Don’t blame NBN
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.