NBN study is 'policy chaos': Turnbull

Australian Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley's idea for a broadband study is four years too late.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The proposal by NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley for an industry-led study into the various different types of broadband roll-outs is a "bizarre twist" in the ongoing debate over the best National Broadband Network rollout, according to Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

On Friday, Quigley said in an American Chamber of Commerce speech that, as the broadband debate in Australia over whether fibre-to-the-premise or a fibre-to-the-node approach was best had now become "serious", there was an opening for industry group the Communications Alliance to conduct a study of the various technologies.

"The telecommunications industry itself is uniquely well placed to provide valuable context to policy choices, and their impacts on this industry and its customers," he said at the time.

"It is for this reason that NBN Co welcomes and supports a study that is being considered by the Communications Alliance into the potential pros and cons of a range of policy and technology options and their future impact on the National Broadband Network."

In a blog post late on Friday, Turnbull said that the proposal was "bizarre" because Quigley made the announcement without obtaining permission from the Communications Alliance, which has not indicated whether it will go ahead with the study.

Turnbull said that the government had rejected calls for a study for years, but just months from an election, Quigley has called for a "hazily conceived and nebulous review on his terms and timing".

"This isn't policy on the run. It's policy chaos," he said.

Turnbull said that unless Quigley can explain why the Communications Alliance would be better suited to run the inquiry rather than the Productivity Commission or Infrastructure Australia, then the proposal was a "cheap stunt".

A spokesperson for the office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the government had gone to tender for a fibre-to-the-node network but none of the proposals were considered value for money.

"Following advice from the Expert Panel and a number of government agencies, the Government decided to proceed with a future-proof fibre-to-the-home network," he said.
"Malcolm Turnbull’s idea is to build the broadband equivalent of a one-lane Sydney Harbour Bridge."

Quigley has suggested that the study could run for several months and be completed before the election. If the Communications Alliance was to take up the study, Quigley has admitted that self-interest could rule.

The group is made up of companies that provide very different technologies for broadband delivery, ranging from big companies like Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone, through to vendors such as Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent, and Huawei, as well as construction companies such as Thales and Crown Castle, and wireless vendors including NewSat and ViaSat. NBN Co would be "just one voice" in the discussion, Quigley said.

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