Turnbull’s French (Internet) Connection

Despite his constant opposition to the government’s FTTP National Broadband Network (NBN) policy, it seems that Malcolm Turnbull isn’t being totally upfront with Australians with regards to his alternative plan.

Not that this is much of a surprise.

“Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull is opposed to putting fibre-optic cables all the way into households – but that is what he is investing in.”

“It was revealed this week that Mr Turnbull owns shares in France Telecom, which plans to connect 60 per cent of French households to fibre by 2020.”

Appearing on the ABC’s Lateline last night – (21 August 2012) – Turnbull tried to argue that making a half effort on building the NBN now using his model, as opposed to the full and current NBN model was far more “prudent”:

“MALCOLM TURNBULL: The point is if the applications that you want are high-definition video streaming, you know, all of the social media and commercial applications that you use – if they can be accommodated within bandwidth that can be provided at a quarter of the cost and, say, a third of the time, then that is a much more sensible deal, and that … now, you may say in 20 years time things will be different. Well, if they’re different in 20 years time, we’ll make some further investments in 20 years time.”

With this statement, Turnbull has committed that he accepts that his plan is nothing more than a stop-gap measure, that will require the later outlay of spending to upgrade later.

Given that his plan was independently costed at $16.7b, and he is now agreeing that a further upgrade to FTTP will be required somewhere down the road, we must now assume that to reach that FTTP endgame, it will require two NBN projects, and two lots of expenditure.

That would be $16.7b, plus some similarly large amount in five or ten years time. Given the forward projections on internet traffic growth, Turnbull’s assertion that it might be twenty years before we needed to revisit the issue is head-in-the-sand stuff.

Further, given that it would take a similar amount of funding later as the government proposes now with the full FTTP NBN, it also is not “cheaper” to go with the plan Turnbull is offering, as much as he would claim it would be.

He is simply proposing a deal that defers potentially the same – (and most likely higher) – cost to a later date.

Of course, it can be more succinctly summed up with the follow-up question to Turnbull:

“EMMA ALBERICI: But then in 20 years time won’t it take another 10 years then to potentially build it, by which stage we would have already built it; doesn’t that make sense?”

Of course it makes sense. Complete sense. This makes the current NBN plan faster and cheaper to achieve.

Maintaining the copper network has also been shown to be more expensive than an FTTP network, to the tune of at least $600m a year.

Adding to other recent disingenuous statements, Turnbull claimed yesterday in this tweet, that Conroy wants HFC “banned”:

“Further on France – most of the high speed broadband is delivered over HFC – that is the technology Conroy wants to ban.”

This is of course is blatantly twisting the facts.

Both Telstra and Optus – (the predominant HFC providers in Australia) – have agreed to decommission their HFC networks for use in providing internet connectivity.

They accept the change. Completely.

However, it is interesting that Turnbull is pointing to the French model at all.

Despite being pulled up about his personal investment in France Telecom, I know from personal experience, just how good internet service in France isn’t.

Having spent time in southern France, my experience is that even if you manage to convince the French providers to come and connect you up to the internet within any reasonable time frame – (my parents-in-law who live in France six months of the year, have this problem every year) – the experienced speeds are dreadful.

That is my experience of internet connectivity in regional France.

Here is what appears to be the “node”, through which all telecommunications in their village is routed.

I must admit I am not aware of what style of upstream connectivity emanates from this device, but clearly the bandwidth available is limited, given the slow end-user speeds.

Given that there are only about 20 dwellings in the village, the upstream capacity must be terrifyingly limited.

Given what I have personally seen in France, referring to France as “the way to go” for high-speed broadband with their current network is just plain laughable. The current French model is not up to the needs of the people.

Importantly, France recognise this, and are moving to FTTP for 100% of the country:

“After implementing a policy for fiber installation and network sharing in urban apartment buildings, France has embarked on a plan to bring fiber access networks to the country’s lower-density areas. This strategy for low-density areas is part of France’s plan to provide broadband access to 70 percent of the country by 2015 and 100 percent by 2025.”

Malcolm, by all means point to France, because they are moving to FTTP as well.

Just like Australia, New Zealand, Qatar, Singapore, the United Kingdom and countless other countries are.

Australia has a chance to be amongst the world leaders with this technology, and we can have it in less than 10 years.

Under your plan, you suggest and agree we should have it in about 30 years – and that’s an utter disgrace.