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Australia's alternative NBN plan: some taxpayer-friendly questions

Puncturing political promises with practicalities

secondary age school kids outside NBN truck

Last Tuesday, Australia's coalition announced its alternative national broadband network (NBN) plan, offering fibre to the node as the dominant mode of delivery.

The plan appears comprehensive, but like any such document, it doesn't answer every conceivable question.

With an election fewer than six months away, El Reg's Sydney desk has had a lash at a few lines of questioning we think could usefully be answered as Australia's taxpayers try to consider the new plan and the government alternative. We're chasing up a few, and have left off a couple we think might make for good stories all by themselves. For now, here's what we'd like answered. Do you have questions too?

Without any further ado:

  • What percentage of Telstra's current copper is fit to serve as a connection for an FTTN network? What percentage will need to be replaced to enable FTTN? What percentage needs to be replaced each year? Does the Coalition's NBN plan include the cost of such replacement, for initial build and then maintenance?

  • What will be the criteria for replacement of degraded copper?

  • Malcolm Turnbull's presentation suggested FTTN nodes be built to enable future FTTP build. Has analysis been undertaken of the likely future cost of this overbuild, versus the cost of the current universal FTTP build?

  • Coalition policy suggests there is no domestic demand for fast internet because current applications don't need it. Does FTTN therefore create a self-fulfilling prophecy, by locking Australia into speeds that do not encourage development of applications that use more bandwidth?

  • Regarding the last question, how well do Coalition assumptions about demand for fast broadband stand up if Facebook were to introduce video chat, a comfortably-foreseeable innovation that would likely increase demand for domestic bandwidth? What if department stores offer virtual shopping combining 4K video and haptics? That's a little more pie in the sky, but the point remains it's not hard to imagine applications that would make 25Mbps look a little lame.
  • Reg hack Richard Chirgwin at the coalition's press conference to reveal its NBN policy

    Reg hack Richard Chirgwin asking some of the above questions at the coalition's NBN policy press conference
    Image: ABC News 24


  • How does the coalition propose to extract 25Mbps performance from hybrid fibre coax, when many users report it seldom achieves that speed and is unreliable?

  • How can the Coalition guarantee 2016 completion of universal 25Mbps coverage when so many variables - Telstra negotiations and local government approval for FTTN cabinets, to name just two - have not been scoped?

  • What's the price going to be for user-pays FTTP? Let's not just assume BT's prices and the exchange rate hold, please!

  • How can the coalition state with such certainty that optical fibre may be superseded and it is therefore not worth building with it? Is the coalition aware that fibre is already envisaged as the medium for terabit ethernet? If so, is the coalition aware of any other medium likely to exceed that future headroom?

We imagine you may have some questions, too. Do let us know what they are and we'll see if we can get them answered. ®

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