Coalition NBN will prioritise poorly served areas.
One of the most important functions of the political system is to get the balance right between competing demands for resources. There are always more legitimate or worthwhile calls on resources than there are resources available.
This is – or should be – just as true of the National Broadband Network in its early stages as any other program.
If the NBN has a mission it is presumably to ensure that all Australians have access to very fast broadband. We agree with that objective but not with how Labor has instructed NBN Co to carry it out. Our criticism has always been that it will cost far too much, take too long and as a consequence be significantly less affordable than basic broadband ought to be. We have also criticised the way in which the NBN is being established as a government monopoly with any competition either bought out or effectively prohibited by regulation.
Our alternative is to complete the NBN in less time, for less money and as a consequence more affordably for taxpayers and consumers.
A key element in our approach is that areas with poor broadband services should be prioritised. Targeting these places is faster and easier with our mixed-technology NBN than Labor’s religious determination that only fibre to the premises will be used.
In contrast far from allocating its not-so-scarce resources to the neediest areas, the NBN Co is currently in the process of overbuilding urban suburbs with very good broadband (via HFC or fibre to the premises). Areas with very bad fixed broadband may wait many years for an upgrade.
My observation on Lateline last night therefore was to say no more than that we would not prioritise areas covered by Telstra’s HFC if elected, simply because premises connected to the HFC network can obtain some of the fastest broadband speeds available in Australia at the present time.
I did not say we would never overbuild the Telstra HFC areas and our plans assume that in due course the NBN would be extended into them.
I said that any other arrangements concerning the HFC (such as making it available as an open wholesale service operating as a second wholesale carrier in competition with the NBN) would require negotiation with Telstra as it has already agreed to accept billions of dollars from the Government in return for not using its HFC for broadband or voice once it is overbuilt by the NBN.
The competitive carriers are keen for the Telstra HFC to be switched off and replaced by a government owned wholesale carrier. While that is a reasonable goal, they have never shown any concern about how many billions of taxpayers’ dollars are spent to achieve this – their only objective is to eliminate Telstra as a wireline infrastructure operator so that they can compete on what they believe will be a level playing field.
The consequence of the Government’s NBN policy, egged on by the competitive carriers, is that there will be one government owned monopoly broadband wireline provider, the NBN, which will be able to charge higher and higher prices as it seeks to get a return on its overcapitalised investment. The competitive carriers might also reflect that while in an NBN world Telstra will have to compete on a “level playing field” it will do so fortified by the many billions of taxpayers’ dollars it has received as the price for it agreeing to Labor’s NBN.