Tuesday, 09 April 2019 09:58

Labor pledges economic review of NBN if voted in Featured

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The Australian Labor Party has said it would review the economics of the NBN, including the implications of the multi-technology mix, on the cash-flow of the NBN Co, the company which is rolling out the network, if it were voted back into office in the forthcoming Federal Election.

No mention was made of a possible write-down of the value of the network, which has been canvassed quite  a  few  times.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said on Tuesday the party would look at the capital structure, pricing evolution, and whether the NBN Co was able to invest in future infrastructure upgrades under a number of market scenarios.

They jointly announced the party's plan to improve the NBN at a conference in Sydney, saying they were putting forth "a credible policy" to make the best of the existing situation.

"We recognise that world-class broadband infrastructure is critical to boosting productivity right across the economy," Shorten and Rowland said. "We also recognise the need to make sure customer experience for households across Australia is a top priority."

They said Labor would also:

  • Get more older Australians and low-income households connected: Labor will launch a landmark Digital Inclusion Drive to get more older Australians and low-income households connected to the NBN, making our country more modern and more inclusive.
  • Improve speeds and reliability for fibre-to-the-node households: Labor will direct NBN Co to fix in-home cabling problems that degrade service quality for households on the copper NBN at no cost to those affected. This will reduce dropouts and improve speeds for broadband services in up to 750,000 FttN households.
  • Better protect small businesses and consumers against excessive NBN downtime: Labor will safeguard small businesses against unreasonable and excessive periods of NBN downtime and provide greater accountability.
  • A responsible approach for targeted future co-investment in fibre: Labor will undertake trials of fibre upgrades to validate costs and assess co-investment mechanisms to responsibly deliver targeted upgrades over the medium term.

When construction of the NBN was begun in 2009, Labor was in power and it envisaged fibre being rolled out to the premises for 93% of the populace, with the remaining 7% to be supplied with connectivity through either wireless or satellite.

The rollout became a political issue when the Coalition Government, that took power in 2013, decided to change the technology of the network to what it called a multi-technology mix. The MTM includes fibre-to-the-node, HFC cable, satellite, and wireless, apart from fibre-to-the-premises which is being provided only to new dwellings.

As the MTM plan and the connections provided have come under increasing criticism, fibre-to-the-distribution-point, which considerably reduces the copper lead-in to premises — what the network builder, NBN Co, calls fibre-to-the-curb — has been introduced as well.

The rollout of the NBN is scheduled to be completed in 2020.

Shorten and Rowland said: "The Coalition record speaks for itself: Australia is ranked 59th in the world for broadband speeds according to the Speedtest Global Index and their delivery of the NBN is $21.4 billion over budget and four years behind schedule.

"Consumers and taxpayers have every right to be angry with the Liberals for delivering a second-rate network that costs more and does less. Australian households and businesses deserve a NBN that is affordable, delivers great value for money and is reliable."

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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