Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday claimed there was no evidence that there was any benefit to end users from getting access to broadband speeds higher than currently available under existing ADSL2+ technology.
(Credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull)
Currently, ADSL2+ is limited to a theoretical speed of 24Mbps, although in practice many Australians get much lower speeds from the technology. The National Broadband Network (NBN), however, will eventually provide up to 1Gbps as it is rolled out over the next decade.
Turnbull, though, didn't appear impressed by the higher speeds that would be made available.
"There's been no case made or evidence made that there is any benefit from having a speed higher than what we can get now in many of our cities, at least, from ADSL2+," the Liberal MP told radio station 2GB in Sydney yesterday. "If I connect your house with 1 terabyte per second speeds — the sort of speed you might get over a transcontinental cable — it would be of no use to you. There's nothing you could do with it."
Turnbull's comments play into the Coalition's line — repeated by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in a press conference on the NBN before Christmas — that the NBN would primarily be used for high-end entertainment applications in video and gaming.
"It's pretty obvious that the main usage for the NBN is going to be internet-based television, video entertainment and gaming," Abbott said at the time. "We are not against using the internet for all these things, but do we really want to invest $50 billion worth of hard-earned taxpayers' money in what is essentially a video entertainment system?"
Yesterday, Turnbull reiterated that the NBN would primarily be used for entertainment, and added there was no point to Australians getting high-speed broadband if there were no concrete applications for the technology. He pointed out internet video providers such as FetchTV were currently rolling out their services around Australia, using existing broadband to do so.
"In fact, I think they only need four-and-a-half [Mbps] download speeds to deliver it. So the big question mark is what is the use of all this extra speed at a household level?" he said.
The shadow communications minister also attacked the NBN on take-up; he pointed out that take-up in the Victorian test-bed suburb of Brunswick to the network had been 45 per cent of premises so far. In Tasmania, the NBN will be connected to every premise by default, unless premise owners specifically reject the new technology. However, in Victoria, the State Government is opposed to this so-called "opt-out" policy.
Turnbull described the Brunswick numbers as being indicative of what take-up numbers could be expected in other metropolitan sites around Australia.
"What you're seeing is that a lot of people who do have internet access now are not interested in taking up the NBN," said Turnbull. "So it underlines the point that we've made, which is that the NBN is only ever going to be able to achieve significant penetration at all if competition is eliminated."