NBN debate not black and white: Turnbull

NBN debate not black and white: Turnbull

Summary: Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has lambasted Labor for painting its National Broadband Network project in do or die terms.

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Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has lambasted Labor for painting its National Broadband Network project in do or die terms.

"Ultimately, Labor prefers to frame the public debate over its plan and any alternative proposals as a series of caricatures and false dichotomies," the Liberal heavyweight told the Communications Day conference in Melbourne today, according to his speaking notes released by his office.

"It's the NBN or perpetual mediocrity," Turnbull said. "Fast fibre or overcrowded wireless. Visionary nation-building versus mean-spirited penny pinching. The future versus the past."

In reality, Turnbull argued, the future of Australia's telecommunications sector was a great deal more complex than Labor was presenting it. "Reducing them to cartoons is helpful only if you are trying to avoid scrutiny," he said.

Turnbull contended that the NBN was actually a response to four separate objectives held by the government in relation to telecommunications:

  1. The need for a guaranteed level of basic access to broadband for all Australians of 12Mbps
  2. A cross-subsidy on broadband from metropolitan regions to the bush
  3. A desire for most Australians to have access to substantially higher broadband speeds than are currently available in the market to most
  4. A major change in the structure of the telecommunications market, which Telstra currently dominates as the nation's formerly monopolist telco.

However, Turnbull claimed in his speech that none of those objectives were easily resolved by the NBN policy.

For starters, he said, those under-served by broadband in the cities could more quickly receive services by removing barriers to the upgrade of ADSL equipment (DSLAMs) in telephone changes, or through wireless broadband. Building competitive backhaul connections would ensure the development of regional areas by telcos that haven't invested there due to the claimed cost of Telstra's own fibre.

On the cross-subsidy front, Turnbull argued that this would be better delivered as a direct subsidy to carriers or as a voucher system to telecommunications customers. "Both of these delivery mechanisms have the benefit of being far more transparent than the hidden cross-subsidy inherent in the currently proposed NBN wholesale pricing arrangements," he said.

On higher speeds, Turnbull said there was still debate about what the speeds would immediately be used for. Turnbull believes a faster and quicker way for the nation to receive faster speeds if needed would be to provide Telstra and Optus with the investment certainty to upgrade their hybrid-fibre coaxial cable networks to the DOCSIS 3.0 standard — delivering 100Mbps to a third of Australian homes.

And lastly, Turnbull said that if the vertical integration of Telstra (with both wholesale and retail arms) was the issue with Australia's telecommunications industry, then the solution was structural or functional separation — the NBN was overkill and would itself be a fixed-line monopoly.

Turnbull ended his speech with an impassioned call for reason in the NBN debate and reiterated his call for the government to conduct a cost-benefit analysis into the project.

"For those who cry out 'nation-building' and 'vision' when matters of finance are raised, consider this: why is subsidising the provision of a near infinite range of video and entertainment services to every Australian home more worthy than building a decent public transport system in our cities, better hospitals and roads, let alone fast trains and water infrastructure?" he asked.

Topics: Broadband, Government, Government AU, NBN

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22 comments
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  • Malcolm...

    why is subsidising the provision of a near infinite range of video and entertainment services to every Australian home more worthy than building a decent public transport system in our cities, better hospitals and roads, let alone fast trains and water infrastructure?" he asked.

    It's not Malcolm... but it isn't as trivial as video and although behind hospitals imo, it is arguably, as important as roads and transport.

    Problem being though Malcolm, when your party was last in power, in 11 years you gave us no comms... and no roads and no hospitals, so...

    What you (well the Howard Government) gave us was a tax (GST) and before that, you started selling off a vertically integrated Telstra, putting the $50B (or so) from the sale - plus all those GST dollars, which were supposed to be divided out amongst the states for the likes of hospitals - under the Kirribilli mattress then said, look at what great economic managers we are?

    So please...!
    RS-ef540
  • A breath of fresh air without the need to reinvent the telecommunications wheel at a very costly $43 billion in borrowings which we can ill afford in the current financial climate.

    It's an absolute shemozzle but fortunately it's in the open now and we are mature enough and have the technological talent to overcome and resolve the issue by leaving the process in the capable hands of those who know how to deal with it.

    " Turnbull said that if the vertical integration of Telstra (with both wholesale and retail arms) was the issue with Australia's telecommunications industry, then the solution was structural or functional separation".... Telstra seem to agree with such a course of action in the right spirit.

    " Turnbull believes a faster and quicker way for the nation to receive faster speeds if needed would be to provide Telstra and Optus with the investment certainty to upgrade their hybrid-fibre coaxial cable networks to the DOCSIS 3.0 standard — delivering 100Mbps to a third of Australian homes.".... Both these entities have poured billions of shareholder dollars to no avail so, rightly, they are owed this courtesy.
    Vasso Massonic
  • Whilst I don't agree with Turnbull's way of solving the broadband issue, at least he is acknowledging the issues Australians face, many of which came about because of a "hands off" approach to telecommunications by government under Howard.

    Perhaps the NBN is overkill, certainly for todays purposes, but overbuilding is not always a bad thing. It's often easier and cheaper to build in extra capacity now rather overbuilding infrustructure later.

    As for Vasso's comments about "$43 billion in borrowings which we can ill afford in the current financial climate", this is complete spin.

    This is the way I see it. That $43 billion is not all coming out of government, they plan to only inject just over half this over 7 years (let's say $4 billion pa), which is only 1-2% of total government expendature which is over $300 billion per annum. Unlike much other infrustructure though, this generates an income stream, a bit like a toll road.
    The rest is planned to be private investment, of which the government is a guarantor (just as it did for much, much more with bank deposits) as the whole owner of NBN.

    Whilst everyone who opposes the NBN tosses around the $43 billion figure, how many people know that the government spends ~ $340 billion per year?
    Nimos-92373
  • Nimos

    If I'm spinning, you're dreaming. The truth of the matter is that no private investment will accrue to this project. In fact, Telstra and Optus stand to absorb close to 28 per cent of the $43 billion.

    No one opposes the NBN, everyone is calling for prudence, for if Murphy's Law comes to pass we can kiss goodbye to the rest.
    Vasso Massonic
  • "Problem being though Malcolm, when your party was last in power, in 11 years you gave us no comms... and no roads and no hospitals, so..."

    Really RS? No roads in 11 years? You undo your more valid statements with BS like this.
    mwil19-a34f7
  • Vasso

    Please indicate how I am "dreaming", I only indicated what was planned by government and NBN, read my statements carefully.

    "No private investment will accrue to the project", is not a truth as you define it, just your opinion and speculation.

    Even if there is no private investment at all which I think will be unlikely (given the government is essentially guaranteeing any loans as owner of NBN), the governments investment is relatively small compared to its total expendanture.

    Yes, Telstra will gain some of that $43 billion, however here NBN are actually buying something for this, not just giving money away for free. As for Optus, nothing has been announced.
    Nimos-92373
  • Vasso, how are those Telstra shares going ? $2.68
    Salami Chujillo
  • Nimos. I'll rephrase that. You shared their dream.
    Vasso Massonic
  • It appears that many people on this forum react quite violently if anyone offers an opinion which could mean the "new toy" that is Mr Conroys NBN, could be seen as overkill
    Blank Look
  • And vice versa...those who refuse to recognise the actual and possible benefits of the NBN, hone , purely on cost. The when quizzed, refuse to do likewise in relation to other governmental spending..., curious!

    Seems the NBN has become that "line in the sand"...

    But weren't you saying, not so long ago, the NBN is policy let's just move on and make the most of it...?
    RS-ef540
  • Shared? As in shares, as in TLS, LOL!!!
    RS-ef540
  • LOL mwil19, throw out the bait and the party faithful swallow, hook, line and sinker… particularly after your other little dig at me personally a few weeks back... sigh

    If you wish to be pedantically desperate, as you have no other avenue (apart from FUD of course) please do so. But the gist of my comment was clear…

    So let me clarify for those unwilling or unable to read between the lines…

    Whilst Turnbull grandstands about roads, hospitals etc… in the 11 years of (his party’s) previous rule they supplied “very little” in this respect, themself! So his comments are rank hypocrisy!

    I note you didn’t take exception to the GST/Telstra sale, part of my comment, and the fact that the previous government beat their chest and said what great economic managers we are! When all they actually did, was sell assets and introduce a tax - along with “very little” in the way of expenditure on infrastructure.

    I’m sure even the pedantically desperate could do this and have a wad of cash!
    RS-ef540
  • Yes RS, I still maintain the view that the roll out should continue. The current debate over financial benefits could be stopped in its tracks if Mr Conroy released the CBA. A CBA can include benefits to society expressed in dollars. A much as we all like to think about soft benefits, we live in a world dominated by the dollar.
    On another aspect, over recent days as a little more detail is becoming available, it appears some people may sign up on a promise which will not be delivered. For example NBN will deliver 100Mbit to the NTU, that maybe installed in a convenient place, however as a number of people have commented they use existing cabling or wireless to connect computers in various rooms to broadband services. The question being will 100M be available using existing cabling etc in the home? Possibly not, maybe who knows. Then do people have to pay for new internal systems to connect? possibly. I think if NBN co or the ISP's simply come out with recommendations to make internal premise connections effectivet, people will understand what they may need to do and be able to make decisions that suit individual circumstances.
    Blank Look
  • Hi Visionary, I see you posted, gave me a - and you a +, how lovely...LOL

    You say... "Yes RS, I still maintain the view that the roll out should continue"!

    BUT... CBA, BUT this, BUT that... BUT, BUT..YAWN!!!

    MIGHT, see you and your many personas, names and adolescent games, back at CW, if I decide to return after playing with and humiliating your idiot mate R****** ...LOL!!!
    RS-ef540
  • @Visionary, you are still claiming that all will become clear if only we can get a CBA. Given the expected life of the NBN, what do YOU think will be the relevant costs and benefits in, say, 2050? It would be very reasonable to say you don't know (and I certainly don't). At this moment, neither could anybody else possibly come up with those details.

    As Graeme Samuels said yesterday, doing a CBA on an NBN with that expected lifespan would simply be an exercise in futility. He's dead right.
    gnome-8be8a
  • Malcolm is correct: the Labor NBN is not all bad, neither is it all good. Compromise is required for a more cost effective network.
    JohnBennett-c3b58
  • gnome, just following on from what you mentioned, here's what Graeme Samuels said (there are also other links here)...

    http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/KGBTV?ReadForm#

    http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/KGBTV?Readform&groupid=SADI-8A6T5F&chp=2

    Interesting indeed... thanks for the heads up!
    RS-ef540
  • Silly people, both RS and Gnome devote their time on just a small part of my post. Lets hear abour about the internal connections within the premise.
    As I stated, lets get on with the roll out, see what the finish product looks like. I am not that stuck on the financials. Please children lets move on from moaning about the dollars.
    Blank Look
  • Silly people and children...you say...

    Then you vainly comment, give your self a + and me a - again...LOL!!!

    Wake up to yourself...!
    RS-ef540
  • Anyway, back to the present topic. It would be most helpful if NBN Co or the ISP's would give some guidence to the community at large to assist people to understand what cabling or other devices maybe needed within the home/premise to make the most of the offered speeds.
    Good points raised regarding who is allowed to cable and connect devices to a public network. I wonder if those regulations apply to a fibre connection supplied by NBN Co? Perhaps someone out there knows?
    Blank Look