Disparity: The Coalition Proposal For Our Digital Future

With the apparent admission from Malcolm Turnbull last Thursday evening on Lateline, that many Australians may have to wait years to receive the alternative broadband plan that the opposition proposes in place of the NBN, and that many may receive no upgrade at all, the fears of many telecommunications professionals may indeed become reality should there by a change of government in September.


Stopping the current rollout, renegotiating deals with Telstra and the NBN construction companies, changing existing laws to allow for the current NBN to suit the proposed new plan – and in the end, leaving Australia with a messy, heterogeneous network, built from a range of different technologies that will prevent many Australians from getting the services many others will be able to receive.

In other words, a solution with all of the same problems we have now.

Summing it up precisely was Twitter user Gwyntaglaw, who posted this comment on Delimiter:

“Here’s the vision splendid from the Coalition then.”

“Imagine your typical Australian city.”

“Fred, who is lucky to live in one of the suburbs to get NBN fibre in the earliest rollout stages, enjoys a range of affordable, high-speed internet plans over open-access fibre from a variety of providers. He’s so impressed with the capacity of the fibre that he’s now running his own business from home, able to upload and download large, complex files in a flash.”

“Janet, who lives in the next suburb along, has had FTTN activated in her exchange. There’s a great big new cabinet taking up half the verge nearby; but because of problems with water-damaged copper, she can only get a fraction of the promised “up to 50Mbps!” And when it rains, the service is pretty much useless. She’s asked about upgrades or fixing the wiring, or (she hopes) getting fibre instead, but everyone she speaks to in the know just lowers their eyes and mutters “sorry, we’re just trying to roll out nodes as quick as we can,” before hurrying away.”

“Percy, who lives one suburb over from Janet gets to look out of his apartment window at the Telstra cables. They don’t do him any good, because his apartment block isn’t connected, and he can’t find anyone at Big Pond willing to answer his call about when (or if) his apartment ever will be hooked up. He has a lame ADSL service which can get up to 5-6 Mbps download on a good day, but is fairly hopeless at uploads. He would like to be able to work from home, but the service is too patchy and unreliable to get much real work done – and disconnections are frequent.”

“This is pretty much what we’re going to get – a patchwork quilt. What is it going to do to those little islands of fast broadband, where the tech-savvy are going to want to move? What is it going to do to the vast majority of customers who are completely confused, baffled and frustrated by a system that makes no sense and is utterly haphazard and random about what kind of broadband you might be able to get?”

This is a perfect description of what Malcolm Turnbull’s plan will deliver. It will further entrench the so-called “digital divide”.

Some will “have”, and some will “have not”.

Despite claiming to be a progressive thinker with the best interests of Australia at heart, his plan will commit Australia to this non-sensical outcome for at least another 10 years – and maybe longer.

Can Australia really afford to be left behind all the other countries where advanced fibre networks are being installed?

Countries like:

“New Zealand, Qatar, Singapore, France, Canada, Kenya, South Africa, Brunei, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Phillipines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, United States, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Venzuela.”

…all of which on some level are initiating FTTP/FTTH solutions.

Do we want to be behind all of these countries?

I know I don’t.

Shall we allow Australia to lead the world for once?

The Coalition don’t seem to think so.