Thursday, 28 March 2013

NBN: A last chance for sense

After the Rudd-Crean-Gillard "WTF circus" last week, the Liberals don't just look like winning in September, but possibly getting enough lower house seats to rule without a Coalition.

But we know that the Australian Electorate is a) very 'twitchy' and b) has a long memory (ask the Democrats about Meg Lees + GST).

If Abbot exhibits just one moment like the Mark Latham "handshake" with Howard, then they've lost and the electorate won't willing reinstall Gillard-Labor, but support everyone else. A Senate with Katter 's Australia Party getting 12% of the vote and a legitimate balance of power: does that strike hope or fear into the hearts of Voters and Politicians?

I've seen a poll quoted (sorry, unsure source) that said two-thirds (or 75%) of Australians/Voters (can't recall) wanted the NBN.

If someone cares to do that survey for Rural, Regional and Remote voters ("country") and ask specifically about "Fibre to the Home", I'd expect around 90%, but that's a guess.

As a country, we have just one chance to get built a sensible 21st Century Telco infrastructure: ubiquitous fibre to premises. Otherwise we'll be locked into whatever is delivered in the next five years by the economics of "The Wide Brown Land", our single dominant Telco and the "Traditional Telco Pricing" model favoured by all seemingly all Telco that can build infrastructure.

Just look at the railways and Sydney roads to know what our future will hold if we don't get ubiquitous Fibre to Premises now: you cannot design a more expensive & inefficient system for either. There is always money for "necessary" upgrades and small "improvements", but never enough to wipe the slate clean and do what was obvious, easy and cheap 50-60 years ago.

Just how 'dead' does Gillard-Labor need for Abbot to keep up the relentless rhetoric?
The Liberals can afford to lose a few of their votes to embrace some sensible economic reforms started by Rudd, Gillard and Swan in the interests of future economic productivity and competitiveness: with an FTTP NBN as the first.

Turnbull-Fletcher in my opinion, need to convince their Party, especially their leadership team that continuing the FTTP NBN won't be a cowardly backdown (75% of voters now want it continued), but can be spun as a very positive and far-sighted policy move.

The one Really Big Thing that the Liberals can now do with the NBN is debate the roll-out and financing and stop the niggardly, "mean and slippery" sniping about it:

  • Can we find better ways to finance the $1500/premise for the Fibre component?
  • Can a reasonable Public-Private Partnership be established which doesn't see Telstra continue to gouge the community for substandard services?

If the private sector is allowed to lock areas into Fibre to the Node, then for the foreseeable future, 50 years, those areas will never be able to "economically" justify Fibre to the Premises...

Gillard-Labor can't win this next election and the electorate really don't want to return them, but this one issue, especially in Country areas, can prevent Abbot gaining power. This is something Abbot didn't grasp last time around: taking down your opponent does NOT make you a winner.

For the sake of their Party and the future of this nation, I hope that Turnbull-Fletcher can sway Abbot and friends to understand, unlike 2010, that there are two sides to winning:

  • stopping the other side from getting in, and
  • ensuring you get in.

In my opinion, if the Liberals publicly commit to ubiquitous Fibre to the Premises, starting with Country regions and figuring out a sane, economic and efficient roll-out strategy that isn't solely driven by some long-lost ideological reason, then they'll go a long way to fulfilling both sides of the electoral equation.

Otherwise, we'll be seeing a lot of Bob Katter on our TV's.

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