Tuesday, 26 February 2013

NBN: This is our ONE shot at universal Fibre-to-the-Premises

Nick Ross of the ABC has written a detailed description of the differences between the current NBN and the Coalition's Plans: Part 1, Part 2.

Highlighting the fact that this is primarily a Political contest, not a debate, are the many comments calling the article "biased" and trotting out many objections - straight out of the Coalition Speakers Notes of July 2012, published by Crikey [pp46-52].

Turnbull was first charged by Mr Abbott to "destroy the NBN": I contend this is still required. The Coalition will not, and cannot, allow any of the major Rudd/Gillard programs/initiatives to succeed.

Abbott has irretrievably bound the Coalition for the next decade to the rhetoric: "the worst Government ever". This has radical policy implications for Australia.

The 2012 Federal election will be a referendum on this assertion, one of the inevitable consequences of which will be: any network but the ALP NBN.

If the Coalition assumes power at the next election, there will NEVER be universal Optical Fibre to the Premises. To maintain their partisan position, they have to "save" Australia from all that "Waste", "Inefficiency" and all those "Great Big New Taxes". Stopping the NBN Co deployment must be very high on their priority list, because of the "$50-$100 Billion" price-tag, not the $15B its actually budgeted to cost for the fibre Customer Access Network.

The recent exposure of the lack of a tender process for the JSF, the 60% blow-out in development already, its poor performance and project delays/cost-overruns point to how the Coalition really make decisions and how they actually regard budgets.

Committing $35-50B to high-risk, questionable outcome project without even a working prototype or finalised design doesn't need a "Cost Benefit Analysis", nor even an Expert Technical Analysis. This isn't theoretical, this is a firm, practical demonstration of the Coalition "process" in action. How the Coalition can criticise the NBN project and decision process with a straight face is a magnificent example of Political Double-Speak. From the 4-Corners report:
Air defence is Australia's number one priority. The JSF is the biggest weapons purchase in our history and tax payers might well end up paying $35 billion for a fleet of these so-called "stealth" fighters.
This is the option voters have in September:
Stop the NBN Co full-fibre rollout NOW, embrace some cheap & expedient "interim" solutions and never, ever finish "Fibre to all Premises".
Is this too radical a view, too cynical, even biased?  I don't think so. I think the evidence that "The Political trumps the Technical", especially in Australian Government, is overwhelming and undeniable.

Does Sydney have its "second airport?" or a good "second Harbour crossing" or the "Parramatta to North Shore rail link" or ... ? Every state has its own list of "perennial projects" - useful large infrastructure that the public (voters) want that never gets built, despite many political promises over decades and decades.

We might have legislation that all new railways must be standard gauge, but only New South Wales will ever have a standard gauge network. No other State will ever be able to afford, or justify, throwing away all its rolling stock, ripping up all its track and remodelling all stations, road crossing and infrastructure all at once and while replacing it, not having a working rail system.

If Australian voters throw out the ALP in the 2012 election, then the NBN Co rollout stops and all momentum for change is lost. The ALP won't be able to revisit the idea for decades (think GST!) and the Coalition, as "prudent" financial managers, will never justify that it has called "a colossal waste of money". All the arguments put forward now about "we could upgrade to full Fibre later" are technically true, but will never be done due to Politicking.

The Coalition argument of "the market will provide" is fatuous and wrong: if the Telcos were ever going to rollout Fibre to the Premises, they would started it in the last 25 years.

Whatever network we have on 1-Jan-2014, we are stuck with for the next 50-100 years.
I hope the electorate is fully cognisant of the choice they're making in the 2012 election and the consequences.

There is a major Productivity Commission report out examining why for the first decade of the 2000's the Australian economy has swapped from ~4%/yr "Productivity" improvement to nearly 0.5% decrease. This is a systemic, economy-wide problem - that is NO "temporary glitch", but long-term.

Contrast this with an earlier Productivity Commission report that says 60% of Productivity increase is driven by Information Technology. Without a good Customer Network, Australian Productivity will be hobbled for decades and longer. Once we lock into below-average growth, how do we get out? We'll be struggling economically and there'll be no money available for "new projects", no matter how desperately they're needed.

Sydney's second airport is still the pipe dream it was 35 years ago, while the cost and disruption of building it increase every year it is delayed. This is our future of Networking if the Coalition is elected in 2012.

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