Greens Senator Scott Ludlam believes the National Broadband Network (NBN) will end up looking like a “dog’s breakfast” if the Coalition wins the federal election in September.
A long-time supporter of the NBN, Ludlam is highly critical of the Coalition’s plan to roll out the network based on fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) instead of fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), which is Labor’s current plan.
Ludlam told Computerworld Australia shadow minister for communications, Malcolm Turnbull, had been given a “bad brief” from opposition leader, Tony Abbott, with Abbott originally appointing Turnbull to “demolish” the NBN in late 2010.
Turnbull recently told Computerworld Australia the Coalition would honour existing contracts for FTTP and possibly enter new contracts for FTTN deployment.
This will leave some Australia split – those who have access to a FTTP network and “those who are going to be left behind by Malcolm Turnbull trying to pander to Tony Abbot’s desire to leave the country in the dark ages”, Ludlam said.
Ludlam claimed the Coalition’s NBN will use infrastructure and equipment which will be redundant within a couple of years and result in “patchwork” network.
“I think it’ll be a very costly dog’s breakfast that they’re going to have to either break contracts or leave the country with a patchwork of people who are connected to the end-to-end network and those who are stuck on the legacy copper,” he said.
“They also will need to confront the fact that they’ll have lost a large part of NBN’s revenues. If we end up with a crappy low-speed service in metropolitan areas, they will actually lose the ability to pay for the high-speed satellite and wireless service in regional areas.”
Ludlam has urged the opposition to leave the NBN alone if it wins the federal election and allow the project to run its course.
“I think we need the opposition to come clean on the fact that their system won’t have anything like the capabilities of what Mr Quigley and his team are currently building,” he said.
Turnbull’s main selling point for a Coalition NBN is that it would be cheaper and faster to roll out than FTTP.
He told Computerworld Australia that in comparable markets where FTTN has been used, it costs between one-third and one-fifth of the cost of FTTP.
“The number that the British gave me was one quarter, so that’s a very, very big difference – that’s saving a lot of money,” he said.
However, independent MP Rob Oakeshott has lambasted Turnbull for not including copper maintenance costs in Coalition cost estimates for building the NBN.
Ludlam is also critical of the opposition’s lack of foresight and the potential for FTTN to have an additional impact on the environment.
“What the government’s expert panel found years ago was that before too long you have to cut over the copper anyway. The nodes will end up in landfill – the cabinets will end up in landfill – and you end up having to rip the copper up anyhow,” he said.
While Turnbull has been left to fight the flag for FTTN for the Coalition, Ludlam said the decision ultimately goes back to Abbott.
“They’re stuck with a leader whose views don’t accord with the fact that the digital economy is an enormous enabler of social growth and economic development,” he said.
“I think Mr Abbot understands mining pretty well. I don’t think he understands much about anything else at all, so he doesn’t really have the vision. He doesn’t see the need for a network like this and that’s what they’ve stuck Mr Turnbull with.”
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