A Coalition victory will see the implementation of less costly alternative to Labor’s National Broadband Network (NBN), under which fibre optic installation will be restricted to the street and homeowners will be entrusted with footing the bill for connection to their own premises.
While Labor’s NBN plan envisages a fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) roll out which would reach approximately 93 per cent of premises within the next decade and provide Internet connection speeds of up to 1000Mpbs to almost all Australians, the Coalition has proposed a more economical “fibre-to-the-node” alternative, under which connections will be restricted to cabinets in the streets, while homeowners or businesses will be responsible for paying for the installation of fibre optics connections to their own premises
Although the cost of fibre optic installation could run to thousands of dollars for each homeowner, Malcolm Turnbull, the shadow communications minister, insists that existing copper connections owned by Telstra will be sufficient for the Internet needs of many Australians as long as fibre optic cables are connected to local phone networks.
Mr. Turnbull pointed to the example of a Sydney Park Village roll out as a “good illustration in Australia that fibre-to-the-node can deliver those very high speeds.”
The Sydney Park Village – a huge apartment complex encompassing 18 buildings and 810 units in he city’s inner-west, achieved Internet connection speeds of as high as 93Mpbps for relatively low cost, using existing copper wires in tandem with an Optus Wholesale fibre corridor running in the street outside.
“The reason why it’s been so cost-effective is they haven’t had to rewire the building,” Mr. Turnbull said.
The Coalition has been highly critical of the exorbitant cost of Labor’s long-heralded NBN, which will cost around $37.4 billion in capex over a ten year period to complete.
Others have slammed the Coalition’s plan, however, saying it will exacerbate the current, inequitable situation under which Australians suffer from huge disparities in Internet quality, as a result of the Coalition’s willingness to allow different telcos to build different parts of the NBN as well as dominant industry player Telstra to hamper competition.
Veteran tech journalist Adam Turner said in an article written for Fairfax that the Coalition’s plan will perpetuate the unruly and chaotic nature of Australia’s Internet infrastructure, which has thus far led to a “vast digital divide between Australia’s haves and have-nots.
Turner is also especially critical of the power position enjoyed by Telstra within Australia’s Internet industry, which he says has stifled competition and innovation, as well as led to today’s inconsistent hodge-podge of Internet supply within the country.
“If Turnbull has his way, Telstra will hold Australia to ransom for another 30 years,” Turner writes.