Conroy speech 'lacking evidence': Turnbull

Conroy speech 'lacking evidence': Turnbull

Summary: Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's speech attacking the Coalition Party's broadband policy in the National Press Club yesterday was rude, vulgar and lacking in evidence, according to Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

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Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's speech attacking the Coalition Party's broadband policy in the National Press Club yesterday was rude, vulgar and lacking in evidence, according to Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Yesterday, the communications minister delivered a strong rebuff to the proposed alternatives to the National Broadband Network (NBN) that have been outlined by Turnbull since August. Conroy criticised Turnbull's plans for rolling out fibre to the node (FTTN) across the country, saying that billions of dollars would be wasted in new technology, and that ultimately the speeds seen on the technology internationally were not possible in Australia because they relied on bonded pairs, which were not available here.

In response, Turnbull said that fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks like the NBN cost between three and four times as much as FTTN.

"This was confirmed when I met with BT on 5 October. The UK's largest carrier advised that the cost of FTTH was around three times more than FTTN and that their FTTN/VDSL roll-out would deliver 80Mbps [megabits per second] download and 20Mbps upload in 2012."

Turnbull acknowledged that the speeds would vary based on the length of the copper loop, but did not specifically address Conroy's claim about bonded copper pairs.

He added that Conroy's claims about hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) being unsuitable for the nation's future broadband needs were unfounded.

"He dismisses HFC as a broadband technology, even though in every other market where there are HFC networks, they are being used to deliver high-speed broadband. Indeed in Australia, Telstra is upgrading its HFC network to run at 100 megabits per second," he said.

According to Turnbull, Conroy's speech failed to address his concerns brought up last week surrounding the project including the financial impact of delays in the roll-out and the lack of transparency shown by NBN Co and its deals with Telstra and Optus.

Turnbull said that taxpayers had already invested $1.7 billion in the NBN, which had so far only resulted in improved broadband for 2000 households.

"In return, there is little to show for it other than a new government-funded monopolist throwing its weight around and imposing prices on retail service providers," he said.

"When will Senator Conroy stop the personal abuse, engage with the facts, observe that his policy is out of step with that of every other advanced country in the world, and admit Labor's NBN is unaffordable and an utter failure?"

Topics: Government, Broadband, Government AU, NBN

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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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6 comments
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  • Taking aside technological arguments, in regards to FTTN compared to FTTH one shouldn't forget that building a FTTN network was the current government's first choice in 2007.
    The issue with building a FTTN network which was raised in an ABC 4 Corners documentary earlier in the year is that for the government, or any other party than Telstra, to build a FTTN network would have required large compensation to be paid to Telstra to use their copper. In any negotiations for compensation Telstra would have had the upper hand since it could not be built without their copper, so the government could be forced to pay an inflated price for this infrastructure. Telstra could have then used this money to build their own FTTH network making the government's FTTN inferior and not worth the investment. Effectively the government would be paying to upgrade Telstra's network, with no return on the investment or capital in it.
    The government by saying to Telstra "you come to the table or we'll build a network that competes with yours" ensured a better deal in the end for the taxpayer.

    So you cannot compare this to BT in the UK, where they already own the copper and therefore do not need to compensate themselves.

    In the end these tactics by the government I can understand go against free market principles, however in my view it is the government's responsibility to ensure the best infrastructure for its people. It's a pity the corporatisation and subsequent privatisation of Telstra has been so botched over the past 20 years by both sides of parliament have caused the situation that currently exists.
    Nimos-92373
    • Nimos,
      In my opinion, your argument makes the case for FTTN.
      The main reason, as you explain, for the Government to go FTTH was to bypass Telstra and their local loop (to avoid compensation), and as they described, bring competition to the wholesale market.
      However, it was obvious that the FTTH network would never be viable without Telstra both being a major customer (not a competitor), and allowing NBN to use their infrastructure, so the Government's plan at the time was flawed.
      This necessitated the $11B+ deal with Telstra.
      Now that they have achieved this positive outcome (Telstra being seperated and part of the NBN), the deal has been done, Telstra has effecively been compensated, and agreed to migrate their customers to the NBN, FTTN is now a very good option and valid option.
      We could still achieve high-speeds, but save $20-$30B in the process, meaning the NBN could be finished sooner, would be cheaper, and avoid some of the other issues of the NBN like rewiring or requiring battery backup for home phones.
      ibanez-fceef
      • I can understand your point. From a purely economic view the government could have threatened to build a FTTP network to get Telstra into a deal, then build FTTN and forbid Telstra from building FTTP.
        That's where in my opinion technological arguments come into play. The question becomes if/when a FTTP network would be required. The cost of building FTTN now, then FTTP later is more expensive than if FTTP is built in the first place. For FTTP you are without a doubt getting a much superior network and eliminating structural issues with copper, albiet at a high cost and rollout timelines.

        The battery argument is an interesting one; you require a battery (this is possibly debatable in itself in all cases) because the network is electrically passive. That is also a benefit in that you don't need extra power cabling and usage in addition to larger cabinets holding climate control systems etc. at each node.

        At least FTTP vs FTTN is a valid debate, unlike thinking wireless or HFC can provide everyone with decent broadband or questioning at all whether we need better broadband than we have today.
        Nimos-92373
      • It isn't clear that FTTN is a better economical alternative. There are so many aspects to this scenario that have not been answered by Turnbull, which could potentially cost us Billions annually in lost productivity. I'm talking about who we call if there is a problem with the line? Our business is in Melbourne and we are with Telstra. We had a connection issue and it took Telstra 4 days to get someone out to have a look. They blamed every other piece of hardware we use but it ended up being a loose copper connection on the distribution frame.
        Imagine how many days our phones would be down if there was another company Telstra could blame? Who would be responsible for a connection problem between the fibre and the copper if we had FTTN?
        The internet has become more than just a communication network. It is an integral part of the economy. It needs to be first class and super reliable. Anything less than that is bad for this Australia's economy.
        omega-b9c3d
  • Turnbulls arguments have more holes than swiss cheese:

    1) As Nimos pointed out: "you cannot compare this to BT in the UK, where they already own the copper and therefore do not need to compensate themselves."

    2) VDSL will suffer the same problems that ADSL suffers because it relies on cable as the transmission medium.

    3) HFC is usless because you would have to some how magically upgrade it to speeds that are faster than the technology is capable of to give everyone the same speeds that the NBN will offer.

    4) HFC is a shared service, so one or a few people can potentially hog all the available bandwidth.

    5) There is more than a "little to show for it", I'm pretty sure the Network Operations and Test Facility (NOTF) photos were photoshopped or a fake 3D model.

    I could keep going but trying to talk sense to an idiot like Turnbull or anyone that agrees with Turnbull is like urinating in the wind, the best part about it is when you stop.

    The current government might suck but it sucks a whole lot less that the alternative government. It's the lesser of two evils.
    Jingles-8366c
  • Whoops pointtwo should read:

    2) VDSL will suffer the same problems that ADSL suffers because it relies on _copper_ cable as the transmission medium.
    Jingles-8366c