NBN: The National Barnaby Network

Whilst reading this excellent article from David Havyatt in regards to the piecemeal alternative to the National Broadband Network (NBN) offered by Malcolm Turnbull yesterday, I followed a reference David provided to a 2005 report prepared by the Page Research Centre.

Most interestingly, the deputy chairman of the research panel that prepared the report was “Senator-elect Barnaby Joyce” – of course, one of the chief critics of the NBN plan on behalf of the opposition in the senate. The chairman of the panel was another incoming National Party senator, Fiona Nash.

It is a fairly bland report overall, but given the staunch opposition Senator Joyce loves putting up, I thought some of the recommendations and statements in the report were most interesting.

It recommended that “that government commission a feasibility study into the cost of laying fibre optic cable to a majority of consumers in non-metropolitan Australia”, stating that by rolling out fibre (specifically in regional areas), regional consumers would have access to:

  • “Voice over internet telephony.”
  • “Cable television.”
  • “Access to future commercial television video on demand services delivered over IP – already available overseas, most notably in select Asian countries such as Hong Kong and South Korea.”
  • “Video conferencing.”
  • “Greater access to telemedicine, even if it is via a simple and tremendously inexpensive voice over IP telephony or preferably video webcam link to the ‘local’ doctor, who could be anywhere in Australia or around the world.”
  • “Broadband internet access.”
  • “Online services – online banking, bill payment, online shopping, buying and selling in online auction websites, access to Government services and much more from any location, when desired.”
  • “Weather forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology.”
  • “Access to streaming media, letting you listen to online radio stations and watch online TV stations and other audio and video programming. An example allows rural and regional users of mobile broadband to tune into the online broadcast of ABC NewsRadio.”
  • “Access to educational materials and all levels of schooling, from primary to tertiary studies.”
  • “Access to all of the information available on the Internet, when desired, at high speed.”

Is it just me, or is this pretty much exactly the list of things the opposition – including Senator Joyce, who makes a massive song and dance about it during Senate Estimates hearings relating to the NBN – say that we DON’T need fibre for?

Yet six and half years ago, this is exactly what Barnaby – (and friends) – recommended to then Howard government.

Though the report goes on to recommend a similar study be done to investigate the feasibility of wireless broadband in these areas, as opposed to fibre broadband, the opposition which initially stated that wireless was the answer, now states that a combined fibre to the node (FTTN) / xDSL network is the answer – which is the one solution the report DOES NOT recommend!

Please explain, Mr Joyce.