Bringing the optical fibre backbone network to every telecoms node (often the pillar, or substation every few blocks) always made sense. Extending the fibre to every premises served by that node adds cost in at least an order of magnitude, with major uncertainties about access to every premises. Plus, the fibre to the home replaces an existing, functional asset (copper) which still works.
So now there's a choice. About $50Bn as a guess for fibre to the home - or a fraction of that cost to incrementally extend the fibre optic transmission network to every node.
Why are we still talking about it? This article was printed in the Australian Financial Review today.
Coalition readies NBN attack plan
The Coalition has designed a two-pronged attack on Labor’s $37.4 billion national broadband network in an effort to transform it from a vote-winner for the government to a liability in time for the federal election.
Liberal Party MP and former Optus executive Paul Fletcher told The Australian Financial Review his party would try to make voters see the NBN as an example of Labor ineptitude by the next election.
“The politics of NBN at base come down to the fact that this government has a very poor track record on implementation and when you look at the NBN, it’s one of the worst,” he said. “Our task is to demonstrate we have a credible and sensible plan and Malcolm Turnbull has been developing a plan to build out a network making heavy use of fibre to the node.”
The comments come when many political analysts and Labor politicians see the NBN as a vote-winner. The infrastructure project played a key role in winning Labor government in 2010.
On Thursday, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott made his first reference to a specific broadband technology during a speech to the National Press Club. It was a marked change from his comments in 2010, when he told journalists Mr Turnbull had been told to “entirely demolish the government on the [NBN]”.
As recently as January 2012, the Opposition Leader pledged to use money saved from scrapping the NBN to “tackle traffic gridlock” by building more roads and highways.
But last week, Mr Abbott said his party was committed to super high speed broadband. “Our fibre-to-the-node plan will deliver superfast broadband for a fraction of the price and in a fraction of the time required to deliver fibre to the front door,” he said.
Although Labor plans to greatly speed up introduction of the NBN between now and the election, Mr Fletcher said most Australians would not be able to use it by September 14. “For the vast majority of Australians, the only exposure they’ve had to the NBN has been the advertisements,” he said.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said he welcomed the renewed focus and told the Coalition to “bring it on”.
“The facts are that NBN Co is on track to hit the targets outlined in its 2012 corporate plan,” he said.
“Only Labor has a plan to build this essential infrastructure that will serve Australia now and in the decades ahead. Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott have floated plenty of thought bubbles, but they have no broadband plan.”
Monash University senior lecturer in politics, Nick Economou, said the NBN had been one of the core reasons Labor won government in 2010.
“It’s clear the NBN was a winner, especially in the two northern Tasmanian seats of Bass and Bradman . . . and in a close election, every result counts,” Dr Economou said. “But I don’t think anybody cares about the NBN at the moment because the debate has been overwhelmed by the Thomson affair and [Prime Minister Julia] Gillard as well as the economy.”
However, Dr Economou warned the Coalition against getting complacent. “The opposition needs to be careful because voters do like the idea of an enhanced broadband network and so they don’t want to give the impression they’ll stop delivering – especially to regional Australia,” he said. “What will be interesting is how the National Party will respond to the NBN being stopped because it’s an issue for its core constituency.
“This is one of those headaches a potential prime minister Abbott will have to deal with because it could cause real tension between his metropolitan base Liberals and a really traditional National Party, because it’s an important resource for regional Australia.”