Don’t blame NBN

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

Townsville THE Na­tional Broad­band Net­work is get­ting a bum rap – bizarrely, be­cause it has been too suc­cess­ful.

No, and clearly sur­pris­ingly ( and wor­ry­ingly so) to far too many peo­ple, NBN chief Bill Mor­row hasn’t been able to wave a magic wand and de­liver an in­stantly in­stalled all- fi­bre net­work, with all the in­evitable start- up bugs elim­i­nated up­front, per­va­sively to ev­ery cor­ner of the con­ti­nent. And done so, if not yes­ter­day, at least now.

What he has been able to do is get the NBN rolled out to just over half of the premises across this con­ti­nent; and get it rolled out to them – al­most from a stand­ing start – in less than four years.

If we’d stuck with the Kevin Rud­dStephen Con­roy all- fi­bre Rolls- Royce ver­sion, by now we would have a great state- of- the- art net­work reach­ing all of per­haps 15- 20 per cent of premises. And at the cost of much the same bil­lions that has got it to 50 per cent of the coun­try.

When the Ab­bott govern­ment won in 2013 it had three choices: per­sist with the Rudd- Con­roy all- fi­bre build; aban­don the NBN en­tirely; or switch ( as it did) to the MTM ( Multi Tech­nol­ogy Mix) NBN.

The sec­ond would have meant throw­ing away the bil­lions al­ready spent – and still left us with hav­ing to start on a mostly- to- all- fi­bre net­work in the fu­ture.

The first would have cost at least – pick a fig­ure – $ 30 bil­lion more than the switch to the MTM- NBN is go­ing to cost. But no one re­ally knows what it would have cost to string fi­bre to all of those hard- to- get- at places.

This would have built the equiv­a­lent of a four- lane high­way to ( al­most) ev­ery home and busi­ness premise, when most con­sumers only wanted a, true rea­son­ably wide, bike path. And it would have taken prob­a­bly to 2030 to do that.

Most im­por­tantly, it would have left us with ex­actly the same – slowspeed – is­sues that are the main com­plaint ( from a very small mi­nor­ity of those now on the NBN). Be­cause – and this is the ab­so­lutely key point to un­der­stand – these slow speed is­sues are not in the main a con­se­quence of not hav­ing all- fi­bre, or the fact that there’s a mix of tech­nolo­gies ( fi­bre, fi­bre to the node, to the curb, HFC ca­ble).

They are in the main a con­se­quence of the price the re­tail ser­vice providers are pay­ing to ac­cess the net­work. Bluntly, these RSPs are sell­ing high speeds to con­sumers but not buy­ing enough ac­cess to en­sure they can de­liver those speeds when de­mand is high at peak pe­ri­ods.

Very sim­ply, it is up to the ACCC to po­lice the RSPs. To make it bluntly clear that if they sell a con­sumer a 25 MBps down­load speed, they buy enough ca­pac­ity on the NBN to de­liver it, and not just be­tween 2am and 6am.

Yes, the NBN it­self has made it unattrac­tive for RSPs to buy suf­fi­cient ca­pac­ity.

But the RSPs have also been try­ing to prom­ise a Rolls- Royce or even just an old- fash­ioned Holden for the price of a buggy.

But you also have to un­der­stand why the NBN has been charg­ing these prices: be­cause it has to pay for the cost of build­ing the damn thing.

NO MAGIC WAND: NBN chief Bill Mor­row has done a great job rolling out the ser­vice so quickly.

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