'Me first' dominates NBN roll-out debate

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.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

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?"

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