Turnbull supports user-pays fibre NBN

Turnbull supports user-pays fibre NBN

Summary: Australian Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that he would support an NBN scheme where residents pay to upgrade the last mile of copper to fibre.


Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that he would support a scheme where users on a fibre-to-the-node National Broadband Network (NBN) could pay to get their premise upgraded to fibre.

Malcolm Turnbull.
(Image: Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

Turnbull made the comments following a speech at Kickstart 2013 on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, this morning. He pointed to BT's fibre-to-the-cabinet, fibre-to-the-premise (FttP) mixed network in the UK currently trialling extending fibre out to premises under the FttC rollout to customers who are willing to pay for the privilege. Turnbull said that he would support the same proposal for an NBN under the Coalition.

"Absolutely. I don't see why you wouldn't do that. If you can offer fibre on demand, and the reason you've got that is you've got in these modern [full service access networks], you've got ports that are capable of supporting GPON and VDSL," he said.

"And so if you've got a customer that wants fibre, for whatever reason, then there's no reason, technically, why you shouldn't make it available."

Turnbull told ZDNet in an interview last week that should the Coalition win government, it would conduct a cost benefit analysis to determine the most cost-effective method of rolling out fast broadband across Australia and would likely shift to a fibre-to-the-node rollout, but letting the existing construction contracts run to completion.

He reiterated that Telstra's hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network would not be part of the Coalition's broadband policy, but those HFC areas would be a low priority for rolling out the NBN.

"What I said about HFC is that we're going to prioritise the areas that are poorly served. So areas that do have very good broadband, or very good broadband relative to the rest of Australia, and that would include most of the HFC areas, would not be the highest priority," he said.

"I've not said we would not overbuild, our intention is to continue as planned to overbuild it."

If the Coalition were to attempt to use the HFC, it would require renegotiation with Telstra, he said.

"It is extraordinary that [HFC] is being taken out of commission. In an ideal world, what I would like to see is that anti-competitive agreement with Telstra being rescinded and Telstra agreeing to give the money back, but good luck [with that]."

Turnbull said that the Coalition would not move to privatise the government-owned NBN Co "any time soon", if it wins government.

"I think the NBN Co could be ready for privatisation during Wyatt Roy's second term as prime minister," he joked.

"I don't see that the NBN could be privatised in the foreseeable future. It just isn't a shape that you could sell in any sort of satisfactory way."

NBN Co would be required to provide "at least monthly" updates on the number of premises passed or activated, he said, and details on the cost of passing and connecting premises.

Turnbull again refused to release a proposed price for his own FttN policy compared to Labor's AU$37.4 billion network, saying that the Coalition would first need access to all of NBN's financial commitments.

"If I put out a set of financials, I want them to be right," he said. "We do not know enough about the NBN's commitments."

Josh Taylor travelled to the Kickstart conference as a guest of MediaConnect.

Topics: NBN, Government, Government AU, Australia


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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  • Question for Josh

    Josh, have you any insights into how much getting "the last mile of fibre" would cost for the "average" home owner?

    I could be wrong, but there is something in the back of my mind about the average cost or allowance of the current NBN installation being $400 per home - and that's to simply run the fibre cable from the street. If that's the case, then it would seem that it would cost a home owner a fair amount to run the fibre cable "the last mile" as well as the NBN hardware costs.
    • The cost

      The cost for having fibre connected the last mile would vary depending on numerous factors including the distance to the node and whether fibre has been run past your premises. As an estimate I'd say the absolute minimum you'd pay is around $1200.
      • Fibre last mile cost

        Rolling out fibre on a bespoke as needed basis to indivdual premises is going to be much more expensive than doing all homes and businesses at the same time in the same street. It's much more cost effective to pull all the fibre cables you need through a duct and repair or replace ducts and pits at the one time when you have all the plant, parts and labour on site than doing the exercise over and over again at different times.

        The cost estimate for delivering fibre only on demand from the nodes is going to be virtually identical to the cost of requesting fibre today from the likes of Telstra or Optus if you want an ISDN voice service or Ethernet data service etc because the process and labour isn't going to change. The only difference will be that it's much more likely that the fibre cable distance will be shorter to the node compared with running the fibre all the way from the exchange.
        If you want a fibre internet/voice service today then you're looking at around $1500 per 100 metres of fibre plus a minimum of $5k in setup costs regardless of fibre length. Most fibre install quotes these days from a Telstra exchange are in the $10k-$25k range if you're in a metro exchange area, if you're in a regional area then double it and if you're rural then double it again at a minimum.

        So the reality with these coalition promises of "fibre will be an option if you want it" will be that you can either buy a brand new small car or have fibre installed to your home. No home owners outside the leafy suburbs where Malcolm lives could possibly justify the expense of having fibre laid from the node to their home.

        Oh Malcolm, if you're reading this, will your future NBNCo be installing VDSL2 modem NTU's in every home as an extension of the NBN network or will you expect us poor tax payers to bring our own VDSL2 modems to save some extra money for your tight-arse government?
        • Thankyou for your response

          That is the type of costs that I expected - costs that are far beyond the capability of the "average" Australian homeowner.
          • BT's fibre to the home cost approx $1k premium

            But make up whatever figure suits.

            We'll all be livin with the NBN disaster for years, another extraordinary totem for this govt failure.

            The Liberals should be moving to a more competitive market solution. Sadly my belief they too would want to micro manage this is coming true.

            Transfer he costs and risks to he private sector and get out of the way. He past 6 years have been a disaster best not repeated.
            Richard Flude
          • I read the greens have also dump them

            When the party of undergrads (maybe they'll get a BA in 6-7 years) wants out it is a worry sign;-)

            What a comedy.
            Richard Flude
          • Indeed...

            Not that't you'd be politically motivated in anyway though hey Fluddy...

            BTW - did you ever back mouth by providing HC with that page number he and others asked for on many occasions... or was it all typical BS?
          • Yep, I'm still waiting.

            So Fluddy, If you could cite the page number you already verified in the NBN corporate plan of August 2012 that Turnbull was referring to that would be great. I'm not sure if you need more time but if you are having trouble with the NBNco website I can email you the PDF. Your email is richard.flude@beonic.com? Please confirm this is correct and I'll organise it for you.
            Hubert Cumberdale
  • Clear Strategy

    Are they just making it up as they go along?
    • You noticed that too!

      A different day, a different position from Malcolm...
  • What! The! Fibre!!?

    I.... He.... They.... Dear lord, where do you start with this?

    Best I can see is that in the interests of efficiency (or something like that) he wants infrastructure for ADSL, FttN, HFC, and FttH to all be available at the exchange. Oh, and copper, phone lines, and all the infrastructure for wireless and mobile as well.

    And cant see why that would be a problem. Wow. Just... Wow.
  • WTF!?

    I think he may have got something wrong somewhere. Since it's agreed eventually, sooner than Malcolm would have you believe, FTTH will be necessary.
    Isn't the goal to get there as cheaply as possible? Did he get a > sign mixed up with a < sign on his spread sheet? What he proposes could be the most expensive way to provide for Australia's BB for the next 50 years for the sake of a few billion today he'll be wasting tens of billions of the next 10-20 years
    • who's 'few billion' is it?

      Tax payers? A loan? Cash on hand? You see Malcolm does get it. He knows that FTTH would be a great thing and everyone that has a great requirment can have it.
      • Sultanabran

        So, you think it's good to save $7B now only to have to spend $20-30B over the next 10 years? No, Malcolm doesn't get it. He thinks his solution has a life time of 25 years or so. He is sadly deluded. 640K for all!
        • Pilfer

          I think it is a good thing is we pay for what we need and junk stuff that we dont. In life and in business we all have to make value calls on what we can afford and why. Hell i would love to drive an Aston Martin - in fact I could probably just about afford one if I sold everthing and didnt care where my kids slept.

          The NBN at any cost is the same, sure faster is better, we just might to get there as we need to and when we can justify it.
          • Err


            Since you like analogies Sultanabran, we are not talking about the vehicle we choose to drive, whether it be an Aston Martin or a Hyundai, we are talking about the infrastructure which is provided for us, which our vehicle of choice is driven upon...i.e. dirt roads or asphalt roads provide by the government...

            The NBN is the equivalent of an asphalt road regardless of whether we choose to navigate an Aston Martin or Hyundai upon it vs what appears to be your choice dirt (duh, because it's cheaper and the Libs say)....

            FFS if you can't even see the clear difference you may as well give up, sorry 'tiger' :/
          • RS

            Amazing how all ofyou get defensive when someone disagrees with you.

            If the NBN is a such a good thing give me the list of five, non entertainment based, things that it will deliver.

            You wont because you cant.
          • Defensive no...

            Just showing your analogy incorrect and I note you had no argument and diverted...

            As for your 5 ...LOL

            Already done...
          • I could...

            But why exclude entertainment? Does it matter if you make money selling entertainment rather than non entertainment? How about telling us what you use the internet for now, and we'll tell you the benefits to you?
          • meski

            We are placing a very high overhead on an entertainment network if this is the key driver.

            40 billion would buy a lot of other essential services which is at the heart of the whole yes/no NBN argument.

            I use the Internet for banking and email. My kids play games on it, my wife face books, I buy some stuff like books and event tickets.

            My youngest likes to download Barbie movies.

            I run ADSL 2+ have 10 wireless devices (3 ipods,3 iphones, 2 ipads, Mac book Air, work laptop, two iMACs and an ADSL connection to Foxtel. I am pretty sure that the older boys have the PS3 connected for online games.

            I pay around $80 per month for unlimited access.

            Performance is never an issue. So I would be pleased to hear how the NBN is going to improve my current situation and cost me less.