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FTTN too expensive says Graeme Samuel

Departing ACCC chair’s thoughts on the NBN

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Graeme Samuel, outgoing chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and sparring partner of former Telstra executive Phil Burgess, has said the fibre-to-the-node network once proposed by Telstra would have been a financial disaster for the government.

In years of proposal and counter-proposal over broadband in Australia, Telstra’s final offer was to build an FTTN network in exchange for a regulatory holiday. The idea was finally spiked when the government announced the fibre-to-the-home National Broadband Network (NBN), but it persists among opponents of the NBN, who argue that it would be cheaper, deliver nearly-equivalent speed, and offer an upgrade path to FTTH.

Even the opposition’s communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull, a long-time booster of wireless, has recently rediscovered FTTN, telling Parliament it would deliver 60 Mbps speeds for far less than is being spent on the NBN – for those households lucky enough to live within 750 metres of the node.

Samuel, in an interview with the ABC's PM programme, says the cost of a Telstra-owned FTTN would include payments to the carrier far in excess of the cost of the network build itself.

“If the [former] government’s fibre-to-the-node proposal had proceeded,” he said, “Telstra could have been entitled to an estimated A$15 billion to A$20 billion in compensation for the relegation of its copper network to the scrap heap,” he said.

“And then Telstra could have taken that money and built a fibre-to-the-home network, past the fibre-to-the-home network but only in the densely populated, most profitable areas.” ®

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