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Turnbull and the barking mad NBN debate: numbers needed

Malcolm Turnbull has offered a defence of the Coalition’s broadband internet strategy, but claims he needs more numbers from NBN Co. We’d settle for rough estimates ahead of the election.

Malcolm Turnbull

Opposition broadband spokesperson Malcolm Turnbull has two real and continuing frustrations with the national broadband network debate: NBN Co’s lack of transparency, and journalists’ failure to research how broadband is actually done in other countries.

There is an air of complete barking unreality about some of the commentary. There is a lack of interest in what is happening in other markets,” Turnbull said this morning at Kickstart Forum 2013, a get-together of tech journos and vendors on the Sunshine Coast.

Journalists point to Spain’s fibre-to-the-node premises rollout, for example, without understanding one key difference: in Spain, it was hard to do FTTN because there are no kerbside cabinets in which to put the nodes. In the Franco era, the government feared anarchists would blow up the cabinets, so instead they laid the wires of their copper network straight from the exchange to the premises in cable ducts much larger than Australia’s. It was therefore easy to string fibre down those ducts too.

Turnbull’s comments today echoed those he made on ABC Radio’s AM in January:

This is not a religious issue. It is a question of being business-like and getting the balance right, as I said. The problem with this debate is that it is proceeding in some quarters as a quasi-religious debate.”

The argument against fibre-to-the-node is that it doesn’t deliver the same performance as fibre-to-the-premises. That’s the argument,” he said this morning. Questions of costs and the time it takes to build are ignored.

Yet, as I’ve argued at ZDNet, Turnbull is effectively running a quasi-religious debate himself. He’s asking us to take at face value statements such as being able to build FTTN for a quarter the price of FTTP, or his potentially powerful arguments involving opportunity costs and the relative value for money spent now versus money spent in the future.

So why can’t we see the spreadsheets that would convince us? Turnbull says that’s because we’d need NBN Co’s figures.

If the NBN were to say, ‘well, we’re going to sit down with you and work with you on this scenario B’, we could come up with some much more robust numbers,” he said. “Really, the NBN Co should be an open book. It doesn’t have any competition, it belongs to the taxpayers. You can find more about what Telstra’s doing as a public listed company than you can about the NBN Co.”

There’s no reason why NBN Co couldn’t report monthly the details of premises passed, premises activated and the cost of doing that, he says.

Turnbull repeated the Coalition’s commitment that, if elected, they will “very, very quickly” conduct a transparent analysis of the NBN’s current FTTP network rollout and a similar analysis of variations thereof — including FTTN in brownfield rollouts — to determine the potential savings in money and time.

But there have been estimates, Turnbull noted, including Telstra’s rejected 2009 tender, which quoted for a FTTN NBN built from ground zero at around $15 billion. Since then labour costs have risen but equipment costs have dropped.

Why couldn’t the Coalition start putting out at least rough estimates for their plan, using whatever figures were available? “If I put out a set of financials, I want them to be right,” he said.

48
  • 1
    klewso
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    … journalists failure to research”? Very funny, they don’t get paid or the time for that.

  • 2
    klewso
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    “If I put out a set of financials, I want them to be right,” he said?

    pssst …. T-ball, me and me Russian mates here, can make it rain for $10 million … oh, and my uncle says g’day!”

  • 3
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Thanx for this report and analysis which I found informative inasmuch as I understood it. My difficulty is with this sentence:

    Journalists point to Spain’s fibre-to-the-node rollout, for example, without understanding one key difference: …’.

    I can’t make sense of this passage unless it were:

    Journalists point to Spain’s fibre to the premises rollout … .

  • 4
    zut alors
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Why throw $35 billion at a Rolls Royce fibre-optic network when you can fritter away an identical sum of taxpayer dollars on fault-prone Joint Strike Fighters?

  • 5
    ggm
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Spain: 93 people/km^2. Australia 2.8 people/km2.

    Yes, we are officially the most urbanized. Spanish Urban development as I have seen it is denser housing more akin to Syd/Mel/Bris inner suburbs *everywhere* not quarter-acre block developments. The capital costs for a national fibre rollout would be very different, as is the investment and cost-of-capital in their economy. BTW, the people I know who work in the Spanish Internet/related sectors say that the government routinely fails to pay a significant number of contracts, on the basis that it can, and you hope to win as a sub-contractor next time. Perhaps The libs are going to adopt this finance model too? After all the PPP model in tunnels seems to include a significant number of investors loosing their shirt…

  • 6
    michael r james
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    FTTFD-WTF!
    Take a look at this.
    An entry under Wikipedia’s guide to Fiber_to_the_x page; it references Abbott’s speech on 31 January but otherwise is listed without any kind of comment or critical appraisal. Abbo can now claim to be a bona fide Wikipedia-cited Broadband expert!

    This contribution to Wiki was made on 5 Feb by IP 203.153.237.62 (one wonders who that is, anyone?)

    [FTTFD (fiber-to-the-front-door): The 2013 Australian Liberal Party leader Mr Tony Abbot describing the Labor Party’s controversial National Broadband Network (NBN) roll-out FTTFD solution as being an inferior and more costly solution than FTTN: “Our fibre-to-the-node plan will deliver superfast broadband for a fraction of the price and in a fraction of the time required to deliver fibre to the front door,”].

  • 7
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    What a lot of trivial and barely relevant comments. For once the very smart and business savvy Turnbull has got something absolutely right. How the NBN plan wasn’t a source of derision aimed at the government right from the start is amazing. The whole plan was conceived and announced without the faintest attempt at justifying it on cost-benefit grounds taking proper account of, inter alia, opportunity costs which the author mentions. It is both a priori and empirically certain (99 per cent confidence level) that all that Australia needs could have been done with much less waste (we need those wasted dollars for other things we will waste them on apart from any good causes) and it is almost as certain that there will be still plenty of savings available after September unless those “commercial in confidence” contracts which lock in expenditure we can only guess at blow the whole money saving prospect out of the water.
    I just hope I get fibre before government gets sensible…..

  • 8
    ggm
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    I just hope I get fibre before government gets sensible…..” clever. I saw what you did there…

  • 9
    Mike Smith
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Smart & business savvy? Since when, Warren? He comes up with a new scheme each time his old ones are discredited. Lets see some citations for those ‘99% confidence level’ stats you’re quoting.

  • 10
    Ben N
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    While I agree wholeheartedly with the transparency issue, savings in rollout is a garbage argument. I can also sympathise with him wanting to get the numbers right as the media will repeat it as gospel and he will be castigated for missing the mark or changing the effort.

    What about cost to maintain?
    Cost to replace existing EOL copper (yeah right).
    Cost to business in terms of slower speeds?
    Cost to upgrade to FTTH when it cannot be upgraded?

    these are the questions he needs to answer in my opinion.

  • 11
    quink quink
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Why throw $35 billion at a Rolls Royce fibre-optic network when you can fritter away an identical sum of taxpayer dollars on fault-prone Joint Strike Fighters?

    Point one, the Howard government signed us up for the JSF.

    Point two, it’s not a $35 billion spend, it’s a $35 billion investment.

    Point three, here’s some other countries going the FTTH or FTTB way: Spain, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Sao Tome and Principe, Andorra, Romania, Bulgaria, China, Angola. These are just some examples, picked because either they have massive debts or much much lower GDP per capita than Australia. If that’s supposed to be the “Rolls Royce” option, then the existing network is the Ford Model T option.

    It is both a priori and empirically certain (99 per cent confidence level) that all that Australia needs could have been done with much less waste

    Point four, the ABS says downloads are increasing by about 50 per cent every year, so that’s a quadrupling every 3.5 years. The coalition plan, if you’re very very very lucky, will quadruple your download speeds on average. So, that keeps up with 3.5 years of growth at best. Call that prediction a bit too pessimistic and that number might turn into 5 years or so… still nowhere near long enough to justify FTTN as a step.

    Point five, FTTN will have its peak rollout in about early 2017. FTTH will have its peak rollout in about 2017-2018. We’d get FTTN about a year and a half sooner and it can keep up with progress for about 3.5 years. Not a good investment.

    Point six, Optus nor Telstra have extended the HFC network since 1999. Optus has quite declared that they have no interest in running an HFC network. Case in point, they were willing to shut it down and write it off for less than a billion. Now imagine that all the people on Optus HFC transfer to Telstra HFC (and some onto FTTN), for example, without NBN FTTH as a catching mechanism. Contention will go up and you’ll get worse speeds.

    Point seven, FTTN, if fully rolled out, will cost about $700 million more to maintain than FTTH. Considering that the lifetime for fibre is probably around a hundred years - with sixty years guaranteed - and copper might last twenty-five or thirty years, that’s billions and billions down the drain in order to have what we have now instead of something much much better, never mind the social and economic benefits.

  • 12
    quink quink
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    And relevant links if you need more convincing with a scary thing known as ‘facts’:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/australia/comments/18sdke/turnbull_says_nbn_co_could_offer_fttn_with/

    http://delimiter.com.au/2013/02/19/turnbull-wants-user-pays-ftth-model/

    Also, point seven: The FTTH over-the-top approach will likely cost $3000 or more per household and is likely to include higher monthly fees as well - and the nodes that the coalition is using for FTTN are actually literally in the way, but FTTH will still be routed through them, because it’s cheaper. Instead of NBN Co rolling out FTTH to an area once, NBN Co will instead have to come out dozens or hundreds of times, with capital works every time. Also, it’ll be not sensible for people who are renting, for example. So a large fraction of the population for whomm FTTH would otherwise be sensible will be cut off, on top of all of that.

  • 13
    zut alors
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    quink quink, all valid points and well articulated.

    My post was drawing a comparison between a Rolls Royce quality product/investment as opposed to a JSF snake oil deal struck with Howard. Obviously my sarcasm was too restrained.

    In the South Brisbane exchange area we’ve had the benefit of fibre-optic for the past year. If the rest of Australia get a whiff of how good this is Malcolm T will never be Communications MInister.

  • 14
    mook schanker
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Warren, I think your comment is not really relevant. I did find it hilarious that you bag the NBN for a CBA not being done and some tenuous link to opportunity cost, then respond with ‘waste’ rhetoric. Where’s the figures on the back of a fag packet to back up this ‘waste’, let alone some CBA work….

    And for Tunrball, yeah I need some more transparency from NBN so I can do a FTTN CBA. He’s really treating us like morons….

  • 15
    Daniel Maurice
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    @quink quink

    Wow, both Sao Tome AND Andorra as infrastructure models for Australia! Now that’s a first!

    No-one ever explains what 99% of 12 million individual dwellings are going to use 100Mb+ download speeds anytime soon for anything other fibre-delivered TV. Is that REALLY the most important use of $50 billion right now? How does spending literally billions to connect the last mile to all those dwellings with fibre address the explosion in demand for mobile data outside the home and office?

    We’re all in favour of a fast broadband backbone network which will service the needs of business, education and consumers who are prepared to pay for it, but the current plan is an unnecessarily expensive populist option that reflects a fatal combination of Conroy’s naivety, the wet dreams of the telecom engineers he’s listening to (in my experience they all LOVE big, shiny new networks and hang the cost) and voter-land ignorance of what an incredibly wasteful, anti-competitive approach to is being followed.

    Fibre should be rolled-out basically like the electricity grid, railways, roads etc before it — progressively, reflecting sober cost / benefit analysis and integrating where possible the use of existing infrastructure, like the multi-billion dollar private fibre cable and HFC networks which already have been built and which the current plan is SHUTTING DOWN to ensure there is no competition to the NBN.

    The NBN will never survive the next few years in its current form, regardless of which party is in power. Which is just as well since it would otherwise go down as the greatest white elephant of all time.

  • 16
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Warren, wasted money that will be spent on communications anyway?
    Unless telsra remains the very profitable private telecommunications monopoly it was sold as then the Coalition will be held responsible by duped mun and dad shareholders.
    That is the fundamental conservative position in all this.

  • 17
    Mark from Melbourne
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately Malcolm is so compromised because he has curled up in a ball to meet party lines that I no longer believe much of what he says. Sad really, he could be contributing so much more to the debate.

  • 18
    floorer
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know why there is so much fuss about this. All that’s happening is the decades old network is being replaced by a new modern one. I wonder what the National Party supporters think of the LNP’s policy.

  • 19
    Sandshoe
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Why might Malcolm T. need the NBN figures for the interim ie why can’t he sidestep making the answer argumentative and provide a straight forward illustration he understands the alternative and its cost he claims is feasible and comparable.

  • 20
    Sandshoe
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    …not comparable … a saving and the service comparable …

  • 21
    quink quink
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Here is what The Nationals’ senator Fiona Nash had to say in 2007, when Labor proposed FTTN - which is the current coalition plan:

    http://www.fionanash.com.au/Media/MediaReleases/tabid/84/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/213/LABORS-RURAL-FRAUDBAND.aspx

    “I don’t know which is worse, ignorance or deceit. Perhaps it’s a bit of both, but whatever the case the people of rural and regional Australia know a furphy when they see one. “It’s widely understood in the telecommunications industry that FTTN will not deliver improved broadband speeds to rural and regional areas. Experts predict that not only would Labor’s plan cost three to four times their estimate, it’s likely to only reach 75 per cent of the population – a far cry from their claims of 98 per cent reach.”

    Yep, The Nationals think it’s fraudband. At least they did, I should say. Labor changed to FTTH because of facts like these and because Telstra and FTTN wasn’t going to work out. Now, Malcolm Turnbull is quite happy to ignore all that, has had The Nationals put on a leash against their own interests and past statements and is prepared to screw us all over.

  • 22
    Sancho
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    If Turnbull is arguing for FTTN, then he’s streets ahead of his supporters, many of whom believe the laws of physics will change soon and make internet broadcasting more efficient than fibre.

    I took part in a comments debate recently with someone whose statements about the NBN seemed simply bizarre, until I realised that he thought the wireless internet in his house is wireless the same way his phone is.

    That’s the type of informed voter backing Turnbull up on this.

  • 23
    floorer
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    Sancho: “he thought the wireless internet in his house is wireless the same way his phone is.” Yep this where it’s at.

  • 24
    David Hand
    Posted Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Turnbull is asking absolutely legitimate questions. There is nil, zero transparency about the success of the NBN roll out so far.

    It has of course had one smashing success. Rolling out the NBN in Armadale won Julia Gillard Tony Windsor’s support for her minority government. Oh the joys of a publicly owned infrastructure project! Commercial realities be damned.

    Conroy is hiding the truth about the commercial disaster that is known as the NBN for obvious reasons. We will all find out in October.

  • 25
    Sancho
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    You’re partially right, David.

    The government is being opaque about the NBN probably because it’s over budget, overdue, and less efficient than promised. All valid grounds for criticism.

    Claims that the private sector would do the job better, however, are unfounded and completely contrary to the history of privatised infrastructure in Australia.

    The factors which are making the job hell for the federal government - scale and distance - would also affect private providers. The crucial difference is that the private sector would never front the capital for such a project, and would simply invest a far smaller sum in advertising telling us that copper line is the smart choice for 20th century communication.

    Private businesses do small deals, not big projects, and the government deserves recognition for making an effort to future-proof Australia.

  • 26
    quink quink
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    First, so what if Armidale was one of the first sites
    ? That’s only a reasonable complaint if less than 100% will be covered, and that’ll only be the case under a coalition government. While he transparency of NBN Co is lacking in some regards, there’s still plenty of information out there, including many of the financials.

    Start with the implementation study, which cost $25 million and can for a large number of detractors serve some of the same purposes as a CBA, move on to the corporate plans and look at the monthly prgress upsates. And the documents submitted to the ACCC for the SAU are good to read too. It’s all there.

    Also, the original cost estimate for the capital expenditure was $43 billion. The cost estimate in the latest corporate plan has gone up by $1.5 billion - for some very good reasons that you may find out if you read the corporate plan - but is actually below $40 billion. So it’s actually below the original budget.

  • 27
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Yes, folks, “Journalists point to Spain’s fibre-to-the-node rollout” should read “fibre-to-the-node”. It does make rather more sense that way, doesn’t it.

    Also, more subtly, the rejected Telstra FTTN proposal priced at $15 billion was from 2009, not 2007. The current NBN scheme was announced on 7 April 2010.

    Those corrections will doubtless be made to the story in due course. Unless this pre-8am comment is introducing further arsehattery.

  • 28
    drmick
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Stilg it is about credibility and Mr Turn-it-around-to-suit the-situation Ballcup Arsehat has none on this subject.
    He has invested in it, as have many of his mates, and then he talks it down. Now why would he do that? Surely he would not want to buy it out when it is privatised at a lower price than it deserves like they did to Telstra? That is the worst kind of insider trading that the free marketeers are always bitching about. They will do the same with coal, carbon credits and the resources tax. He is a lie no one except T Party Mr Menzies supporters believes anymore.

  • 29
    quink quink
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Also, there’s the excuse of Spain having larger telecommunications ducts…

    Malcolm Turnbull is investing in Telefonica, which is rolling out FTTH to 50% of Spanish premises by 2015. And the one major difference, Malcolm Turnbull wants us to think, is because up until 40 years ago telecommunications ducts in Spain were built to be unusually large. Apparently seven times the debt ratio and five times the unemployment don’t matter.

    So, the only problem is apparently ducts as to why we shouldn’t roll out FTTH. Well, here’s some news. With MT’s crazy insane FTTH over-the-top solution we’d need to fix the ducts anyway.

    So… MT is saying that the reason he’s apparently a hypocrit and invests in FTTH overseas while he doesn’t support it over here… is because something is effectively broken here. That his plan would have to fix anyway, even if not in the short term for most premises.

    Credibility? None. Excuses? Transparent.

  • 30
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    @ Mike Smith
    “smart and business savvy”. You question my description of Malcolm Turnbull that way with your “since when”. I would have thought his own highly successful business career, including particularly his involvement with Ozemail (on top of his Rhodes Scholarship and Spycatcher performance if you want more “smart”) was ample proof. Not good at learning things that lesser mortals acquire by hard graft like your typical political leader (e.g. Malcolm Fraser, Jeff Kennett to name only Liberals) but undoubtedly smart.

    My 99 per cent was put in just to avoid the irritating habit I decry in others of claiming false certainty. My confidence is based on a very long history of risking my own money and observing government (and large private bodies’) decision making which is so often exceedingly wasteful if not disastrous. The idea that Stephen Conroy should rush on to Kevin’s plane and get him to sign up for something which was uncosted in any real sense and followed the failure to follow through on its $4 billion (or was it 5: anyway different order of magnitude) election promise makes everything that follows totally unworthy of credit. Malcolm’s alternatives could hardly fail to make better economic sense. I have just found a piece which I believe perfectly encapsulated the “money doesn’t matter” attitude of some governments who are keen to get on with making their mark regardless of reality and cost. I was told by a former CEO of Telstra that it was probably spot on, given his dealings with politicians:

    No doubt Quink Quink knows a thing or two which it is very much in his interest to know and that he has an interest in promoting a pro NBN view (and as someone noted I am pretty keen to get fibre to my home before reality takes over the government) but I would happily cross-examine him on sources and on precise calculations and expect to find big gaps. Not least because it is far from clear that laying out fibre to the home is going to look like a necessary choice of technology even for those who want its speed (certainly not one that we should be locked into for about ten years of development)or that the only possible justification for its visionary extravangance , namely that it will provide a new basis for entrepreneurial innovation which will be the wave of the future for a country with plenty of clever people but expensive labour and over dependence on the mining industry, cannot be achieved in other ways.

  • 31
    grubbidok
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    What a shame the LNP seems hell-bent on short-changing Australia’s telecommunications future simply because they can’t (won’t) admit that the ALP had a good idea (FTTH).

  • 32
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Oops! I left out this which I found by Googling in 15 April 2009 Spectator in Peter Coleman’s column:

    Here is how we got Kevin Rudd’s $43bn broadband plan.

    Minister Conroy to PM: You do realise our experts are going to tell us our election promise was cactus from Day 1?

    PM: Well, we need a Big Bang, something between the Apology and 9/11; and it’s got to have a big shocking figure up front.

    Conroy: Wayne points out we’ve done $42 billion…

    PM: OK, get on, so it’s got to be $43 billion…

    Conroy: But here’s a nice round one: we can promise speeds 100 times faster.

    PM: Than what?

    Conroy: Sorry, forgot to ask — does it matter?

    PM: OK, we go for it, just keep out of the way of the camera.

    Conroy: One more thing you’ll like mate: you’ll have to get re-elected three times before anyone notices they’re still using Telstra’s copper wire.

  • 33
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Mr Grubbidok I have hundreds of good ideas but it is amazing how many people honestly claim to find serious holes in them when doing what they are explicitly or implicitly invited to do, namely use their brains to assess them.

    As to “Labor” having good ideas: isn’t the current state of Labor and the light shining on the recent history of its tiny core of apparatchiks enough to make one suspicious and want to examine forensically any Labor “idea”? And once you do examine what was not in fact a “Labor.. idea” but a cooked up rescue operation by Conroy and Rudd after a disaster with the process which started with tenders for the carrying out of the modest election promise you get a long way further than your simple-minded approach and you get alarmed by a very very big, totally unsupported-by-argument figure, just plucked out of the air after what was so far from being a Labor idea or decision that it didn’t even go to Cabinet.

    Try thinking instead of just reacting - unless with consenting adults in private.

  • 34
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    It has been pointed out in other articles on this subject that FTTN entrenches the Telstra monopoly and breaches the competition conditions inherent in the NBN as legislated.
    Endless, self-indulgent prattle will fail to obscure the fundamental political fact that the coalition sold Telstra as a private monopoly and the NBN FTTH will destroy that private monopoly and the wealth of the duped shareholders.
    Politically the Coalition will be blamed hence the technically irrational arguments backing up the hidden political imperatives.
    Not so hard to understand?
    This also explains the glacial speed at which the Coalition embraced telecommunications reform involving fibre-optics. REMEMBER!
    They intended to sell a pup to the mum and dad shareholders and did not want the inevitability of monopoly-busting competition to queer their sales pitch.
    Free-market competition; isn’t this supposed to be Coalition dogma?

  • 35
    floorer
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Warren why don’t you tell us why Turnbulls current plan is better than Labors. As far as I can see he accepts the need for an upgrade but wants to do it on the cheap. I think his business acumen is being strangled by his position in the LNP.

  • 36
    john2066
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    The real issue are the Murdoch pig-monkey ‘journalists’ trying to stop the NBN so Rupert can monopolize things with his crappy cable. Rupert doesn’t think we need the internet - why can’t we just watch Foxtel and his little handpuppet ‘journalists’ appearing on it?

    If the NBN is stopped, we should individually sue conservative voters for the lost productivity.

  • 37
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    @ floorer

    I am not going to study Turnbull’s plan even if there is a plan that one can study. (Is there? I think the article is pointing out that Turnbull is saying as to most of his “plan” that he needs the NBN’s figures and contract details before he can give us his plan). As you might have inferred my view is based on much of what I have learned in a lifetime of saving money by not making bad investments however enthusiastically sold. And to me an NBN scheme launched with no other backing than the idea that it was the currently best technology, that South Korea had shown it could be done to good effect (in South Korea!!) and that it might allow any amount of business, artistic and social creativity to flourish was so totally inadequate that I would regard trustees who invested as the government effectually did as liable to be sued for gross negligence, and, given that the motivation was collateral at best, namely to have the trustees achieve political advantage, probably for fraud.

    Sure some of us will be able to benefit from fibre to the home but I would be very surprised if the benefits couldn’t be provided to 95 per cent of those likely to benefit much quicker and much cheaper. I strongly suspect that much higher broadband speeds could be achieved even using ADSL by having two or more connections in parallel with appropriate software and computer chips to co-ordinate the traffic over two lines. (Remember when parallel connections to printers made an important advance in speeding up printing?). But that is just one speculation in a field of expectation that clever people are going to compete to provide lots of better ways of doing things.

  • 38
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    @ john2066

    As a Murdoch hater you may not be an exception to the rule of wild uninformed ipse dixits on Crikey blogs but you have said something definite enough to ask you, in return about your assertons.

    I set aside the asinine “Rupert doesn’t think we need the internet” unless you would care to give some source for your statement. What interests me is the idea that News has a significant interest in cable that would benefit to a serious extent by the stopping of further NBN fibre installation. Would you care to put some figures, with their sources, on that so we can assess whether it is more than pub talk?

  • 39
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    @ Hamis Hill

    Your whole conspiracy theory depends on your unexamined premise that the expenditure of huge amounts of money on fibre to the home (with the truly political add-ons which are the bribes to the independents) is a good thing compared with what, until the ALP’s 2007 election promises were junked, was going to be a sensible piecemeal approach justified at each steo (well, one could have hoped for that anyway). Remember no one in public life, until the sudden revelation in the prime ministerial plane in conversation with Conroy, was even fantasising about such a project. Not Labor, not the Liberals.

    So your conspiratorial ideas about Coalition motivation hasn’t even a foundation. And of course you are quite wrong about Telstra having a monopoly, let alone a continuing monopoly. Aren’t you aware of Optus’s cable laying? The only monopolistic element was the copper wires and now that has been settled by the government monopoly - i.e. NBN - buying it out. Worse, you might agree, it isn’t even going to make the best use of the copper wire network but close it down to make sure the NBN’s network has a monopoly!!! As to the monopolistic element in the use of a common carrier (including exchanges and nodes) by several competitors you must have left this country if not this planet for a while. The ACCC has been dealing with Telstra’s monopoly of the copper wire network for many years (how else would there be competing suppliers of Internet services?) and will have to do the same in relation to the NBN network.

    I find it hard to believe that there is such adamant belief in such ignorant people, though that, I suppose is to be expected amongst believers.

  • 40
    quink quink
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    I strongly suspect that much higher broadband speeds could be achieved even using ADSL by having two or more connections in parallel with appropriate software and computer chips to co-ordinate the traffic over two lines.

    Thank you for your confabulation. This is called ‘bonding’ and isn’t available with ADSL, but is something that a VDSL deployment by the coalition would involve. It requires at least two pairs of copper to a household. The only problem is that a huge number of households have only one pair of copper available for various reasons. That means that in order to get this out there, we’d need to lay copper in near enough almost every street to make this a reality. Instead - and for a similar level of capital expenditure - we could just lay fibre instead of copper! With the bonus that we can just stick it in a ditch and not worry about it getting wet, it’s cheaper than copper too, and it can do speeds of 100 Terabits - or more in the future - and whatnot instead of copper, which is a million times slower on a very very good day.

    So, either we can go ahead and go ahead with what you’re thinking of - and the ABS suggests that a doubling of broadband speeds will be able to keep up with increased demand for just about two years - or for a similar amount of money in terms of capital expenditure, we can infrastructure that is quite literally a million times faster and lasts at least about three times as long too on average.

    And that’s the big secret the coalition has. If the copper to you needs rebuilding, they just won’t do it.

    I know which is better not in the short run, but in the LONG RUN.

    we need the internet” unless you would care to give some source for your statement. What interests me is the idea that News has a significant interest in cable that would benefit to a serious extent by the stopping of further NBN fibre installation.

    Yes. FOXTEL - owned 50% by Newscorp - is provided both over the Telstra HFC and Optus HFC networks and is a monopoly on both of these. The NBN means that other providers can reasonably come in and compete with FOXTEL on a fair playing field.

    most of his “plan” that he needs the NBN’s figures and contract details before he can give us his plan

    No he doesn’t. It’s because he’s got no idea as to the state of the infrastructure out there or what the requirements are or anything. He’s just making it up as he goes along, it’s pathetic. The myth is that the NBN was put together on the back of the napkin on a private plane between Conroy and Rudd. The coalition plan on the other hand is such a random assemblage of puzzle pieces that it literally is different from household to household.

    with no other backing than the idea that it was the currently best technology

    No, it is the best technology and it’ll be long, long into the future. There’s nothing else better than fibres and there’s nothing else in the pipeline, and there won’t have to be for a century to come. Wireless won’t do it due to some very simple calculations that come out of Shannon’s Law, contention and power requirements that are based in very simple physical principles that can’t be worked around. Copper is not viable because of attenuation and Shannon’s Law. There’s nothing better than fibre… and to suggest that it’s only South Korea that’s gone fibre is a bit misleading.

    It’s also been Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Japan and many others. But you’d know that - and a whole heap of other facts - if you had actually read some of the previous comments here.

  • 41
    floorer
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    So Warren you offer nothing more than “I don’t think it’s a good idea” based on a gut feeling. You can’t even be bothered to look into the plan of the man you support, and you want fibre yourself.

  • 42
    floorer
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Sterling work here quink quink. I love it when an ideologue runs into someone who has the facts.

  • 43
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Yes he is well equipped for a debate - though possibly not with Malcolm Turnbull who is formidable. But he’s not as convincing as you suggest.

    I didn’t suggest that South Korea was the only country with fibre optic cabling, just that (though I am open to contradiction) that it was the only one back in 2008-2009 which had a pretty well comprehensive national coverage. So whatever the facts maybe about Romania, Bulgaria, Russia (which parts of it?), Japan etc. their mention really just suggests that Quink Quink thinks he’s in some nerds schoolboy debate.

    Then the Foxtel point (and I don’t intend to cover every point). What is asserted seems to have little to do with a News monopoly of cable which was what I was inquiring about. More precisely to the point, the monopoly elements in Foxtel’s use of existing cable (if it matters: I have Foxtel near the middle of a big city by satellite as well as an ADSL2+ connection to the TV) is surely subject to ACCC regulation just as, one hopes, NBN’s monopoly will be.

    Thank you for confirming my supposition about what is, apparently, VDSL. Anyone in my street could easily have it, just as I have about six lines, of which two are used for telephones and one for fax and ADSL. So, if I didn’t already have speeds that are perfectly adequate, I could have a VDSL upgrade at little cost without my neighbours having to bear, notionally and proportionately, a part of the cost of providing me with optic fibre.

    What is needed in your debating refutation is the figures which support your would-be authoritative view that the VDSL solution would not be generally available. (I am not purporting to be authoritative: I am just well practised with my BS detector applied to self-interested politicians and others).

    What is also lacking is a realistic estimate of the value of adding speed by providing the potential extra speed to everyone. Who is going to use it? And for what? I concede that the use of the telephone, the jet engine and many other speed related innovations wasn’t and couldn’t be precisely forecast but then you have to concede that the pay off period might, on those analogies, be very long indeed. (In fact they paid off bit by bit over the years on the Turnbull model). And the question of pay off raises the biggest question about what you don’t say. The failure of potential customers to take up the fibre option strongly suggests that the political and other boosters of the NBN don’t have and never had a clue about anything but fancy politics and engineers’ wet dreams.

    You talk about cheapest but not about present value by applying appropriate rate of discount and counting as well the absence of return on capital during the construction phase.

    You are no doubt correct in saying that optic fibre is the best technology in the limited sense that the speed of transmission and durability aren’t bettered by anything else, and you might say that it was clear (if not to Rudd and Conroy) that that would be true for the forseeable future even in 2008-2009. However, once you admit that “best technology” could be a concept that allows cost to be factored in, you have a problem. No doubt, just as you are know enough to put me right on VDSL, you know about the recent advances in algorithms to compress and/or otherwise send data faster by wireless. As I have found it quite possible to use the Internet satisfactorily in some Third World countries with just a Huawei dongle and nothing beter than 2G (I think: i suppose it’s possible there is 3G in Bali, Sri Lanka, Kerala, etc.) I would still rely on by BS detector when it comes to suggesting we need fibre optic and will lose some great entrepreneurial efforts if we don’t have it. (But I’ll take it up when it passes my door for sure, thank you very much, but then I think I’ll even take the GPS navigation option when I next hire a car in the US too: I’m loosening the purse strings a bit as time passes and the wrinkles tell me something).

  • 44
    Dogs breakfast
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Apart from everything else, no-one could genuinely cost the real benefits of fixing the structural problem of the telecommunication industry, that being the monopoly that Telstra held due to its history.

    The savings to consumers of smashing the monopoly must be measured in billions, but are basically passed off as irrelevant.

    The fact that this investment will be 99% certain of not becoming a white elephant is another (seeing Mr Joffe so loves his percentages, I thought I would throw one in.)

    Whatever is paid out in the development of this will be paid back in spades over its lifetime. Eventually a coalition government will come in and sell it and claim how they have made such great savings.

    The level of insight of the critics, as usual, leave me bereft.

    And finally, I can’t believe that Malcolm actually agrees with the policy he has to prosecute. He’s a smart guy, I bet he would be looking for the first opportunity to invest in it.

    I am.

  • 45
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Warren, I offer you Senator Helen Coonan to counter your conspiracy theory. And before that the other specially chosen incompetent.
    Australia could at least have kept up with South Korea in the installation of any sort of fibre optic communication and instead under Howard got absolutely nothing.
    Remember all the talk aBout internet super highways fromUS Vice President Al Gore? Setting up the expectations of at least something from the Coaltion?
    The failure to accomplish anything being just casual, conservative incompetence or more probably breathing together to achieve the Telstra Sale?
    A good basis for a lawsuit although the punishment would be restricted to denying any votes to the culprits.
    By the way, Warren, the quantity of your offerings supports the idea that you are floundering in the argument.
    But don’t stop, practice makes perfect.
    And the real-estate is cheap.

  • 46
    john2066
    Posted Wednesday, 20 February 2013 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Hi Warren. News Corp owns half of Foxtel. Hope that helps. Surprised you couldn’t look that up yourself.

  • 47
    Plane
    Posted Tuesday, 26 February 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Ha, this is the debate we had to have, about the money we don’t have, on NBN which few people know much about.And apparently? we aren’t interested in founding out about it either. Perfect

  • 48
    shepmyster
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    I here a lot about how expensive FTTH will be compared to Abbott’s Flintstone approach. Currently I pay $60 a month for a coaxial connection that is 30 times faster than the highest ADSL speeds with a 10 gig download.
    Can anybody tell me what they are paying for their NBN connection now and how does that compare with the fastest ADSL plan in their area?

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