The National Broadband Network (NBN) has been the darling of the broadband industry since it was given a $43 billion dollar budget and the goal of being a wholesale-only network.
Many major ISPs have supported the fibre-based network for its scope and capacity to end Telstra’s stranglehold over wholesale broadband services. The Labor Party also pushed it as one of its key policies in the lead-up to the election.
On the other hand, the Coalition’s $6 billion wireless-centric plan met strong criticism from much of the industry.
When the Alliance for Affordable Broadband came onto the scene, it shattered the happy family image of a unified ISP industry which favoured Labor’s $43 billion baby.
The group includes AAPT CEO, Paul Broad, Pipe Network founder, Bevan Slattery, and BigAir CEO, Jason Ashton. The rebel ISPs wrote an open letter deriding the current NBN plans and proposed an NBN 3.0 which heavily features wireless technology.
In this ONLINE ONLY interview ARN spoke to Broad about why he think the Labor’s NBN is a waste of money, the need for more transparency and his views on why the NBN will be a step back in time for the telco industry.
Why has it taken so long for the Alliance to enter the NBN debate?
If you follow the public debate, I was probably the first one to go public when the govt announced the NBN.
In fact, I was on a business program on ABC making the valid point that to make the NBN work, you’d probably have to pay twice as much as what you pay today and for our customers they don’t get speeds they particularly want.
I made the point in the early days and have done so pretty consistently right throughout the debate.
Stayed out of the election campaign because I don’t think it’s appropriate for businesses to be entering that debate. That’s for politicians.
But a lot of major ISPs have lauded the NBN…
I think most of the industry recognises there is an enormous amount of capacity in the ground today and one of the reasons we’re coming out is to make it really clear that you can leverage what we have today.
We don’t agree at all that as building of an alternative network should reduce competition.
The benefits to consumers from competition from the last 20 years have been enormous. If we are going to re-monopolise the industry under a Government monopoly - which was what we had 20 years ago before Government started making changes - then it would be a huge backwards step.
What [the Alliance] is saying is there’s a lot of infrastructure in the ground. Leverage what we’ve got.
Yes, we accept and agree on the grand vision of broadband access to everybody. But Just a simple fact: The 2000 schools in NSW are all hooked on fibre today – this was just announced by the state government the other day.
I could be wrong on this, think over 90 per cent of hospitals are already on broadband and I think for us, iiNet and others, our customers in metro areas have access to high speeds on ADSL2+ but 95 per cent of them don’t use the top seeds that are available.
We are just trying to introduce a little bit of reality into the debate. We are arguing the case that multiple forms of technology can deliver what the Government wants for a fraction of the price it’s talking about.
ARN spoke to Big Air’s Jason Ashton (another member of the Alliance) who said wireless growth has skyrocketed in recent years. But could this figure be partially driven by people in certain places that can’t get access to fixed-line services and are forced to take up wireless?
Well, I think you look at the facts. The number of people on fixed broadband is going down. People are getting out of fixed into wireless.
People will trade mobility and convenience for speed.