Show and tell: Turnbull and broadband

Shadow Communications Minister tells a business forum lunch in Sydney his plan for broadband in Australia if the Coalition gains power

Shadow Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, promises to bring fast broadband to all Australians faster than the National Broadband Network (NBN) should the Coalition seize power from Labor in Parliament.

The member for Wentworth was speaking at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) lunch in Sydney.

CEDA membership is comprised of hundreds of business groups and a number of them attended the event.

“At election, we’ll be able to say to people, particularly in the outer suburbs and indeed regional Australia

‘We will be able to get you very fast broadband more quickly than the NBN will deliver,” Turnbull said.

When asked to what his plans for broadband were if the Coalition was elected into parliament now, he said subjecting the NBN to a cost-benefit analysis by the Productivity Commission was at the top of his list.

Turnbull expects this process would take less than six months.

“It is pretty obvious what the conclusions would be,” he said. “I’m not trying to prejudge here but most people in the industry will tell you the likely approach will be a mix of technology.”

The Coalition has consistently attacked the fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) NBN’s high cost.

At a Joint Committee of NBN parliamentary hearing in June, the Shadow Communications Minister had questioned the Productivity Commission on whether fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) would be cheaper to deploy than FTTP.

FTTN extends fibre to a node and connect to last mile copper that leads to a home whereas FTTP puts fibre directly into a premise.

Turnbull is in favour of using a mixed bag of technology for different situations. He promotes FTTP in greenfield sites and FTTN, fibre-to-the-curb or even wireless for other locations.

One thing he is adamant about is retaining existing hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks, which is part copper-based, owned by telcos such as Telstra and Optus.

The Labor government has sought to decommission existing HFC networks, along with aged copper networks, as part of the NBN plan. Telstra and Optus have both struck deals with NBN Co to do so.

“Decommissioning HFC networks is completely nuts; it’s economic vandalism,” Turnbull said. “These are networks with many years of like in them and are capable of delivering fast broadband.”

He said should the Coalition come to power, he would renegotiate with telcos regarding the shutdown of HFC networks.

Based on the Shadow Communications Minister’s plans, a lot of copper in the local telecommunications network will be retained which inevitably raises the issue of cost. Telstra owns most if not all of the last mile copper which connects to homes and businesses. Then there is the cost of maintaining copper networks.

While admitting copper networks are more expensive to maintain, it would be cheaper than splurging billions on deploying fibre to the majority of Australian premises, Turnbull said.

“Part of the difficulty [in the broadband] debate is the failure to recognise there are multiple ways of delivering fast broadband,” he said

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Tags Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA)nbn coNational Broadband Network (NBN)Coalitiongreenfield sitesoptusHFC NetworksTelecommunicationsTelstrabroadbandFibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP)Malcolm Turnbull

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