Opinion: NBN: Who voted to kill it?

I’ve been saying for some time that the NBN is dead, and today Malcolm Turnbull drove the stake home, killing any hope of a “national” broadband network. Who exactly voted for that?
OK, Turnbull hasn’t actually headed into the offices of NBN Co and flicked off the light switch, but I’m sticking to my assertion that the NBN, as envisaged and generally understood by the Australian population prior to the last election, is a dead duck.
That’s in relation to the news today that forces new developments to pay for fibre connections, as per this ITNews report, as well as dumping service provisions to provide uniform wholesale pricing, as per The Australian. Instead, there’ll be a subsidy provision for NBN connections in the bush, but the expectation is that broadband services would be provided for by other competitive providers, with NBN Co being the provider “of last resort”.
Or, as Richard Chirgwin at The Register puts it, the government has given itself room to NEVER finish the NBN.
Look, I’m not surprised that the Liberal party (and it’s the Liberals who are in charge here, with the National party more and more looking like the pathetic friend who hangs around the bigger kids hoping not to be picked on quite so much) would push for an absolute free market approach to the NBN. Turnbull’s stated on many occasions that he wouldn’t have designed the NBN the way it was, but that as it was done, he was going to finish it.

Finished it is, and you’ve only got to look at a very simple definition of each word in the NBN to work out why.
National: Nope, not any more. Admittedly, it was never going to be 100 per cent “national”, because there are sections of the Australian population who are so absolutely remote that running fibre to them would be genuinely cost prohibitive. Oddly, that’s one bit of legislation that’s survived shifts of government. But given that Turnbull’s effectively handing the keys over to the likes of Telstra, Optus and co, with NBN Co compelled to offer services as a “last resort”, it’s not hard to see that broadband rollouts will be slow, and they’ll be expensive, because the big companies will cherry pick the sweet spots and ignore the rest. It’s at that point presumably if you’re in a regional or non-NBN area that you’d have to approach what’s left of NBN Co, cap in hand, to see what can be done.
Even then, if you’re on a new build, you’ll have to pony up the cash for the connection. This probably suits the Liberals just fine; they’ve already got their Telstra shares, you see.
Broadband: This one’s is, I’ll admit, up for debate, because broadband is a matter of speed and capacity, and that’s not a fixed definition. That being said, what with watering down the provisions for minimum service and cracking in a “last resort” clause as well, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see Australia’s broadband position slipping even further. That’s OK, I suppose, as long as everyone still wants to buy lots of coal and not invest in renewable energy sources.

Network: This, to me, is the critical one, and it’s one that’s just had the last bits of life support ripped from its weakly beating chest. A network, like a chain, is only as good as its weakest link. Switching to the MTM NBN model already weakened those links markedly, creating a multi-tier “Good/Acceptable/Shaky” system, but today’s shift all but ensures that there won’t be a network that could be effectively leveraged for both today and tomorrow’s broadband applications.
What galls me about this particularly is that I can’t see how the vast majority of the Australian population actually voted for this, because every indication pre-election was that this was precisely what they didn’t want.
Yes, there were die-hard technophobes (Hi Alan Jones!) who argued against the NBN on misguided or head-in-the-sand-never-support-anything-the-other-side-comes-up-with “principles”, and I can’t say that they didn’t vote “for” the NBN.
It’s just that any reasonable analysis quickly concludes that this was in fact the minority.
A scant five seconds of quick searching finds this trend again and again and again
Heck, you can even find it amongst die-hard Coalition supporters pre-election.
It’s precisely why the Coalition went from a path of sending Turnbull in to destroy the NBN to presenting their FTTN vision as affordable and “bulletproof”.
Yeah, Tony Abbott said that, and then he went out and purchased, by way of nearly endless “reviews” a much better type of bullet for Malcolm Turnbull to shoot the NBN stone cold dead with.
So RIP, NBN. A majority of Australians wanted you, but the “adults” in charge decided, despite an absolute mandate to keep it around, that it didn’t suit their particular position. I would say that that’s democracy for you, but isn’t the point of a democracy that the people vote for what they actually want?

2 thoughts on “Opinion: NBN: Who voted to kill it?”

  1. Why did the Government EVER get involved in this $4.7Bn project? Remember – that was the original budget. IT projects are notoriously difficult for professionals to execute and here we see that when Govt gets involved, it falls down in a screaming heap. Leave free enterprise alone and let the market and private sector deliver communication services.

    1. Because there are elements of public infrastructure that the private sector is unlikely to invest in due to slower returns/smaller population bases? It’s the same “private sector” that NBN Co’s picked its operatives from, so presumably that logic’s not up to much either…

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