Malcolm Turnbull Invents Time Travel

Exactly what was Malcolm Turnbull on about at yesterday’s National Broadband Network (NBN) debate between himself and Alan Kohler?

How about this pearler?

“Mr Turnbull said he did not object to fibre-to-the-premises technology in itself, but given the rapid rate of technological change thought it was best not to provision for future demands with today’s technology.”

We can’t provision for future demands with tomorrow’s technology, because tomorrow’s technology doesn’t exist yet!

I guess we’re stuck with today’s technology. You know, tomorrow never comes and all that?

Tony Abbott famously – (infamously?) – declared that Turnbull “practically invented the internet in Australia”. While is this certainly not true, how do we build an NBN today using future technology?

From his statement above, it is pretty clear that he believes that rather than provision today’s technology to cater for tomorrow, we should provision some of tomorrow’s technology today.


At least we now know that Malcolm has apparently invented something after all.

Time travel.

Of course, we know his copper-based FTTN technology is far from today’s technology, let alone tomorrow’s.

Turnbull also appeared to signal yet another shift in his alternative plan for the NBN by once again moving the goalposts by signalling the possible inclusion of existing HFC networks into the new network.

Turnbull has long espoused the virtues of keeping the HFC networks as part of the NBN. Speaking in 2011:

“I think you miss the point about HFC. My simple point is this. If the objective is to provide fast broadband to all Australians at an affordable price then we should try to do so in the most cost-effective fashion. If there is infrastructure which enables us to do that (HFC for example) then it makes sense to use that rather than overbuild it.”

So, don’t overbuild the HFC, right?

Yet in the official policy he introduced in April, HFC appeared to be left out completely:

As per the document, 100% of his network would be made up of 22% FTTP, 71% FTTN, 4% 4G Wireless, and 3% Ka-band Satellite.

No mention of the HFC networks at all.

So if he’s not overbuilding them, and 100% of the network is to be made up of other technologies, what happens to the HFC networks?

Logically, that should mean that they are going to be overbuilt – which according to Turnbull we shouldn’t do, right?

In fact, in the summary of the policy released in April, the term ‘HFC’ was mentioned only seven times, in only four different points in the entire 18 page document.

Here on page 9:

“Approximately 65 per cent [sic] of the FTTN portion of the rollout is expected to be completed in the four years to 2016-17. The remaining 35 per cent [sic] will be deployed in 2017-18 and 2018-19 and will in most cases be in areas served by HFC networks.”

This statement appears to suggest that the areas currently within his 71% FTTN footprint that have HFC, would not receive their FTTN-based service until the very end of the rollout. Once again, it is apparent he intends to overbuild the HFC networks.

HFC rates a mention on page 11:

“Under the existing contracts between NBN Co on the one hand and Telstra and Optus on the other, the two carriers’ HFC networks cannot carry either broadband or voice services to any premise once it is connected to the NBN. The NBN Co has made substantial financial commitments in return for this thoroughly anti-competitive arrangement. Subject to an equitable re-negotiation of these provisions satisfactory to NBN Co and the Government, our goal would be to remove any contractual impediments to the use of existing HFC networks for broadband and voice. A key consideration in such negotiations will be ensuring open access to networks and scope for enhanced competition in the relevant areas.”

Pretty clear he wants his network and the HFC networks to co-exist. Not necessarily a bad outcome, but it still shows his intent is to overbuild them.

But lets remember that by 2019, the HFC networks will be almost 25 years old, and nearing end-of-life. Maybe that’s why overbuilding them isn’t such a bad idea after all?

Lets move on to page 16:

“The Coalition policy delivers greater flexibility in two key areas: competition is permitted between networks (such as NBN Co’s NBN and Telstra’s HFC), helping keep prices down; and wholesale prices can be less that the uniform national wholesale price (UNWP) set by the ACCC for Labor’s NBN (which will be a price cap approved by the ACCC in the case of a Coalition NBN).”

Even clearer.

And here on page 17/18:

“Under Labor, when the NBN is rolled out, Telstra’s copper and Optus’s HFC cables (if present) will be shut down. Telstra’s HFC (if present) may carry Foxtel but not broadband or voice. Australia is unique in the world in deliberately stamping out competition between fixed line networks.”

“The contrast with Coalition policy could not be clearer. Subject to negotiation with their owners, we will remove impediments to the use of HFC networks, and we will allow non-NBN operators to enter the fixed line market (subject to offering their networks to access seekers on equivalent terms.”

Malcolm will remove the impediments to the use of the HFC networks for broadband.

So much for making “sense to use that rather than overbuild it”. Curiously though, yesterday we heard:

“Mr Kohler asked whether a Coalition government would insist on the hybrid fibre-coaxial business being fully separated from Telstra.”

To which Turnbull replied:

“Our assumption is that we will.”

So just to be clear, the released policy document says that the HFC networks – (which he previously said shouldn’t and wouldn’t be overbuilt) – will be overbuilt by FTTN at the end of the FTTN rollout, and now we hear that Telstra’s HFC network would be “fully separated” from Telstra, inferring it would come under NBN Co control.

It would also have been already overbuilt by the FTTN network, leaving NBN Co to operate two competing open-access networks in the same areas.


Can we at least get the story straight and consistent Malcolm?

Either that, or use your time machine to go get some of that future technology.