NBN legislation might still work out positively

There are many problems with the NBN, but one of the few elements of the original plan that has not been changed might have a longer-term positive outcome – that is, if the nbn company is in fact able to upgrade most of its network to FttC and FttH.

I am talking about the monopoly that the nbn company enjoys. And I will have to make a qualification here – under the FttN rollout to which a large number of customers are still relegated, the legislation that underpins this monopoly works against them.

As I have argued previously, for a nationwide FttH network that provides a quantum leap over the old existing infrastructure a monopoly is quite acceptable. However, such a monopoly based on an FttN network is a very bad thing indeed, as it prevents any fixed broadband-based competition from providing currently available products that are much better than FttN, such as those established on a premium-based FttH infrastructure.

But, OK, if the company does indeed continue with FttC we are getting close enough to the original plan that warranted such a monopoly.

The reason the original legislation is important became very clear when, a few months ago, Google decided to stop the rollout of its FttH networks. It simply wasn’t economically viable to do this in competition with the incumbent telecoms carriers in the USA, who were using all tricks in the book to undermine Google at every step they made in that direction.

This has been the argument all the time. A high-speed national broadband network is a utility and needs to be treated as such. There are no examples anywhere in the world of FttH networks being built in competition with each other. At the same time the end goal of all telecoms infrastructure upgrades are aimed at FttH, be it from DSL-based or HCF-based networks. Even Australia’s Prime Minister has mentioned this several times.

So let us hope that the nbn company will continue to eliminate as much as possible of its FttN rollout in favour of FttC. If that happens we will nearly be back on track with the original NBN plan. It is just very sad that politics have got in the way – causing so much grief for the customers that are badly affected, and for those who are now being bypassed because their connections are ending up in the too-hard basket; and inflicting pain on the nbn company and the government as well.

All so unnecessary if reason had won out over politics.

Now that the nbn seems to have taken a better turn it is to be hoped that other botched policies, such as the one around smart energy, might follow. For those waiting for the end it would be better to wait a little longer if it means you will be connected to an FttC service.

Paul Budde

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