Anyone watching or listening to today’s day-long forensic deconstruction by former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy of the current state of the NBN rollout could but not conclude that the entire project is being neutered for entirely political reasons.
Even NBN CEO Bill Morrow, by the end of the day, effectively conceded that he was no longer able to defend the Prime Minister’s stated belief that a Fibre-to-the-Node approach was the most cost and time effective approach.
This is an opinion piece by EFA Executive Officer Jon Lawrence. It reflects his views and does not necessarily reflect the views of EFA.
There are two main views on the approach that Malcolm Turnbull, then Communications Minister, took to the NBN when the Coalition took office in 2013.
One view is that Malcolm Turnbull is the destroyer of the NBN. The other, that I still tend to subscribe to, is that Malcolm Turnbull delivered the best NBN he could, given the ideologically-motivated luddite he previously reported to.
Like many people, I have assumed/hoped that, once elected in his own right, Malcolm Turnbull would spend some of his newly-won political capital on fixing this absurd ideological neutering of what is, arguably, the single most important infrastructure project in this country’s history.
Listening to today’s testimony from NBN to the Senate has however changed my view.
As anyone who really knows the technology has always said, the NBN will ultimately have to be a primarily Fibre-to-the-Premises affair, except in remote communities, where the cross-subsidy will never stack up. We either have to build it with fibre to the premises now, or come back later and upgrade all of that ‘last mile’ copper to fibre in the future.
Without being either a network expert nor having examined the economics in detail, it’s always seemed pretty intuitive to me that building national infrastructure like this right the first time, even if the cost were slightly higher, was the right approach.
Malcolm Turnbull however tried to sell us a different approach.
Faster and cheaper it would be, he said.
The standard line in any technology deployment decision is:
- Fast, Good or Cheap; Pick any Two
It’s now very clear that it will be neither cheaper nor faster, and it will almost certainly not be better.
But, don't take my word for it: watch the real experts on Lateline last night.