Tuesday, 4 December 2012

NBN: What does the Coalition know better than the Exprts? (short)

I've never understood a central point about the Coalition Broadband Policy, post 2009:
What do they know, as in understand better, than the members of the NBN Tender Assessment Expert Panel?
The Expert Panel made some observations on core Technical and Regulatory issues which I've never seen directly addressed, nor ever refuted, in Coalition documents or statements:
    In a nutshell: an FTTN is a throw-away and Telstra have to be paid for their assets or using them, making it uneconomic for anyone but Telstra.

    If the best minds in the country came to this conclusion, 3 years ago now, what do the Coalition know that they didn't? How does the Coalition justify supporting an uneconomic, born-obsolete solution?

    Checkout on the Department's NBN website who the panel were and their biographies.  a
      They were seven folk with impeccable Technical, Economic, Business, Legal and Regulatory knowledge and expertise, backed by Specialist Advisers. You couldn't find better in Australia or from around the world.

      Their mission was plain: assess the competing bids and report on them against the Governments' Criteria and Objectives.

      The Request for Proposal, RFP, Clause 1.3, lists the Governments' 18 Objectives and Clause 1.4 of the RFP lists the Evaluation Criteria: the usual you'd expect for a large tender.

      The two Panel Observations are not affected if the publicly stated Coalition Broadband Objectives are substituted, indeed most of the key Objectives are identical, especially:
      • 90+% fixed-line coverage, rest covered by Fixed Wireless and Satellite.
      • 12Mbps effective downlink be universally available.
      There are two clear points of difference in Coalition Policy Objectives:
      • enables uniform retail prices on a national basis;
      • continues to promote the long-term interests of end-users;
      Whilst the Paul Fletcher MP book, Wired Brown Land, does call for Regulatory reform, perhaps an open-access network, it isn't a Coalition Policy document.

      The only low-cost FTTN solution available under the current Regulatory regime that can fulfil the Coalition tag-line of "Better Broadband: Cheaper, Sooner, More Affordably" seems to be a closed-access Telstra solution. i.e. an updated version of the 2005 and 2007 proposals, in parallel with competing Broadband solutions from existing fabrics: HFC (Optus) and the few small FTTN solutions, like TransACT.

      The core Expert Panel Observations that an FTTN couldn't be economic unless built by Telstra, and even then it is a dead-end investment, a throw-away, still stands today.

      In what world could the electorate want a Telstra-only FTTN as a Broadband solution? It wasn't an option in 2005, less so today after the NBN FTTP rollout has started.

      What other wrinkles can the Coalition add to wish away the fundamental Technical problem: an FTTN doesn't provide a cost effective or efficient upgrade path?

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