LAURIE PATTON. Labor spells out its NBN rescue plan

Labor’s communications spokesperson, Michelle Rowland, has outlined a very sensible approach to fixing the dud NBN. In fact, should the Coalition retain office it would be well advised to adopt Labor’s plan. 

As Rowland rightly points out, six years of flawed technology choices has created a delivery disaster and it will be no simple task to return the project to its original vision – fast, reliable and affordable broadband for all Australians.

Labor’s NBN policy does much more than presage a move ‘back to the future’ – it boldly tackles the biggest obstacle holding us back – the digital divide.

Rowland rightly focusses on the hapless customers stuck with the underperforming fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) version of the so-called multi-technology mix (MTM) model.

Adopting FTTN was a foreseeable error given the known state of Telstra’s ageing copper wires. Rowland has correctly identified that there are serious problems with the internal wiring in many homes. It’s not just the rundown copper cabling in the streets that needs to be replaced.

Sensibly, Labor has resisted pressure to make bold promises it might not be able to keep. It has clearly learned from Malcolm Turnbull’s biggest mistake. In opposition Turnbull, responding to pressure from then PM Tony Abbott to “destroy” the NBN, clasped his hands around a bunch of ideas put forward by a few mates, without waiting to run them by the more qualified engineers at NBN Co.

Labor will wait and undertake a considered review before making any major moves.

Rowland outlined Labor’s NBN policy at an industry conference today. This summary is from her speech.

1. Launch a landmark Digital Inclusion Drive with the aim to increase broadband participation among the over 1 million Australian households not using any internet at home.

2. Direct the establishment of a $125 millionprogram within NBNCo to reduce dropouts and improve speeds for up to 750,000 Fibre to the Node households by rectifying identified in-home cabling issues that are degrading performance, at no cost to the end user.

3. Establish an NBN Service Guarantee to set service standards and better safeguard consumersand in particular small businesses against excessive periods of NBN downtime.

4. Position for the future by undertaking field trials to assess the costs and feasibility of responsible co-investment in future fibre upgrades. We will also place NBN on the COAG agenda to explore opportunities for partnership and future cooperation.

5. Commence an immediate review of the economics of the NBN to obtain a more informed picture about where we are and the options going forward. We will also review the future funding and capacity requirements of the fixed-wireless network and use this as the basis to have a more honest conversation with the public about options to address congestion challenges.

Much has been written about Australia’s poor showing in global broadband rankings. Likewise, while slow to catch on, mainstream media is now regularly reporting on the manifest problems that need attention. The ACCC, ACMA and the Productivity Commission have all had their say.

The simple fact is we really need #BetterBroadband. Whoever wins the upcoming elections will have to deal with arguably the biggest infrastructure bungle in the country’s history.

Whoever has that task will need time to repair the damage. What would be really helpful is if we could see all sides of politics adopt a bipartisan approach. Labor has today provided a sensible set of guidelines to help us achieve that goal.

(Laurie Patton was CEO / Executive Director of Internet Australia, the peak NFP representing Internet users, from 2014-2017)

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2 Responses to LAURIE PATTON. Labor spells out its NBN rescue plan

  1. Lester Radford says:

    I still struggle to understand why internal cabling is fixed at government expense. They do not come in and fix old pipes/sewer/electricity lines. Why is it necessary to enter and fix copper cabling. Is this going to also happen on FTTH premises? I think not. The concept of bring broadband to property boundaries appears to be a more level playing field. Home owners or residents can then be expected to provide adequate cabling to where they want the NTD placed much like bringing electricity to a wall plate at locations that suit each environment FTTK both satisfies this approach plus allows for future enhancements the first of which is a user can if desired, adopt a 1GBPs solution (assuming modern day FTTK devices terminates the fibre within the associated pit).

    • Thomas Joseph Carey says:

      It would appear,from lengthy observations, made by engineers,that all systems outwards from Exchanges,were/are under provisioned,EG,12 fibres/cable etc,so,any upgrade/mod/etc is perforce ad hoc without recasting the whole system.

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