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Conroy’s broadband claims unsourced, unjustified

Author: Malcolm Turnbull Categories: Issues, Stories, Economy You are in:Home > Stories > Issues

Conroy’s broadband claims unsourced, unjustified
Malcolm Turnbull

Senator Conroy's speech to the National Press Club this week was as sloppy as it was vulgar.

It may have been the first time a Communications Minister has used such crude language on television during children's viewing hours, but it is not the first time this Minister has delivered unsourced and unjustified assertions about technology.

The lack of hard evidence in Senator Conroy's address speaks volumes. He has a Department to provide him with the facts, but his speech is reference free. My speeches on broadband provide references for technological claims.

In his speech the Minister dismisses the technologies being used to deliver next-generation broadband in every other major economy in the world.

These technologies are satisfactory for broadband users, telecommunications companies and governments in the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, South Korea, Japan and China. But they are not good enough for Senator Conroy.

The lack of intellectual rigour or consistency in Senator Conroy's approach to policy is underlined by the way in which he dismisses any alternative to his Fibre to the Home (FTTH) network as being utterly inadequate - even though telecommunications companies around the world are building and using upgraded broadband networks with a mix of technologies.

It is common ground that there will continue to be more demand for broadband services, driven in large part by the exponential growth in wireless broadband enabled smart phones.

So there is no dispute that there will need to be more investment in the backbone of the network.

The policy dispute over the NBN from a technology point of view is simply whether, in order to upgrade Australians' broadband services, it is necessary to overbuild and decommission the entire existing fixed line customer access networks (both copper and HFC) and replace them with a vastly expensive new FTTH network.

Senator Conroy dismisses Fibre to the Node (FTTN) as a viable broadband technology despite having promoted it to the Australian people as the correct and affordable solution until April 2009, and despite it being widely deployed in almost every other comparable developed economy.

The proposition that it won't work in Australia is an assertion made not only without evidence, but in defiance of the evidence.

The speeds that are available on FTTN do indeed depend on the length of the copper loop between the end of the fibre and the customer's premises. Costs differ from place to place but as a general rule, FTTH costs between three and four times as much as FTTN.

This was confirmed when I met with BT on 5 October. The UK's largest carrier advised that the cost of FTTH was around three times more than FTTN and that their FTTN/VDSL rollout would deliver 80 mbps download and 20 mbps upload in 2012.

Further as to speeds, in contrast to the unsourced, reference-free assertions made by Stephen Conroy this is what I said at the National Press Club on August 3 this year.

"While all-fibre connections are becoming more common especially in greenfields sites, copper is far from dead as NBN's admirers sometimes claim - high speeds up 40 to 50 megabits per second and shortly 80 mbps together with continued economic value are being mined from existing infrastructure in many places."