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The "Never Never Broadband Network" - NBN complaints



The Labor preference for FTTC over FTTN is actually something they have in the past openly stated:

From Michelle Rowland MP’s “SPEECH - COMMSDAY SUMMIT - SYDNEY - 11 APRIL, 2017”

"National Broadband Network

Since 2009, Labor has been committed to a fibre-to-the-premises NBN. Today, our commitment to a fibre-to-the-premises NBN remains unchanged.

From a technology perspective, there is no doubt that fibre is superior in terms of speed, reliability and scalability.

For this reason, the NBN debate has focused on the question of how much Australia should invest in exchange for the digital capabilities we need:
•Should we invest in a cheaper technology now and hope we will not have to incur greater costs to upgrade in the future?

•Or should we invest in better technology now and trust this is a prudent economic decision for the long-term?

I acknowledge all those here today for the contributions you have made to this debate.

The irony is the passage of time has made the debate around the trade-offs somewhat a moot point in the eyes of the public.

Just look at the results.

If someone had told you back in 2008 that Australia would spend $50 billion on an upgraded copper and HFC network, slipping outside the top 50 in the world for broadband speed rankings, you would have fallen off your chair

Unfortunately the NBN that is being rolled out is not cheaper or faster. It’s slower, less reliable, and ultimately more expensive.

You don’t have to take it from me. Maurice Newman, not the world’s greatest Labor supporter, says thus:

“He [Turnbull] recommended the model be fundamentally changed from fibre-to-the-premises, to a multi-technology-mix network based on copper. It was a fateful decision rooted in politics.

Turnbull ignored New Zealand’s experience of falling costs for FTTP connection. He dismissed expert opinion that claimed FTTP was operationally cheaper and generated more average income.

Instead, he went for immediate popularity by promoting a dubiously cheaper, faster rollout…

Turnbull’s decision has saddled Australia with a second-rate network…

Its relative inadequacy will become increasingly obvious over time.”[10]

As the financial basis for the multi-technology-mix eroded, the government did not seek to defend its policy. Instead, their strategy boiled down to one objective: keep moving the goalposts to make a fibre NBN seem as unrealistic as possible.

In the end, this didn’t fool the public.

Soaring consumer complaints and the sentiment of lost opportunity is palpable wherever you go.

As I have noted, current CVC price signals are at odds with the inflated cost base and deflated capabilities of the multi-technology-mix.

As I have detailed, this is no longer an abstract debate because consumers and small businesses are living the consequences.

If you require a demonstration of just how difficult the outlook is for copper, look no further than the somewhat odd commentary by NBN Co about how their FTTN nodes can be repurposed as “extremely valuable assets” once rendered redundant.[11]

The tacit admissions of failure are now becoming more explicit.

During Senate Estimates hearings in February NBN Co conceded there is no capital set aside in the current 30-year NBN business case to upgrade the copper network.[12]

This unfortunately demonstrates the already low 3.4 per cent internal rate of return in the 2017 Corporate Plan is based on FTTN being used to 2040 and beyond.[13]

International experience tells us that an FTTN network produces three times as many faults as a fibre network.

The head of NBN Co has also conceded that of the seven technology footprints, FTTN is the most exposed to the threat of competition from 4G and 5G wireless. [14]

So not only is FTTN a liability to customers in the copper footprint, it is a liability to Australian taxpayers.

In exchange for an upgrade from copper to fibre, households and small businesses will be asked to pay higher prices.

You will recall it was Malcolm Turnbull who said that only half the capital invested in an FTTN deployment could be carried through to a fibre upgrade.[15] This does not even account for the costs to consumers and RSPs who would have to endure another challenging migration.

The critical point here is the government’s approach will require customers or taxpayers to pay for billions in wasted upgrade costs that could have been avoided if the right technology choices were made at the outset.

That is unless you take the view that copper will meet the nation’s needs for the decades to come. It is clear the majority of experts do not share this sentiment, and neither does the Australian public.

As I’ve emphasised, when political and policy direction is lacking, important initiatives lose coherence. Things may appear to make sense in isolation, but they do not join-up to the whole. The multi-technology-mix is a case in point:

•Short term thinking.

•Complexity and fragmentation.

•A pricing design no longer matched to the capabilities of the network.

•Consumer discontent absorbing the energy of policy makers, when more of that energy could be directed at using the digital economy to support a vision for a more creative, productive and inclusive nation.

This inevitably leads to the question: where to from here?

From the outset we need to be realistic about the options before us.

A Labor election win in 2013 or 2016 would have resulted in a broader set of reform options, of a network closer to the original intent and design.

However, from 2018 or 2019, the next time Labor could form Government, the constraints on a new policy direction are considerable.

From Opposition, our task is to both limit the damage by this Government, and call for action to improve the technology-mix where there remains practical scope to do so.

Labor took a robust policy to the 2016 election to scale up the rollout of fibre to the premises and phase out the rollout of fibre to the node.

This would have delivered FTTP to up to 2 million homes and business that would otherwise be stuck on fibre-to-the-node.

But since the election we have seen the Government scale up its flawed rollout of the copper network, making it harder and more expensive for households and businesses to upgrade to fibre.

Information provided by NBN Co at Senate Estimates indicates there are a modest segment of premises scheduled to be connected with FTTN that have not yet entered into an NBN design or construction pipeline.[16]

If Labor was elected last year, these homes and small businesses would have been connected to fibre to the premise.

Of course, Mr Turnbull has opposed fibre to the premises for over six years and we don’t expect this to change at this stage of the rollout.

So can anything be done to salvage what remains of the rollout?

There has been ongoing debate about the merits of taking Fibre to the Distribution Point, or Curb, instead of to the Node. In 2015 my predecessor, Jason Clare, predicted that NBN would begin rolling out Fibre to the Curb.[17]

This has of course happened and has been confirmed even today as being expanded.

Moving fibre deeper into the network and preserving the option of an economical upgrade to full fibre is an important step forward.

At a minimum, it remains possible to take fibre to the curb for these targeted premises without disrupting timelines for the overall rollout.

This won’t fix the NBN - and it’s not fibre-to-the-premises– but it will salvage something better for those households, guarantee better speeds and modestly improve the economics of the NBN.

As we learnt from evidence in recent Senate Estimates hearings, the additional up-front investment would be comfortably absorbed within NBN Co’s capital contingency buffer, and that ensures there would be no increase to the peak funding target of $49 billion.[18], [19]

This investment would mean better speeds for consumers and better value for both the taxpayer and economy.

The incremental investment of $500 per home to take fibre to the kerb would save double that amount in future upgrade and migration costs avoided.

Whilst I note NBN Co’s announcement today, at a minimum, the Government should be scaling up the rollout of fibre to the curb for all the remaining premises not currently in the design and construction pipeline, who will otherwise be stuck on a copper network.

This time-limited opportunity should not be squandered.

What is proposed here is a modest interim measure to improve the technology mix. But it will by no means fix the problems with the NBN.

This is why Labor is continuing its work on a consumer-focused NBN policy to take to the next election."

Referenced links in the speech:

10 Maurice Newman, The Australian: The White Elephant NBN started life on a Coaster Plan, 16 December 2016.

11 NBN Co, Setting the facts straight on Fibre to the Node, 8 March 2017.

12 Senate Estimates and Environment Committee, 28 February 2017, p.133.

13 NBN Co, Corporate Plan 2017, p.54.

14 Senate Estimates Environment and Communications Committee, 24 March 2017, p. 59.

15 Coalition NBN Policy Background Paper, p.15, April 2013.

16 Senate Estimates Environment and Communications Committee, 28 February 2017, p.131.

17 Speech to CommsDay, 14 October 2015.

18 Senate Estimates Environment and Communications Committee, 24 March 2017, p. 64.

19 NBN Co, Corporate Plan 2017, p.54


It’ll be fine - copper doesn’t degrade.


It is impossible to imagine how any government would be able to privatise this white elephant that has been created, without doing substantial reconstruction first. As I am opposed to its privatisation, I suppose this could be taken as a single positive aspect of the mess that has been created? :face_vomiting:


They could emulate the deal with toll companies since the blueprint is done. Alternatively they could pay someone to take it off government’s hands by

  1. letting that company set its own rates, no actual oversight required.
  2. giving that company a multi-decades long freedom from taxation.
  3. setting the minimalist possible performance criteria, eg their trucks must have the NBN logo affixed at ll times to be in compliance

Oh wait, where have we seen that before? Goto ‘they’ :wink:

It can be done :roll_eyes:


The answer of “FTTP to all” I think is the preferred outcome by most (some instead are diehard Mobile Wireless affeciandos).

Fixed Wireless and Satellite are answers for a period of time to a very small amount of the populace because of remoteness.

FTTC is a better outcome than FTTN or Fixed Wireless or Satellite to those whose situation could be served by FTTC but who are currently being served or are doomed to be served by inferior tech, but again FTTC as an interim measure so that the poorer solutions can be ditched as soon as they can be.

The sooner the replacement of the inferior tech can be done the cheaper it will be longer term, even though the overall cost will still be enormous in the short term.


“We have to decide, as from now, that access to the national information infrastructure will be no less a general right than access to water, or public transport or electricity.” – Paul Keating 1995

Sounds like the sort of deal Rupert might go for. :japanese_ogre:

Can we afford to think short-term? In optical fibre, we’re dealing with stuff that lasts a century or so. That’s the time-scale on which we need to plan.

For the short to medium term, wireless and satellite will have to do. From what I know of the existing copper, little of it is in good enough condition to be a realistic option. The ~18,000 km of old copper that’s been replaced with new copper is a criminal misuse of funds, IMO.


Wait… isn’t he the one who commenced the sell-off of public assets? (Never mind the fact that the next government took it to extremes.)


I don’t know whether Keating was the first, but he was certainly in to privatisation. That was the faith of the age. It was Howard though, who sold off our telecommunications infrastructure against the advice of experts.

Keating was speaking at the launch of the Networking the Nation program, which was funded by the partial privatisation of Telstra. It could be said that he started the degradation, but would he have made as much of a mess as Howard did? We’ll never know.


No we can’t but often we do. I am in no way supporting the short term thinking but it will be expensive now so it is much cheaper and better later.


So it can’t have been in 1995. As the link states, it was in 1997 by which time Howard was in charge and we had a ‘Beazley black hole’ (is that where Abbott learned the value of simply repeating three word slogans ad nauseum?!).


You’re right - and wrong (but then so am I). Keating was speaking at the release of the final report of the Broadband Services Expert Group.

There’s a bit of history in this piece from 2013:

Of particular interest:

- Rolling out an FTTN network has no efficient upgrade path to FTTP, putting into doubt the appropriateness of building an FTTN network

In January, 2009.


The history of the NBN is indeed a long story full of false hopes and poor decisions and the occasional burst of egocentricity? A true novel, but perhaps not a blockbuster thriller or romance. Perhaps a boreing sobering real life tragedy for some.

Commitment to upgrading the NBN to all Fibre is absent from Australia’s Labour policy. Is there any evidence it will return?

However for the few without an NBN build passing their door in 2019 there may still be some hope?

While we wait for any updated policy announcements for 2019 from either major political party, the following contains a clear message suggesting how a change of government might affect the NBN rollout.

It suggests a measured approach, although considering “trade-offs” leaves plenty of wiggle room.

In terms of the NBN it is clear that at every juncture policy makers face difficult trade-offs between consumers, the budget, stakeholder interests and an efficient market design.

It is my view that communications policy over the past four years has been dealt with a piecemeal manner.

At its core, it has been lacking in creativity, vision and a coherent narrative.

I am not making any assumptions about the next election.

It will be a very hard fought contest that could go either way.

I offer that in sincerity.

But if the Labor Party is fortunate enough to be elected by the Australian public, we will be ready to tackle these issues.

We won’t be the dog that caught the car.

We will be rigorous in our approach, we will make choices, and we will explain the trade-offs to the public.

It appears extremely unlikely that an ALP led government would simply abandon progress to date. No doubt there are significant commercial realities to the contracts already in place to complete the network rollout as a primary consideration.

It appears likely the next government of what ever flavour will finish the NBN as best as they can before there is any longer term commitment to fixing up the short comings of the project to date.

P.s. Unfortunately we are still in the world where neither water or sewerage are yet government supplied essential services, although we did get electricity continuously from the pole out the front for more than 360 days last year. The internet does come via ADSL2 for now, which is a good thing.

Most might agree it will be much better when every one has FTTP at gigabit speeds. However I reserve the option as a consumer to ask for a fair go for those who are still in NBN limbo. And the 10%+ of us with FW or Satellite solutions. You might the add the FTTN customers who cannot get better than 25/5Mbps service.

Of course these are likely the most expensive services to fix and upgrade. If there is a mass FTTP future, who do you think the government or future private NBN owner will service first and at lowest cost with full FTTP?


I don’t believe that the “next government” will be around long enough to “finish” the NBN. How do I define “finished”? When every premises that can be provided with optical fibre, within the service life of that technology, has been so provided. The anticipated service life of optical fibre is a century or so. I reckon Australia has enough remote premises that we’ll need most of that.

The government will probably start with the easiest and work outward. The private sector will serve the most lucrative, then demand handouts. That’s why the private sector shouldn’t be anywhere near the NBN.

I’m on fixed wireless myself. There’s too much copper between my place and the exchange for DSL of any description to work (although I did have ISDN for a while - that’s a form of DSL, but my service was stretching the limits at 128 kb/s). The mere fact that I have that copper shows that a land-line to my place is feasible.

It isn’t so much a case of much better, as one of necessity. I’d be among those who’d argue that anyone who doesn’t have that sort of service will shortly find life very difficult indeed.


For consumers away from the big cities and towns, it’s taken the best part of a century to get from the treadle wireless of the first Flying Doctor to the Sat Phone. There are many remote properties and not so remote localities that copper never reached. Dedicated microwave links was the best many ever saw for any telecommunications.

Broadcast TV never arrived to many rural and remote communities, until the option of satellite services arrived.

As fine a solution as it would be, providing a direct fibre connection to the more sparsely settled properties would seem to follow the same path in the future as in the past. It is unlikely to happen as there are other alternatives either available or possible for the future.

Spot on to speculate it could take a very long time, what ever the outcome.

A privatised NBN delivering change is certainly a concern for more fibre. The old PMG/Telecom could plough a D8 through your paddocks to install a copper cable to your neighbour almost at will. A privatised NBN is likely to be less frivolous and stick to using public lands to which it has reasonable access rights.

P.S. FW, I’m so (not) looking forward to the upgrade here.


Just to be clear, most of the history seems to be some version of:

Now that we’ve got government out of the telecommunications business, let’s throw money at the private sector to make things even better!

Worse, most of that money was thrown at regional Australia - and have a look at how it improved services for regions. (I’m guessing that the regions were not necessarily picked based upon need.)

To be honest, I suspect that many regions would be better off with Project Loon at this point - probably at a lower price than the $4.7b the Rudd government was prepared to offer in 2008. It would certainly provide for much lower latency than anyone on satellite currently deals with.

Our ‘leaders’ in many cases seem to have been more interested in throwing money at already profitable businesses than in delivering something the country can use.

I suspect the access rights will be the least of your concerns if/when the NBN is sold out from under the taxpayers. Simply have a glance at how well Optus and Telstra went in rolling out cables for pay TV.


5 posts were split to a new topic: The cost of FTTC



Hi all,
We had around a 60/40 split to the above poll about closing this thread (and opening some new ones). The majority was starting to find this topic a bit confusing, and considering the size and interest behind this topic, we want to encourage the conversation to become a little more granular if possible.

As always, we’ll consider opening it again in the future if needed. Until then, please feel free to open new topics.