Plan B for the NBN

Plan B for the NBN

Summary: If there's a change in government at the next election we know the National Broadband Network will be ditched. So is there another way of achieving the objective of providing ubiquitous high speed broadband across the country?


If there's a change in government at the next election we know the National Broadband Network (NBN) will be ditched. So is there another way of achieving the objective of providing ubiquitous high speed broadband across the country?

Abbot's NBN plan

(Credit: Collage by Phil Dobbie/ZDNet Australia)

In this week's Twisted Wire we look to see if there's an alternative plan, for either political party. How can we ensure that there's high-speed internet access in the bush and drive the country to a fibre-enabled future while minimising government investment?

The coalition has been quiet on its alternate telecommunications policy beyond saying that its focus will be on ensuring access to under-served areas. Does that mean it will disband the NBN Co and throw away all the work that has already been done?

    We try and help them formulate a more cohesive strategy with the help of:

  • Guy Cranswick, IBRS advisor
  • John Stanton, CEO of the Communications Alliance
  • Stephen King, dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics at Monash University
  • Dermot Cox, business development manager at C-Cor Broadband

What's your advice to Abbott and Gillard? Should we let the NBN carry on unabated, or is this time for a rethink?

Running time: 29 minutes, 42 seconds

Topics: Broadband, Government, Government AU, NBN


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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  • Well since Telstra has already agreed to a deal, and the work has already started, a new government would have to have rocks in their head to abandon the NBN. This is especially obvious given that all the experts in the field are strongly supportive of NBN. Plus a new government wouldn't have to worry about pushing Conroys ill-conceived filter notion, or wrestle with malicious nasties coming through the portal.

    A new government could effectively scoop the cream off the top of all Labors hard work, ie they could keep the NBN, keep the Telstra deal, and then dump the ridiculous stuff such as the mandatory filter and forced ISP data retention, and effectively come out looking golden on the global telecommunications scene.
  • How can it be more efficient to have two competing networks ?
    You have twice the cost of building network infrastructure and only half the customers to pay for it
    It does not make any sense at all
  • @Simbaddy, it makes no sense at all in the Australian context. Anyone who doubts this should look at the ten year history of HFC cable in this country, where the incumbent monopolist paralleled the Optus rollout to undermine its viability.

    Result - no more rollout. Telstra could afford to wear the resulting losses but Optus couldn't, so any further endusers were denied further access to HFC cable.
  • The alternative is simple: roll out government funded backhaul networks to regional areas (as is part of NBN policy) and let ISPs take care of the last mile. Where it is legitimately sustainable to deliver high speed DSL/wireless services to customers (which, considering the ever-falling price of microwave equipment, is a surprisingly large amount of the country) ISPs will do what they do best: build competitive networks. Where there is no alternatives, customers can be served by satellite.

    The predominance of the cost of the NBN is in the last mile - which is already serviced (in most areas) with a copper and 2xHFC plant. Seems silly to replicate infrastructure in these areas.
  • As much as I am a one-eyed conservative I think the policy of ending progress of the fibre network is something that Mr Abbott's approval rating will suffer for. The Liberal Party need to reverse this aspect of their policy platform quickly and just pay off the KRudd/Gillard bankcard a little slower.
    Mel Sommersberg
  • Trying to do a deal with the regulator has already failed under it's previous admin (previous CEO and Chairman).

    Also, I would have thought that Telstra, throwing scenarios around, as David Thodey said, then they would have thought of scenario of opening up the exchanges etc, (I think France does this).

    They have already lost that bargain option.

    Also, why is current regulatory framework not enough to for multiple networks to rollout? Also why would less regulation be any more success than more regulation when multiple network rollouts ?

    In-regards to BPON, GPON I thought BPON was older?

    Oh, in regards to backhaul pricing etc, Pacific Fibre is going to build a new international cable, by 2013.

    Should help the costs and competition on that lvl.
  • ISP's aren't good at building "the last mile". The last mile in Australia was built by public funds. Telstra simply inherited it and then abused its control to hurt competition. That's exactly what should be avoided this time around. Let the NBN Co build the pipes and ISP's compete on a level footing on services and price.
  • Mel, please don't fall for the line that gets trotted out by the Libs on debt. Most economists would agree that sustainable debt used to procure productive infrastructure is not a bad use for debt. If we do not go into debt for this type of infrastructure then we will never get it, instead we will get a mis match of different technologies that similar to what we currently endure. Broadband shouldn't only be for the lucky who happen to live in the right area.
    Mr Abbott does need to re-think the NBN because I agree with you that it is a vote turner. The last thing we need is another backward thinking Prime Minister EG John Howard in speedos. This infrastructure is vital to our future so please wake up Mr Abbott and start smelling the roses.
  • If its between mandatory censorship and the nbn, i'll still vote for whoever will ditch the filter.
  • peterniss, then vote greens?
  • Regarding the comment on where FTTH has been successful before, Portugal Telecom was brought up. Even though there are a lot of Homes passed, the most expensive part remain, i.e. to connect the homes. And in order to get revenue the operators needs to connect the homes. And today there are VERY few homes connected. And with one of the most stretched economies in Europe its going to be difficult to get government subsidies. Hence, the Business Case does not look to good today.

    For Australia its going to very interesting to see how NBN Business Case will take care of this. Building a backbone network is quite straight forward, but how to plan the take-up of subscribers with the very expensive homes connected part to make the Business case acceptable is the key.
  • I'm quite concerned that the filter's black list is already being populated with suppression of political dissent in mind. This is not about the children, this is about our children's children's children. Didn't we fight a war or two over that principle?
  • dickster is one all right! Tassie was asked and didn't want it. Now Conroy evidently wants to force it on us all. Socialists aaaah they are such a pain in the neck.