Australia voted for the FttN NBN, again, and that's what we'll get

With the Coalition returned to power, the opportunity to change the mix of the National Broadband Network has passed.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor on

As the Turnbull government settles into a second term of Coalition rule, there are many unknowns awaiting this term of parliament, but of those things that we can be sure of, the direction of the National Broadband Network is one of them.

Given that the National Broadband Network is built with regard to the statement of expectations set out by the government shareholder ministers, and there is no mechanism for an obstinate Senate, or opposition parties, to modify them without also tossing out the ruling parties, a Coalition government means a multi-technology NBN.

A small window did exist to change the trajectory of the NBN, but that window closed when the crossbenchers backed the Coalition with confidence and supply this weekend, and there is still the chance the government could hold enough seats in its own right.

Barring an early election in this term, the next time Australia heads to the polls will be in 2019, the second last scheduled year of NBN's fibre to the node rollout. By that time the FttN rollout will be almost complete and contracts should be signed to finish the job -- in short, it will be impossible to stop FttN after 2019.

All the online petitions and wailing will do no good anymore -- Australia is going to get a broadband network where 38 percent of connections will be based on long runs of copper.

In technical and forethought terms, Labor's policy was the pick of the bunch at the election, but this result is in line with overall public sentiment.

As ZDNet flagged earlier in the campaign, the NBN has widespread support in the community, but few saw it as a vote changer.

With the technology question on the NBN well and truly sorted, attention will now turn to the performance of the NBN company and whether it can hit to own targets. Leaked documents have alleged the rollout is seriously delayed, and 40 FttN areas were behind schedule -- it's hardly a pristine record.

There is also the ongoing question of the status of documents seized by the Australian Federal Police in May, and indeed whether the raids were even legal.

Meanwhile, the NBN still needs to look at its connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) pricing, and needs to raise between AU$16.5 billion and AU$26.5 billion of debt to complete the network. Balancing these two issues will be quite the task, and the government will be keen to avoid having to prop up NBN.

Small solace for NBN watchers will be the likely return of the Senate NBN committee to keep a close eye on the rollout and probe Bill Morrow from time to time.

The next three years for the NBN are set to continue the plan set out in the previous three, which means if you are sitting on ADSL and are waiting for the NBN, you better get used to the idea of having a FttN connection.

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