Journalistic Mysteries

June 19, 2013
Communications & Broadband

So this evening, after debating the NBN again in the House today, I was interviewed by the ABC about the state of Telstra’s copper network, whether it was all completely rotten and on the point of collapse and how anyone could possibly entertain using any portion of it in an NBN – this notwithstanding the obvious point that it was currently delivering most of our fixed line broadband.

And I pointed out that the approach we are proposing to take – fibre to the node for most of the brownfield areas, fibre to the premise in greenfields and areas of high demand – is one that is consistent with the practice in many other comparable markets, like the UK, the USA, Germany and other European countries. I pointed out that under our plan the most fault prone part of the customer access network, the E side, would be replaced with fibre and it was only the D side copper between the street cabinet and the home that would remain – simply because the cost of replacing it was so high and takes so long (as NBN is finding out).

And I asked, for the umpteenth time again, why the ABC with all of its global newsgathering resources continued NOT to examine the broadband experiences in other comparable countries. The approach we are taking is the same, essentially, as that taken by BT in the UK. They speak English, the ABC has an office there, they have upgraded around 19 million premises with very fastbroadband for a cost of 2.5 billion pounds and in about 3 1/2 years. They have done 90% fibre to the node, 10% fibre to the premise. Very relevant you would think. Very interesting too and useful for the Australian public to know about.

I could make the same point about the United States where AT&T has built a broadband network using a mix of technologies, most of it fibre to the node.

The ABC is very interested in the NBN issue but has apparently no interest whatsoever in the experience of any other country. Instead of talking to someone like Mike Galvin at BT who has actually built an enormous new generation broadband network in the UK, they would rather talk to a string of local “experts” who for the most part have neither built nor managed a telecom network of any kind.

I am a staunch defender of the ABC, but as a former journalist I am utterly mystified why our national broadcaster is so resolutely determined not to report on the broadband experiences in other comparable countries especially when they have been able to upgrade their networks at vastly less cost and in much less time. Is it a case of bias – not wanting to report on inconvenient facts? Or is it laziness – couldn’t be fagged doing anything more than going around and round the same list of local talking heads? Or is it just a lack of curiosity?

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