Turnbull: 'NBN or nothing' is a false dichotomy

Turnbull argues that the future of Australia's telecommunications sector is a great deal more complex than Labor was presenting it as

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has lambasted the justification behind Labor's National Broadband Network project as featuring a series of false dichotomies between a glorious fibre future and a world where Australians are starved for broadband.

"Ultimately, Labor prefers to frame the public debate over its plan and any alternative proposals as a series of caricatures and false dichotomies," the Liberal heavyweight told the Communications Day conference in Melbourne today, according to his speaking notes released by his office.

"It's the NBN or perpetual mediocrity," Turnbull said. "Fast fibre or overcrowded wireless. Visionary nation-building versus mean-spirited penny pinching. The future versus the past."

In reality, Turnbull argued, the future of Australia's telecommunications sector was a great deal more complex than Labor was presenting it as. "Reducing them to cartoons is helpful only if you are trying to avoid scrutiny," he said.

Turnbull contended that the NBN was actually a response to four separate objectives held by the Government in relation to telecommunications:

  1. The need for a guaranteed level of basic access to broadband for all Australians of 12Mbps
  2. A cross-subsidy on broadband from metropolitan regions to the bush
  3. A desire for most Australians to have access to substantially higher broadband speeds than are currently available in the market to most
  4. A major change in the structure of the telecommunications market, which Telstra currently dominates as the nation's formerly monopolist telco.

However, Turnbull claimed in his speech that none of those objectives were easily resolved by the NBN policy.

For starters, he said, those underserved by broadband in the cities could more quickly receive services by removing barriers to the upgrade of ADSL equipment (DSLAMs) in telephone changes, or through wireless broadband. Building competitive backhaul connections would ensure the development of regional areas by telcos who haven't invested there due to the claimed cost of Telstra's own fibre.

On the cross-subsidy front, Turnbull argued that this would be better delivered as a direct subsidy to carriers or as a voucher system to telecommunications customers. "Both of these delivery mechanisms have the benefit of being far more transparent than the hidden cross-subsidy inherent ni the currently proposed NBN wholesale pricing arrangements," he said.

On the higher speeds debate, Turnbull said there was still debate about what the speeds would immediately be used for, but a faster and quicker way for the nation to receive faster speeds if needed would be to provide Telstra and Optus with the investment certainty to upgrade their HFC cable networks to the DOCSIS 3.0 standard -- delivering 100Mbps to a third of Australian homes.

And lastly, Turnbull said that if the vertical integration of Telstra (with both wholesale and retail arms) was the issue with Australia's telecommunications industry, then the solution was structural or functional separation -- the NBN was overkill and would itself be a fixed line monopoly.

Turnbull ended his speech with an impassioned call for reason in the NBN debate and reiterated his call for the Government to conduct a cost-benefit analysis into the project.

"For those who cry out "nation-building" and "vision" when matters of finance are raised, consider this: Why is subsidising the provision of a near infinite range of video and entertainment services to every Australian home more worthy than building a decent public transport system in our cities, better hospitals and roads, let alone fast trains and water infrastructure?" he asked.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Malcolm TurnbullNational Broadband Network (NBN)

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Renai LeMay

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?