Friday, 7 September 2012

NBN: Mr Turnbull's Hybrid-NBN

This discussion of the Coalitions' NBN policy is political, not technical. Different Rules apply.

Everyone else is asking for certainty and "guarantees", whilst the politician needs to avoid making any binding statements and clearly differentiate themselves "from the other guys" in the mind of the electors.

Yesterday Mr Turnbull graciously answered questions that I'd previously asked on-line.

His answers underline that the NBN is now part of Coalition Policy, perhaps even a "core promise". He finished an earlier piece responding to Alan Kohler with this unequivocal statement:
We will complete the NBN, there need be no anxiety or uncertainty about that, and we will do so sooner, cheaper and more affordably for users.
The headline, for me, was Turnbull removed a misconception of mine that had resulted in a false premise of many questions and outcomes. No additional entity is needed for Telstra to transfer its copper distribution network to build an FTTN. The SSU (Structural Separation Understanding) already covers this:
the network would continue to be owned by NBN Co and built by whatever contractors it selects.

I was wrong thinking there'd been Coalition talks and in-principle agreements with Telstra. Mr Turnbull said:
I anticipate a thoroughly constructive co-operation with Telstra on this, and their management has made public statements indicating that.
And that's correct: I'd forgotten what David Thodey, CEO Telstra, had said around 20 April: The Australian,  BRW, same piece on AFRThe Age, ComputerWorld and a slightly earlier AFR piece.

I hadn't appreciated until now just how good the 35-year, $11B deal was for Telstra:
we get the payout on that or we get the revenues as they flow,” Thodey said. [CWorld]
Indeed, Telstra is “spectacularly agnostic” about who holds power next year after the next election. [AFR/BRW]
Techworld has already flagged Turnbull would make (multiple?) legislative changes:
However we will remove as many of the barriers to competition with the NBN Co as possible – for example we would seek to reverse the arrangement whereby Telstra and Optus are obliged not to use their HFC to compete with NBN Co on broadband data and voice, the extent to which that is possible obviously depends on negotiation.
 I couldn't remember where I picked the phrase I attributed to Turnbull: "$20 billion in savings".
On this, he said:
I have been careful not to nominate a particular sum of money as the difference between what we would do and Labor’s current plan.
The origin was a piece by Alan Kohler, but also quoted by Mr Turnbull in reply:
Worse, the money saved – Turnbull estimates $20 billion – can’t be spent elsewhere or used to bring down taxes, because it is capital expenditure, not operating expenditure.
While Mr Turnbull is technically correct, he's been careful to not state any savings targets, he's left people like me, not quite the same critical thinkers as he, with the impression he'd said it.

I wasn't convinced by his reply to my question about "detailed FTTN deployment plans". I read it as "NBNCo won't have to do much design". While the digging plan might be substantially the same, the implementation details, materials/equipment sourcing and contractors are entirely different.
FTTN deployments, because they follow the pattern of the existing lay out...
The subtext there is I may have been quite wrong in inferring the Coalition has detailed deployment plans necessary for detailed costings and estimates.

As a politician, especially before the election campaign, Mr Turnbull cannot offer binding answers on a range of questions that are important to us as users of Internet access services:
  • Will he offer any performance, availability or pricing guarantees on his Hybrid-NBN to the electorate?
    • If I was living outside Tenterfield, I'd be wondering if I'd ever see a high-speed, low-latency Internet connection.
  • Will his Hybrid-NBN have a lower total CapEx and OpEx over 25 years compared to a pure-play FTTP NBN?
  • When will the network be substantially converted to Fibre?
    • 25 years? 50 years? Never in the foreseeable future?
There are three elements to the Turnbull/Coalition NBN promise that, before the election, need to spelled-out in fine detail:
  • sooner
  • cheaper and
  • more affordably for users
"Cheaper" is the classic "wriggle room" statement. These elements needs to be made specific:
  • For what, whom, over what timeframe and accounted how?
I can only hope that others with better access than I to Mr Turnbull will ask at least these questions before the election.

The problem with Westminster-style Democracies is that change is slow and solutions are rarely Perfect, and never ideal for everyone.

Politics is The Art of the Possible, not The Art of Ideal Solutions. Individually, we have to not lose sight of this fact and attempt to get the Best Deal Possible, not hold-out for The One Ideal Solution.
I'd love a fibre connection and am convinced it would be affordable and others, when they understand it, will want it too.

While I might hope for "great", I must continue to advocate strongly for something better, more sane than the current mess we call our Telecommunications sector.
A VDSL FTTN with max 500m lead-ins is better than my curent 5Mpbs ADSL2 over 3.3km of old copper that the Canberran cockatoos destroy in places. Not my ideal, but better.

The single greatest reform I've seen in Telecommunications happened quietly in April this year with the finalisation of the SSU. The Telstra monopoly on the distribution network is over, albeit at a cost and with conditions that left Telstra very happy, making me nervous of how it will play out.

Mr Turnbull has recently granted us a great leap forward: the Coalition will complete some sort of NBN.

It's a start, but I'm left with a niggling feeling that I've missed something really important.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.