NBN will stifle competition: Turnbull

Broadband providers will be shut out of monopoly, argues opposition communications minister

Shadow communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has warned that the National Broadband Network (NBN) legislation will lead to complexity for future governments and prevent competition.

Turnbull told attendees at the Commsday Summit in Sydney this week that rather than focusing solely on the NBN, the Federal Government should allow other networks such as the Telstra hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) cable network.

“HFC networks are being deployed overseas for broadband and it provides facility-based competition," he said. "The [NBN] legislation means there will be no competition and it will prevent alternative networks competing with the NBN.”

The recent amendments to the NBN, passed in the Senate this month, will also make it difficult for the NBN to be sold until it has been completed, he said.

According to Turnbull, the amendments to the National Broadband Network Companies Bill 2010 and Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures—Access Arrangements) Bill 2011 would allow NBN Co to push private sector telecommunications providers, such as Telstra and Optus, out of the market.

He also cast questions on the government’s international case study for the NBN, which used countries such as South Korea as a precedent for the NBN's potential benefits. Turnbull said the case study failed to take account of the full reality of the situation.

“The majority of homes are not wired," he said. "In the new city I visited they have Ethernet and fibre-to-the-node - which is the standard in Korea - not fibre-to-the-home. That is for the reasons of cost, and yet this is the society that was held up as the NBN standard."

He asked the delegation whether it was necessary to overbuild an existing network with a new fibre-to-the-home system in order to deliver fast broadband.

“The answer is – absolutely not. It is interesting that proponents of the NBN are talking about having broadband, as opposed to no broadband. Why do we have to run fibre into every home?” he asked.

Turnbull also outlined the Opposition’s commitment to fast broadband, saying funding should be coming from the private sector, not tax payers.

“The flaw in the Government approach is that they have confused the means with the end," he said. "It should be technologically agnostic. In terms of our approach, we should have had a rigorous cost benefit analysis.

"Our objectives are clear - fast broadband at an affordable price. If there is a change of government, we hope that we can work with you (the telecommunications industry) in the future and get services delivered to all Australians but in a way that promotes competition, not stifles it."

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Hamish Barwick

Computerworld
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