Coalition’s NBN plan to stop consumers taking control of media


By Kieran Cummings (@sortius)

April 9th, 2013

The Coalition held its broadband policy launch at, wait for it, Murdoch’s Fox Sports, And the press secretary handed out copies of Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph instead of policy documents. Guess what the final outcome of Malcolm Turnbull’s broadband plan will be. The policy debate will heat up over the coming months because there are massive amounts of detail missing from the policy.

Turnbull was combative, if not outright belligerent. From the outset he was unable to give details on even the basics of his policy in answer to questions such as ‘How long will the copper last?’.

I had thought that finally Turnbull would release a policy filled with cogent arguments and factual information, but this was not to be so. Instead the press conference was laced with misinformation, leaving me feeling underwhelmed and annoyed. Details are even more scant in the press release offered up by Most of the document is merely an attack on the current NBN and vague figures like ‘estimated $90b’ & ‘up to 100Mbps’. There’s no real meat in this policy, and the oft quoted ‘background documents’ are non-existent.

So because I can’t do deep policy analysis I have to go with this policy being a Claytons policy – lots of words, but nothing to say. The best any journalist can do is look at the assumptions and see how out of kilter with reality they are.

There are no details on the future plans of the Coalition or on what will happen to NBN Co once the build is completed. Unfortunately for Turnbull, Tony Abbott played his hand early, stating unequivocally that an LNP government would sell off the NBN. No details as to whether they would uphold the legislation that ensures NBN Co remain a wholesale-only company and be required to foster innovation and competition.

If anything, the build and sale planned, to deploy VDSL via FTTN, would stifle innovation and quash competition within the network. With Vectored VDSL, as Turnbull keeps stating will be deployed (but not mentioned once in the policy document), competition is incompatible. You cannot run multiple ISP’s vectored services via the same cable.

The next thing to look at is the LNP’s build estimates. Unfortunately there is no data to support the costs given, however there seems to be a large amount of information missing on ongoing maintenance costs, power consumption costs for running the cabinets and the cost of acquiring Telstra’s copper network. All of these together would seem to wipe out any reduction in the $40b-odd an FTTP deployment is estimated to cost.

There is no way the Coalition are anywhere near the mark with their $90b estimate to build FTTP, especially since even they have even said it would cost ‘several thousand dollars’ per user to run FTTP from a node. If we look at the BT example of FTTP upgrades and extrapolate an average user being charged ad-hoc rates close to $7000 per premises, it will cost users approximately $65b to upgrade all services. Seeing NBN Co is not charged ad-hoc rates, this cost would be far lower (closer to $30b for an end-to-end fibre service). So the savings from the Coalition are merely offloading costs from off-budget financing to end-user financing.

The main question is who benefits from the savings? It’s certainly not end-users. It’s certainly not businesses. It’s most certainly not retail service providers. The people who benefit will be the people who buy the network.

So who could possibly buy the network? Optus, iiNet, or even Vodafone? The three might be able to handle such a big fixed line network; however they do not have the technicians to maintain the copper. The only player capable of handling such a network is Telstra as they already have technicians and contracts with third parties to maintain the network.

So the end result would be Telstra selling their copper to NBN Co for an inflated price then buying it all back at a discount price, as no other company would want to take on such a liability as $1b per year in maintenance costs to run the copper network.

The fact that Murdoch’s subsidiaries have been so involved in this policy release betrays who is calling the shots. It’s not Turnbull (or as Abbott named him, Mr Broadband), nor is it Abbott. It’s clear that Murdoch’s media empire does not want FTTP – just read any of their papers on any given day to see the utter contempt for NBN Co in any article on the NBN.

The bottom line is that this is all about control. With FTTP the control is in the hands of consumers, giving them an opportunity to utilise Over-The-Top (OTT) services and remove the need for Foxtel if they wish to watch pay TV services.

With FTTN the need for satellite dishes and coaxial cable connections is vital to maintain internet speed while watching pay TV. Turnbull’s claim that VDSL is capable of carrying HD streams is myopic at best, as he ignores the technological advancements in broadcast systems such as the soon-to-be-released 4K broadcast standard.

@jtwyman John Twyman Speed difference between the #NBN & the Opposition's #fraudband proposal

@jtwyman John Twyman Speed difference between the #NBN & the Opposition’s #fraudband proposal

Even the most compressed 4K video requires at least 20Mbps of bandwidth, so the Coalition’s plans for a minimum of 25Mbps is severely lacking after network overheads are taken into account. The only way users on FTTN will receive 4K video is to utilise a dedicated connection to pay TV providers, meaning OTT providers are left out in the cold.

Essentially this policy ignores future needs of Australian consumers and business in favour of end-of-life technologies. Utilising such technologies ensures the control of media in Australia is maintained by the likes of Murdoch and his ilk.

If voters can take anything away from today’s policy announcement it’s this: the Coalition do not want to see Australia’s telecommunication network progress, but merely want to waste $30b delivering what’s there now to sell it off to the people who screwed up the network in the first place.

Read More:

Why Murdoch’s media is gunning for your NBN

Jack McCaw’s NBN story

Why Jake’s impatient for the NBN

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  1. Hardy Gosch says

    Great article. Suggest also to read the article by Karl Schaffarczyk in “The Conversation.”
    “The costs of rolling out FTTN then upgrading to FTTH is prohibitive.
    The Labor party policy of deploying the NBN as FTTH can be summarised as having an initially painful installation cost, but offering a more consistent outcome with greater spare capacity to meet future needs.
    By comparison, the Coalition policy can be described as quick and dirty: the network will be available to more Australians earlier, and will cost less up-front, but will attract ongoing maintenance costs, and be expensive to upgrade as demand grows.”

  2. Hardy Gosch says

    Can I use the phras LNP “Fraudband” proposal or is it copyrighted?

  3. What the LNP is offering is a system that they admit is of a lesser standard than the ALP’s NBN. What I understand from the proposal released today is they are saying that we, the people of Australia, don’t need fast internet and we should be content to accept the crap they are proposing.
    It’s unbelievably pathetic, in the long run more expensive (repair & maintenance) and will have to be replaced with fibre in the future anyway. Pathetic…just pathetic!

    • I am with you. The way Malcolm Turnbull kept saying the ‘average home’ didn’t need the speed… Seriously? How many work from home, have kids, geez we pay for a business line as we have a home office, kid gets on youtube & husband decides to play battlefield it is all over! I will not even get into the fact of not being able to work at all when it rains due to dodgy crappy copper lines. Many families I am sure don’t need massive speed now, but they will and very very shortly :(

  4. J.Fraser says

    First nail driven into “Slick” Abbott’s political coffin …. and driven in with an old fashioned sledge hammer that no self respecting computer user would use.

    If I could have the NBN today I would have paid for it yesterday.

  5. I have been the technical project manager on some very large networks, I have come to the conclusion that this is the same proposal that we put to tender for pay TV back in 92 with Jtec telecommunications. This thing is full of assumptions and empirical technology, its an assumption fest and a maintenance nightmare.

    So its happy 21’s broadband proposal.

    The Background document is here.

  6. Hardy Gosch says

    A clear choice:
    NBN – National Broadband Network
    MFN – Murdoch Fraudband Network
    Time to wake up the somnambulist OZ public!

  7. sulphurcrested says

    Abbott and Turnbull – snake oil salesmen peddling the charlatans NBN.
    How dare they propose to do this for their Lord and Master and lie and cheat the people and the country.
    Rack off!

  8. Good work! Murdoch is dead set against the NBN for obvious reasons. The following quote from an unnamed senior media executive speaks volumes.

    “The Murdoch media has been leaning to the right since the Whitlam days but the anti-Labor meme was really ramped up just before the 2010 election. The catalyst was Murdoch’s luncheon with Tony Abbott, where the NBN (National Broadband Network) must have been the main talking point as the very next day Abbott publicly announced that he’d rip up the NBN.”


  9. It was always about the protection of News Corp from competition from the likes of Video on demand via IP from Netflix. Yet these people champion competition. What Hypocrites.

  10. VoterBentleigh says

    While being forced to change their election policy, the Opposition still hold the view, espoused by Turnbull yesterday, that they would prefer that the NBN not be delivered by Government but by the private sector. But the scheme they are proposing is not even user pays as such, but unequal distribution of the service. Some people will get faster speeds automatically, while others will be have to pay extra. In effect, under the Turnbull system, the Government will decide who needs fast speeds and who will get FTTH. So much for the Coalition mantra about lack of Government interference in people’s lives. Their claims about freedom and opportunity under the Coalition ring hollow in their Communication’s policy. The issue is not just about just affordability; it is fundamentally about availability and under the Coalition scheme, even if you need it, you will not get faster speeds unless you can afford the extra cost. Surely providing faster speeds in the initial rollout will make the scheme more affordable in the long term rather than delivering such speeds later, as infrastructure costs always go up. In addition, has the Opposition factored in the cost consumers are currently paying for landlines which many households will not need with FTTH, but will still need to pay for with FTTN? Finally, is the Turnbull policy “written in blood “or will the whole scheme be mothballed if the Opposition find the proverbial black hole in the budget, which is the usual excuse for reneging on an election promise?

  11. Siobhan McKenna the incoming chairperson of the NBN is a confidant of Lachlan Murdoch
    and is on the board of all his private companies……..WTF…