'Me first' dominates NBN roll-out debate

'Me first' dominates NBN roll-out debate

Summary: My immediate reaction to Tuesday's National Broadband Network 12-month roll-out plan was "where's my suburb?". It turns out, I really wasn't alone in thinking that.

TOPICS: NBN, Broadband

My immediate reaction to Tuesday's National Broadband Network (NBN) 12-month roll-out plan was "where's my suburb?". It turns out, I really wasn't alone in thinking that.

It's got to be pretty amusing for the people in NBN Co sometimes. On the one hand, they have politicians constantly suggesting that the NBN isn't necessary, but after every new site announcement people come out in droves to complain that their suburb was left off the list.

The Coalition Government in Victoria was in early — after criticising the NBN since it came into power in 2010, the Victorian Government has screamed to the rooftops about not getting a bigger slice of the pie of new NBN sites.

Liberal MP Paul Fletcher also highlighted that 16 of the 28 sites were in non-Liberal electorates, with seven of the remaining 12 sites in marginal Liberal electorates. Although the Coalition is opposed to the extent of the government's NBN roll-out, and will likely scale back a good portion of the network, it's interesting to see that the Coalition appears to want to have the network rolled out to their electorates prior to the next election.

There were similar questions even amongst the angry group of Telstra shareholders who had gathered in Sydney on Tuesday to claim that the "dictatorship" of the Labor Government had held a gun to Telstra's head to force it to sign the NBN deal. Although there was clear opposition to the government's policy, there were still shareholders just wondering when the NBN came to them.

As Brian Haverty reminded me earlier this week, it's a bit like that Annie Hall joke about old women complaining about a restaurant:

"Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions."

The NBN is going to keep on rolling until 2013 at least, so it's no surprise that politicians are trying to get as much of their electorate fibred up as possible before then.

It would really not be too cynical to suggest that NBN Co might be looking at capitalising on this theory. NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley has said that he had no clue of the electorates the NBN sites were chosen in, and it was pointed out by the Australian Financial Review that at least two of the locations were in the electorate of Mayo. This seat is currently held by young Liberal MP Jamie Briggs, whose title within the party is coalition spokesperson for the Scrutiny of Government Waste. The move to put NBN sites in his electorate will likely wedge the MP into a corner, who will have to balance his party's objections to the NBN as being part of this "government waste" with the residents in his electorate who are having fibre rolled to their doors over the next year.

It makes me wonder that if the Coalition wins the next election, and Malcolm Turnbull finds himself having to decide which parts of the country deserve fibre to the home and which parts only get fibre to the node, will he find himself with other MPs knocking on his door asking "Please sir, can I have some more?"

Topics: NBN, Broadband


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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  • It's the dear old Nationals that will do it - agrarian socialists all. All government expenditure is waste, waste, waste - unless it's to the bush! Then everything's right as rain.

    It isn't often that country towns get someone come through saying "we want to invest millions in your town by giving you 21st-century infrastructure"; and that's what is happening right now. The cry from Nationals MPs will become deafening: "Keep the NBN for the bush! Let the private companies run fibre in the cities, but don't take away our fibre! The town up the road got theirs last year, and we'll be blown if we miss out!"
  • Its no different from disagreeing about the $900 stimulus cheques... But then cryingout bloody murder if you're specifically excluded. Of course if there was a way to deduct from taxes the costs of certain govt plans that you disagree with, they wouldn't mind being excluded.

    Put it another way with NBN, as long as we're paying for it through taxes.. everyone should insist on being provided with the service, regardless on whether you agree or not.
    • Billiant comment! I agree regardless of personal opinion of the merits of NBN, if you are a legitimate taxpayer then yes insist on being connected.
      Knowledge Expert
      • The only catch to that is to whether you believe whether or not it will continue to be effectively subsidized with taxes.

        Labor's template right now is to clearly make the consumer cost as low as possible regardless on the impact on taxpayers.

        Future government like the Coalition would have a different strategy and if they insist on making sure the NBN stand on its own with no taxpayer help, then consumers locked in to NBN may not like future prices and prefer they have stayed with DSL.
        • NBNCo's aim is to raise ARPU. This goal is mentioned several times in the Corporate Plan (e.g. pages 36, 91, 101, 103, 116, 118 & 132). They won't need to raise prices, because they are expecting demand for faster speeds and higher downloads to increases.

          Plans for AVC pricing are outlined on page 101:
          * 1000/400Mbps falls from $150 to $90, while the average speed grows from 30Mbps to 230Mbps.
          * Price falls by 40% while average speed grows by 760%

          Plans for CVC pricing are outlined on page 103:
          * Starts at $20Mbps/Month when the average data usage is 30GB/Month and falls to $8Mbps/Month when the average data usage is 540GB/month.
          * Price falls by 2.5 times, while the average data usage grows by 18 times = growth in revenue from CVC of 720% when accounting for price falls.
          • The current political environment I reckon pretty makes NBNCo to not necessarily adhere to its own business plans.

            Normal companies only have one objective, maximize shareholder returns over the long term.

            NBNCo is not normal, returns for them is not just in terms of financial profits. Its also in terms of political opinion. In fact I'd argue that the political impact overrides the financial targets. The political desire is for a 'perfect' project that doesn't annoy any individual party. Especially anything that smells like a pink batts scandal. Financial targets be damned.

            The trial periods was initially announced to be non-free (though discounted anyway). Now we find that NBNCo didn't charge anything.

            Internode was yapping on and on about unfair CVC on smaller RSPs. Result, NBNCo buckled and gave alway free CVC to smaller RSPs.

            The Greens/Coalition weren't happy with the possibility of some price rises in the NBNCo SAU submission to ACCC. Result, NBNCo takes away the option.

            I would agree with you about the CVC that is written in the Corporate Plan. But I think that in the end the anticipated higher ARPUs written there will just be ignored by the 'sharehoder' (well.. if Labor is still around anyway !).

            You see.. all these changes hit the NBNCo financial bottom line and is political in nature. Essentially in the long run NBNCo would behave more like a government department than an Australia Post. Australia Post at least have direct competition in everything but their basic mail services.
  • Looking at the roll-out plan it appears more like a defensive strategy than an efficient strategy. By having many smaller network segments it will be much harder for a liberal government to shutdown. It also makes it much harder to determine which suburbs will be next.

    I wonder how RSP feel about needing to pay for CVC and backhaul in each of the locations.
    • NBN Co have made it clear they intend to progressively roll out adjacent FSAs over time. In this context, the sites announced this week are like seeding locations, from which each stage of the network will progress in what should be an orderly fashion in a radius around the seeded area.

      This explains the wide geographic diversity of the announced locations and helps NBN Co increase the utilisation of each stage of its core transit network as it's rolled through a specific geographical area. It also, in truth, makes it very easy to predict which areas will get the NBN as we move forward; once a rollout crew finishes in one FSA it makes sense that they just move to the next block and start on the new FSA.

      CVC is another issue with a number of emerging solutions, but all ISPs will face the same costs so this is what the level playing field will look like. A rollout from one contiguous FSA to the next will help here by increasing the number of serviceable properties an RSP can reach over a single CVC to an area.
  • NBNCo is building core infrastructure first by getting in POIs, and enabling a suburb (or more) around it. With 121 POIs to setup the interesting part is the order in which they are implemented.
    I imagine safe and marginal Labor areas are a higher priority than safe Liberal areas - the Libs don't want FTTP so why would Labor implement it there? Let the Libs implement FTTN and see how their electorate likes it.
    • You know, folks: say what you like about the trustworthiness of politicians (for their part), but I for one believe Mike Quigley when he says that neither he nor the planning teams drawing up rollout areas know or care about the Federal electorate or political persuasion of the local member in any given case.

      Mike Quigley has given a detailed, factual, reasonable account of the factors that DO play a part in the determination of the rollout areas to date. These include local resource factors, availability of transit fibre and other network elements, availability of space to locate NBNCo assets and so forth.

      The only direction NBNCo has been given by politicians is to ensure a mix of regional and urban sites - but no more prescriptive than that.

      I challenge anyone who listened to Mike Quigley testify before the Senate committee, and read the transcript now available, to demonstrate where Quigley is lying. He is an honest, straightforward man, who speaks like the engineer he is - direct, factual, to the point, and extremely well-informed as to the details of the network planning and construction. There simply isn't a shred of evidence that he is being untruthful, especially about any of the matters over which he has first-hand knowledge and expertise.
  • Let's face it, without the Independents we would be stuck with the Coalition crippleware inherently limited version that would have COST the taxpayer many Billions over the decades with NO RETURN whatsoever. I as a Melbourne resident am happy to have the Independents electorates get priority
    Abel Adamski