NBN's convoy of no consequence

NBN's convoy of no consequence

Summary: The latest in the series of campaigns trying to convince Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to keep the NBN as fibre to the home is not too dissimilar to campaigns waged against the last government.


One of the ways the government spent AU$20 million in one financial year advertising the benefits of the full fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) National Broadband Network (NBN) was through the production of an NBN information kit, including the production of a pro-NBN newspaper called Connecting Australia.

The production of the newspapers was mocked by then-Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull on YouTube, who joked that NBN Co was not a threat to the newspaper industry, but was "absolutely committed to it".

I had just that in mind when I saw the latest effort to get now-Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to keep the FttP NBN rollout in its current form. A crowdsourcing campaign has raised just under AU$40,000 at the time of writing seeking to advertise in Turnbull's local rag, the Wentworth Courier, asking him to keep the NBN.

The group starting the event flew past its original goal of AU$15,000, and is now pushing to put ads in the newspapers located in marginal electorates.

This follows a Change.org petition making a similar request to Turnbull, which now has over 250,000 signatures.

The online grassroots movement to keep the NBN as fibre to the premises is impressive in size and in passion, but the only information and documentation the Coalition is going to end up looking at when deciding which NBN to go with is the 60-day review being conducted into the company right now.

AU$40,000 is an impressive amount to collect in just under a week, but the last government spent over AU$20 million extolling the virtues of a full-fibre NBN, and that wasn't enough to save the government, or convince the Coalition to completely adopt the policy.

There is a theory that a groundswell in support and a grassroots campaign will convince the Coalition to see the full-fibre light and abandon any plans to build thousands of nodes and use the existing copper line in places where it is more cost effective to do so. It's possible, but I'm also reminded of the campaigns waged against the last government on the issue of the carbon tax.

In particular, the Convoy of No Confidence. In 2011, an angry mob of 300 people sat on the lawns of parliament to be addressed by shock jock Alan Jones, as well as Coalition MPs including now-Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Warren Truss, and Barnaby Joyce. In addition to a number of protesters parking their trucks in our nation's capital, it was hyped that it was going to close down Canberra for the day, all to protest the government putting a price on carbon emissions.

Ultimately, it had little impact on Canberra, and on the ALP. Labor MP Anthony Albanese labelled the protest as the "Convoy of No Consequence". Now, NBN advocates will get their own convoy of no consequence. While 250,000 signatures is a lot more than 300 pensioners on the lawns of Parliament House, I imagine the impact will be roughly the same.

Turnbull has already said that while he welcomes more advertising in his local paper, he doesn't buy into the ad-funding campaign.

"While I respect the enthusiasm of those who have contributed to crowdfunding this advertising, I know the Wentworth community very well, and overwhelmingly, they are very keen to find out how much this project is going to cost, in time and dollars, and how a rational government might go about making the rollout more efficient," he told Fairfax.

One of the supporters of the NBN project, when I questioned how successful the petition would be, said that this is just one of many stages in trying to convince Turnbull to change his mind. I'm interested to see what happens next.

It would take nothing short of mimicking the response to the recently canceled Climate Council to crowdfund an FttP company to get the attention of Canberra.

In Turnbull's world, money talks, and maybe the only true way to convince him is for charitable NBN fans to offer to make up the difference.

But in that world, crowdfunding a company to extend the FttN rollout to homes reinforces the Coalition's position, and validates its approach of minimising government borrowing while decreasing the time needed for the rollout.

The more funds that NBN fans hand over, the more it can be seen as the market responding to the government getting out of the way. The real-life execution of traditional economic theory.

It's everything that a Liberal communications minister could ask for.

Topic: NBN


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Follow the money trail

    Canceling Fiber-to-the-Premises (optical fiber straight into your home), and replacing it with copper is hairbrained.

    When hairbrained decisions are made, you have to look for a money trail to find out who benefits from hairbrained policy.

    Fiber into your home will wipe out all old media. There is absolutely no doubt that television delivered over airwaves would be wiped out totally. Gone. Subscription TV, or Pay TV over old-style coaxial cables will be gone. Obliterated. With FttP, all video would come over the internet.

    Traditional newspapers would also disappear. It's obvious that newsprint on paper would go. But also the old model of presenting text would be under pressure, as with FttP, there's no longer any difference between a 'newspaper' and a 'television station'.

    So if you dig deeper you'll probably find that a lot of old media proprietors are donating money to the party that wants to stop FttP. Or, you'll find that the old media proprietors are using their media to promote the party that wants to stop the FttP. Then you get a symbiotic relationship between the political party and the vested interests that is against the interests of the public.

    If FttP went ahead, with glass fiber to every home, you would get new media companies sprouting up that could get a decade or more head start in providing interactive 4K media to the world, by using the optically-wired home country as a stepping stone to the world.

    The protesters would be best to crowd-fund a campaign aimed at convincing the public, rather than the politicians (a lost cause). Convince the population that FttP is a golden opportunity.

    With a partially finished optical network, those homes with it will soon be able to gain an increased selling price compared to homes that missed out before the scheme was scrapped.
    • Wow. You live in a world filled with pananoia.

      • There is some truth in this

        You don't think Foxtel lent their studios for no benefit to them do you?

        FTTP provides a monopoly free and low entry cost PayTV product. That won't affect Fox/Murdoch/Telstra?

        Do mutli billion dollar businesses lobby based on threats to them? No?

        Do media businesses affected get involved in influencing the electorate? No? Not at all?

        OK if you answerered no to all of the above then you can argue this is just a conspiracy theory. Also I have a bridge you may wish to buy cheap.
      • Wow.

        You saw what Murdoch did, and you think Vbitrate is paranoid? Lets look for an adjective for you. Naive seems to fit.
        • What did Murdoch do? Support the Coalition?

          So what? So did Fairfax (except for The Age) towards the end of the election campaign. After the election, The Age gave what was basically a veiled apology for not supporting the Coalition.
          • Rubbish

            News Ltd has been consistently building the illusion of the LNP as Superior economic Managers etc etc
            Prior to the 2007 election even Peter Costello stated there were severe world economic storm clouds on the Horizon, at that time I was using Yahoo News Message boards and on the finance boards there was discussion over those dud securities and their approaching maturation and the major worldwide economic impact coming, basically discussing positioning their investments to ride out a truly major worldwide economic disaster. Did News Ltd, Henry Ergas, The AFR give the Australian Investor or Superannuant or Business owner any warning ?. Well ERR NO.
            However they acted to protect their investment in their puppet political party and waged a campaign to get Labor elected to carry the can.
            KRUDD was in fact irrelevant, a drovers dog would have been painted as the messiah.
            2010 when the dust had settled they expected to manipulate their puppets back into power, but the NBN beat them, that is why the vitriol against the FTTP NBN
            Did you also note the Worlds mega Wealthy got much wealthier while everyone else got given a haircut.
            The internet is a subversive influence, why articles can be saved to be referred to and quoted from in a decade or more or less.
            But just wait to start referring and quoting, let the damage be done first so an accounting can be called for
            Abel Adamski
          • And?

            You really don't think these companies wouldn't try to look after themselves by not jumping on board with the government and the direction the most powerful news corp company in australia is taking?
  • Pointless

    The reality is the LNP's printed NBN Policy Document clearly stating competing infrastructure will be encouraged, in fact potentially assisted. So any action to limit cherry picking will be liable to legal action and compensation
    All those thousands of Kilometers of private sector fibre including Telstra/Optus/TPG etc etc currently serving CBD businesses and Business and industrial parks and precincts and Shopping Centre's etc will be cheaply extended to MDU's as in most cases VDSL thus preventing installation of competitor equipment , especially multi story which will permit fixed wireless installs on their roofs and SME's
    Being profit motivated, and forced wholesale, they will NEVER upgrade their infrastructure as that would be at shareholder cost.
    However there will be several Million high value low cost customers now unavailable to GIMP Co. Cable wars Mark2, but GIMCo with tied hands until all deals done and re organised etc, so a years head start and multiple competitors.

    GIMPCo will be left with expensive slow and difficult lower value areas and Rural and Rural Wireless and Satellite.

    Ubiquitous National Communications Infrastructure will be lost and a dogs breakfast of mini monopolies is all we will have.

    By 2016, fait accomplice , the whole economic and ubiquity model destroyed if Labor won the election they wouldn't touch comms or IT with a bargepole, all LNP's contribution to the National economy and society.
    That is why Conroy has spoken and so low value in the new opposition priorities.

    A financial and infrastructure disaster is unfolding

    Whatever we get will be pretty much all we will ever get.
    These will effectively be mini monopolies even if forced to be open access wholesale
    Abel Adamski