Michelle Rowland fails NBN history and economics.

September 12, 2014
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I see that Labor broadband spokesman Michelle Rowland claims that TPG’s plan to provide high-speed broadband using fibre to the basement (FTTB) in multi-dwelling units (MDUs)  is the result of the change of government, and NBN Co’s switch from Labor’s failed all fibre to premises (FTTP) rollout to a multi-technology National Broadband Network.
 
She claims TPG would not have moved to do FTTB had the NBN Co stuck with Labor’s plan to run FTTP to 93 per cent of households and businesses (and increase the cost of broadband by an average of up to $43 per month). [See NBN Strategic Review December 2013 p. 106]
 
That is the opposite of the truth.
 
Leaving aside the obvious fact that TPG has been seeking to exploit a loophole left in a law passed under the Labor Government, the truth is that TPG's opportunity arose because the NBN Co was not moving to deploy superfast broadband to big apartment buildings close to the capital cities. 
 
This was not entirely the NBN Co's fault. The company had, under the previous management, asked the Labor Government if it could run fibre to the basement of these MDUs, install a multi service access node connected to the copper LAN in the building and as a consequence deliver 100/40 mbps over vectored VDSL. This was much quicker and cheaper to install and didn't involve any civil works in the building.
 
And this type of connection is routinely called "fibre to the premises" elsewhere in the world, so it would have passed muster with Labor's all FTTP rhetoric.
 
However, in 2012 Senator Conroy refused the company permission to do this. As a result the NBN Co bypassed many of these MDUs because of the cost and difficulty of running fibre into every apartment.
 
Had he given that permission, many of the precincts where TPG has been proposing to deploy would and could have been connected to the NBN long ago and at a much lower cost.  If they had been connected by the NBN Co, as they should have been because they represent good near term revenue opportunities, then the opportunity for TPG would simply not have existed. 
 
In other words, Labor’s ideological insistence on fibre and failure to allow NBN Co to be more flexible and commercial created the gap TPG has been seeking to fill.
 
Senator Conroy himself admitted this in an address to the Australian Computer Society on 11 October 2013.
 
Rowland’s second proposition that high-speed broadband over VDSL (a technology capable of delivering provides 100 Megabits per second downloads and 40 Megabits per second uploads) can’t compete with FTTP is also dead wrong - and shows a remarkable lack of understanding of the reality of the telco market.
 
Virtually all users of the NBN select plans which can also be delivered over VDSL. And if a customer who is happy with 100/40 over fibre can get the same speeds at less cost over VDSL what do you think they will buy?  Price is the big factor.
 
Around the world VDSL and HFC for that matter  successfully compete with FTTP because offers similar capabilities and very often at lower cost. 
 
But Labor doesn’t really care what consumers have to pay for broadband – which is why they continue to advocate an FTTP NBN that will add over $30 billion to the taxpayer's cost of construction and up to $43 per month to the average household’s broadband changes.

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