history before he’s even PM promising he’s going to be expensive PM like no other. That doesn’t even get into the already known waste of fraudband, DAP, paid maternity leave, 70billion in unfunded liabilities, that is if you count waste to ordinary Australians, Abbott will be a windfall to the wealthy.

    Hypocrisy for all to see.

  15. rossleighbrisbane

    But isn’t the NBN spreading asbestos everywhere? Gee, that’s what I thought after reading “The Australian” a couple of weeks ago.

  16. rossleighbrisbane

    And CMCC watching “The Insiders” is not like watching “chimpanzees masturbate”. They only do it because they’re locked away and don’t have proper relationships and have to rely on what people feed them so they’re bored, but for us to watch it, just encourages them and improves their ratings. Watching chimps masturbate, on the other hand, doesn’t really cause any harm.

  17. Möbius Ecko

    What The Australian should have pointed out is that Telstra went to Abbott when he was in government seeking to remediate the asbestos pits but Abbott knocked it back.

  18. eleanawi

    The National Broadband Network is certainly worth voting for, but so are so many other policies, such as Gonski and NDIS.

    Is the VOYAGER having a change of heart? As I have said on my blog, we are mostly preaching to the converted. We need to work on MSM and constantly put them to shame. All my blogs from now on will be Open Letters, pointing out their failures, mistakes and in some cases down right lies.

    Letter of Complaint to the ABC
    http://alternativeviewstomsm.wordpress.com/2013/06/22/open-complaint-to-abc/

  19. Jenny Fallon

    We can’t afford the NBN. We need 30 billion to build 100 dams to stop drought, and floods and to provide hydro-electricity and food for the world. I await with baited breath their cost benefit analysis for their Northern Australia development plan which Barnaby Joyce describes as a “key policy” that they have been working on for over two years.

  20. turnleft2013

    I recently heard a discussion between old men in a local club bar, men in their 70s possibly older talking about the NBN. It is already being rolled out in their area, and they don’t understand the all the technology, but from what I heard they have a great grasp on most of it, and they know that they want it, for themselves, their grandchildren and great grandchildren, and they know that the Liberals plan is a joke. It’s not just for Gen Y and Gen Z, pre World War II oldies want it as well.

  21. Jenny Fallon

    Tony Windsor is an advocate and mentioned that if we can facilitate 20% of elderly people being able to stay in their homes for 1 extra year we will save billions in aged care in the future. The possibilities and applications are endless. We cannot even begin to envisage the benefits in the future as technology moves at such a rapid rate. Sadly Tony Abbott’s grasp of the technology only extands to downloading movies and playing video games. What a visionary leader he’d make.

  22. BAGMan

    Jenny F – would suggest putting all boat people on Facebook etc so they can stay home, then we could really make some savings.

  23. diannaart

    Thank you. Why was not Oakeshott’s NBN speech given wide publicity?

    (rhetorical question) I am grateful that this site exists.

  24. Jenny Fallon

    TONY WINDSOR: The Coalition has announced an alternative NBN policy that amounts to a return of the city/bush telecommunications divide.

    The main difference between the plans of the two parties is that Labor’s NBN is replacing the decaying old copper network with fibre optic cable, laid all the way to the premises (FTTP), while the Coalition alternative would lay fibre to the node (FTTN), and then use the copper network to travel the final distance to the home.

    The Coalition says their alternative would be cheaper (a total cost of around $30 billion compared to the NBN’s total cost of around $44 billion) and quicker to build (a finish date of 2019 compared to 2021).

    But broadband speeds would be about a quarter of that available on the NBN. While such speeds may suit many people today, what about tomorrow?

    Many of the NBN’s benefits would be lost. Take Aged Care for example. If the package of technologies enabled by high-speed broadband can keep 5% of elderly people in their homes for just one extra year, Australia could save $60 billion over ten years on aged care facilities ($4 billion a year in bed operating costs and $20 billion in capital costs). These savings alone would more than pay for the NBN.

    There are also questions about the cost under the Coalition plan of having to continue maintaining last century’s copper network, which has been estimated at $1 billion a year.

    The Coalition plan would abolish uniform wholesale pricing, which was a feature of my agreement with Labor at the formation of government in 2010. Uniform wholesale pricing means you pay the same price for the same broadband service, whether you live in Bourke or the Sydney CBD. So once again, under the Coalition alternative, country people would come off second-best.

    The Coalition’s Fibre to the Node version of the NBN would be overwhelmed within four years, according to internet traffic growth forecasts outlined by a respected global study.

    This lengthy and detailed article says Australia’s internet traffic is expected to increase four-fold between 2011 and 2016. This huge growth will require a network based on fibre, not copper.

    Wireless is part of our future – but largely to connect to nearby fibre networks that are capable of handling huge amounts of data.

    If the Coalition does win government in September, I hope they listen to technology experts and continue the rollout of the Fibre to the Premises NBN. Otherwise, Australia will miss out.

  25. Fed up

    Ironsides was a little, only a little better than usual. They did spend some time questioning the motives of Rudd.

    Yes, seem to come down on the side that says Rudd is nearing the competition of a three year campaign to get back at the PM. That he is no

    Slapped down the Age article. Did not accept the version of Rudd’s daughter and that famous night, that is on ch seven No one remember her being there.

    What I have noticed about Turnbull, over recent time, is his ability to lie with ease. Much of what he utters, is far from the truth. Shame to see what toxic fumes, that Abbott spread among his own followers.

    One wonders who is the worse, Abbott or Rudd. Both need to destroy, to win. Even in a boxing match, Queensberry rules apply. One is not allow to destroy their opponent.

    Some say we cannot afford NBNCo. Sorry to disagree, we cannot afford not to build it. It is not an expense, but investment, that is design to return all monies to the tax payer,.

    In spite of what Abbott and Turnbull says, it will not make once cent of difference to the budget bottom line.

    It is sad to hear, while that Avenue of Honour to fallen soldiers was dedicated yesterday, another name was being added to those r who lost their lives in Afghan.

    One has to ask, has it been worth it.

  26. Fed up

    We need 30 billion dams where the water will evaporate quicker than one can use it.

    Which will be the final death knell of the Murray/Darling river basin. Yes, all that water goes south, through that marvelous Channel country into our largest river complex.

    I suspect, if the north is to grow, the NBN might be the key to open the so called riches that some say, await us.

    Funny though, if the riches are there to be found, the likes of Gina would be investing their own billions.

    Funny, one wonders why that is not happening.

  27. Fed up

    Jenny, the one thing that the Opposition does not do, that is listening to experts, no matter what field they work in.

    Howard attacked political correctness and the black armband view of history.

    Abbott attacks experts.

  28. Fed up

    Sorry, I mean Insiders. Have to blame spell checker.

  29. Fed up

    For those who would rather spend the 30 billion in the north.

    .

    ………..The dream of establishing large-scale agriculture in Australia’s north has effectively been ended by a Federal Government-commissioned report.

    The Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce report says Australia’s north can only support around 60,000 hectares of agriculture – an area smaller than many farms.

    The report, which will be released today, acknowledges that while there is plenty of rain in the north, building new dams is not appropriate because evaporation is so high and water is hard to capture.

    In early 2007, and at the height of what some called the worst drought in a 100 years, then-prime minister John Howard announced a national water plan.

    One arm of the plan was a taskforce that would examine the prospect of developing agriculture in Australia’s north………..

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-02-08/report-kills-northern-food-bowl-dream/2572856

    Just a couple of inconvenient facts. Sorry scaper.

  30. bernyl

    I don’t think any of the Libs are against the FO broadband deep in their hearts but they just can’t say so at risk of being chastised by fellow party ppl. I hope they maintain their ridiculous position because as it is voters think they’ll have to vote Labor to get FO.

  31. jason h.

    the node perversion the LNP wants covers a 2km line length radius of the node that a a minimum of 40+ km local loop, the dumb idiot Turnbull hasn’t even considered the copper upgrade that a basic requirement and its cost per lead-in god help you if you have 3 services to consider, 10 pair cost is $5,000 and that is lead-in to 1st point..

    3 services cost 15,000 under vdsl..

    so ask yourself can you afford up to $15k now then pay between $2.5-5k at some point in the future to install ftth…

    or pay 2.5-5k now and be done with fois install…

  32. bilko

    The NBN will drag half of Australia out of the dark ages.

    What ever merit it brings has to be considered by Abbort in how much it effects Murdoch’s bottom line, he is his chain puller after all.

    The thing that amazes me is how the National Party just sit back and allow their constituents to be treated as second class citizens again and again.

    What if the Nats move lock stock and barrel to the cross benches and voted accordingly. A real democracy me thinks.

  33. diannaart

    “The thing that amazes me is how the National Party just sit back and allow their constituents to be treated as second class citizens again and again. ”

    I know.

    The Nats may well be aghast that they would be better served aligning with the Greens (and vice versa), instead of being stooges for the Libs.

  34. Möbius Ecko

    The Nationals have always sold their constituents down the drain to keep their unholy alliance with the Liberals, who on any measure have always been the worst in government for rural areas.

    The reward for the Nats is DPM, portfolios they don’t deserve and a bone thrown to them every now and again in the way of pork barrels.

  35. Joy Cooper

    Very true, ME. We live in what was a very safe Nats seat until voters saw sense & voted Labor. The difference has been amazing. Previously, we were totally taken for granted & never even received any pork while ever we had a Nats MP.

    Strangely, the Nats won the state seat even though the candidate didn’t even live in the electorate or even our state!! Go figure..

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