Here We Go Again

Worried Mal

Yes Malcolm, you should be worried. You’ve just made an arse of yourself.

It seems that Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) can’t go a day without saying something that betrays his lack of knowledge & policy when it comes to telecommunications. As reported by both ZDNet & the Australian Financial Review, Turnbull has announced that people WILL be able to receive a fibre optic service, if they pay for the cost to connect them.

On the face of it, this is myopic, but looking deeper into this, it is going to widen the digital divide to save little to no initial costs over deploying a straight FTTH NBN. If you take David Brue’s article from yesterday on ZDNet, the estimated cost of cancelling contracts, & applying CPR to the copper network will end up being in the order of $30bn, just $7bn shy of the ALP’s NBN expenditure. So to save a little, Turnbull plans to offer FTTH at your cost.

Looking at this announcement, I’m gob-smacked that Turnbull even had the courage to make it. By making FTTH a user-pays system this does not put a small burden on consumers, but an huge, if not impossible, burden on them. There are many questions that remain unanswered with this announcement such as:

  • Who pays for the fibre optic ISAM card? Is the first user to pay the ~$50 000 for the card?
  • Who pays for the fibre run? Does the first user pay for the passive splitter & run to said splitter?
  • Will users be forced to pay ad-hoc rates for these installs?
  • Will the FTTN cabinets be built to house double capacity?
  • Will the Coalition build twice as many cabinets to cater for FTTH?

The raw numbers don’t bode well, every connection will cost more than 64x that for the fibre run as cable will have to be run for each house as they request it, unlike NBN Co who runs the cable for ALL users at once. There will need to be either cabinets that are twice as big to house enough card slots for both FTTN & FTTH connections, or deploy twice as many of the 70 000 estimated cabinets.

The cost would be astronomical, even if the ISAM card costs were spread amongst users, in the order of $30 000 for a single connection. A far cry from the $2000 currently being spent per user to upgrade both distribution & backbone services.

So why is Turnbull doing this? Easy! This is Turnbull’s last-ditch effort to win over techies. It won’t work as we’re smarter than this. We spend our lives living & breathing technology, & for someone to suggest we have to pay to upgrade the network so the government can, potentially, save a few billion dollars, reminds us of the stupidity we encounter in our jobs. I’ve come across situations like this in many of my ICT jobs: middle managers attempting to reduce costs by doing things in halves.

That’s exactly what Turnbull is doing, being a middle manager. Who cares about foresight when you can pretend something will be cheaper? The cost of powering nodes, keeping the copper alive, & building 70 000 (or maybe 140 000) cabinets far outweighs any perceived savings by investing in technology that’s already out of date.

I’m done being nice to Turnbull, his actions are that of an imbecile being given a portfolio they don’t understand. If this man is ever given control over our telecommunications infrastructure, Australia will be set back by 30 years investing in technologies that hobble our ability to compete as a modern economy.

This is further proof that Turnbull does not have any semblance of policy when it comes to his portfolio, preferring to pose for photo ops rather than actually do his job of formulating & costing one of the most important policies for Australia’s future. Without high-speed connectivity, Australia will remain a digital backwater, relegated to third world status when it comes to our ability to function in this growing digital age.

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  • sally

    Why were you ever nice to Turnbull?
    Didn’t Utegate teach you anything?
    This is nothing to do with facts, reason or knowledge : this is just the political game, which is now all about how it plays in the media.
    You can get away with absolutely anything in an area where so relatively few understand the details.
    “User pays” is the message. Could anything sound fairer?

  • Cap’n Tim

    Interesting too is the fact that Malcolm has shares in a company in France. What are they providing? Fibre to the home, the very technology that Malcolm opposes here.

  • Mike

    The other issue with this policy, of course, is that we completley lose the ubiquity which is – to my mind – one of the MOST important aspects of the NBN. I well recall as a youngster in the 1970’s when I first moved to north London that there were STILL houses using gas for lighting i.e without electric lights!! It’s an extreme example but we can imagine houses in the 2060 era still with copper – unable (financially) or unwilling to upgrade. What an absolute farce this is – and what an arse he is to suggest it! But then maybe not? I wonder if Turnbull is really the Eddie Obied of the telecommunications world? “Psst! I suggest you buy Telstra shares and watch the rivers of gold when we give them back an insurmountable monopoly!’ You can just see the whispered conversations with his LNP mates….. Hmm…maybe just a smart-arse!

  • James

    It’s very unfortunate that the qualifications required for becoming a politician are the exact opposite of what is required for running a country.

  • Trevor W

    James, Some of the readers have weak bladders.

  • Trevor W

    Sortius, I am profoundly grateful to you for finding the time to write about the extremely important subject of the NBN.