Malcolm Turnbull’s legacy is how he and Tony Abbott put party politics above the national interest, mangled up the strategy for our National Broadband Network so badly it will take a decade or more to recover. The cost to the nation will be immeasurable.

Turnbull and Abbott were right – for all the wrong reasons…

As previously opined on these pages, the National Broadband Network – NBN – is an unmitigated disaster not just for broadband delivery in Australia, but for how it has contributed to the devaluation of a whole industry sector. The release of NBNCo’s latest Corporate Plan on August 30th lays bare how political interference is the real culprit.

The NBN was visionary in its conception by Kevin Rudd and his Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, but flawed in execution. The real rot started with the “strategic review” of the NBNCo plans initiated after the 2013 election. The intention of new Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, urged on by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, was clear – discredit Rudd’s brainchild at all costs.

The review predictably concluded that the latest corporate plan was too optimistic and would be too costly. It recommended a change of technology direction from the original plan of FTTP (Fibre to the Premises – still universally recognised as the superior way of delivering high speed broadband) – to what became known as the MTM – Multi Technology Mix.

The MTM strategy was a euphemism for a mixture of technologies which would rely on the existing copper network (owned by Telstra) and HFC (Hybrid Fibre Coaxial, owned by Optus and Telstra), in effect throttling “last mile” access by using out-dated technologies.

The justification for the change was the contention that the original plan would cost $64 billion+ (remember that figure) vs. the original estimates of $ 41 billion. The revised corporate plan released in 2014 had the total cost of the network at $43 billion. It was designed to show how the LNP Government were such responsible economic managers. It ignored the fact – acknowledged by anyone who understands telecommunications infrastructure – that the revised network would be incapable of delivering high speed broadband of 100mb or more to everyone that wanted it.

The just released corporate plan reveals the reality of the MTM strategy. The total cost will be $51 billion when the roll-out is completed by the end of 2020. Add to that $3 billion in revenue loss in comparison to the 2014 plan. Add a further $10 billion (at least) which will be required to upgrade the network to be able to deliver the speeds originally planned – the total is $64 billion.

In short – Abbott and Turnbull were right, the network would indeed cost much more than planned, because they delivered to Australia a substandard network at that same predicted cost. All in the name of party politics.

And sadly, for a man that helped establish – and made his millions on – one of the pioneers of the internet industry in Australia, Ozemail, the destruction of a vsionary project is Malcolm Turnbull’s legacy.

(Corporate plan data and comparisons courtesy of Gary McLaren – former NBNCo CTO.)


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