Why The Coalition Broadband Plan is a Waste

There have been many many articles in recent times in regards to whether or not Labor’s National Broadband Network (NBN) plan is a waste of money. Certainly, the reputed price tag of the network – either $43b or $26b depending on who and what you believe and/or read – is a BIG price tag, but is the Coalition’s broadband plan – apparently much cheaper at $6.5b – really that much cheaper anyway?

On the surface, the Coalition’s plan – and let’s call it the Coalition Broadband Network (CBN) – is certainly much cheaper. At $6.5b versus $43b, that’s pretty much a no-brainer. Much like the NBN plan, it promises people at least 12Mbps, but not much more.

It is designed to actually BE cheaper than the Labor plan – to curry favour with voters, and make them seem more fiscally responsible. That seems to have worked in many people’s minds.

The Coalition does say that speeds of “up to” 100Mbps will be available – but that will only be in areas that are ALREADY capable of these speeds through HFC cable networks that ALREADY exist. If you don’t have HFC cable running past your house RIGHT NOW, you won’t be getting 100Mbps from the Coalition plan.

Their plan is “cheaper” – and that’s the only thing going for it – but is it cheaper, really? I don’t believe so.

Look at it this way – by 2016 the Coalition plan will see 12Mbps available to 97% of Australians.


Is 12Mbps fast enough, right now? Probably. Will be it be fast enough in 2016? Maybe. Will it be fast enough in 2018 by which time the Labor NBN plan would have delivered at least 100Mbps – (and probably 1Gbps) – to 93% of Australians? The answer is still “probably maybe”.

Will it be fast enough in 2020, when our population has grown, and the use of the internet has grown, and the use of high-definition video online will have grown? The answer now is “no way”.

So by 2020, we’ll have spent $6.5b on a network that has already outgrown its own usage model. What do we do then?

If we still have a Coalition government, do they roll out another $6.5b to “retrofit” their initial “CBN” to 24Mbps – (about as fast as you can go with copper, copper that will be ten years older, and ten years more degraded than it is now) – to “fix it” again for the future? Will the necessary structural separation of Telstra have occurred?

By this stage, it will have cost $13b – (not allowing for inflation over the next ten years) – and we might have 24Mbps. Will that be fast enough in 2022 when the upgrade is finished? Again, I really don’t think so.

So do the Coalition then admit defeat, and spend $43b – (again, not allowing for inflation) – on an NBN-style network, after already having spent $13b to give us a network that will be significantly slower than just about every other developed nation on the planet?

Is the real cost of the Coalition plan therefore $56b by 2022?

Do we really want to lag behind the rest of the world for another 10 or 12 years? Can we AFFORD to lag behind the rest of the world for that time? While every other country is enjoying the economic benefits that having a network with the sorts of speeds the NBN would offer?

Without a doubt, the Labor NBN plan at $43b is a god-damn lot of money – but it could be a whole lot cheaper than letting the Coalition implement what equates to a tin-can and string solution, that in the end will cost us a lot more than $6.5b.

In reality, that cost could be Australia’s prosperity in 25 or 30 years from now. Is that the price we really want to pay?