The Federal Coalition has outlined its alternative to the National Broadband Network, promising to split the country into different areas that would receive varying support from the Government and private sector.
Unveiling the $10 billion plan, Opposition Communications Spokesperson Malcolm Turnbull said that broadband upgrades should be driven by consumer demand and Productivity Commission advice on the most cost-effective technology.
Under the proposals, Telstra and Optus’ hybrid-fibre coaxial networks would be upgraded to deliver download speeds of 240Mbps and upload speeds of 12Mbps.
The private sector will provide wholesale services to users in regional and suburban Australia, while remote communities will be covered by wireless or satellite services.
Turnbull said that he supported the structural separation of Telstra into retail and wholesale arms, saying that the Government will provide subsidies in some areas to help drive competition in the retail market.
The Liberal MP said that Australia needed a plan similar to New Zealand’s ultra-fast broadband network, unfavourably comparing the $36 billion NBN to New Zealand’s NZ$1.5 billion network, which will deliver fibre to the home to 75% of the population, with the rest receiving fibre to the node and wireless services.
“At the end the New Zealand Government will have ensured nationwide access to fast broadband with public investment of $500 per household and $800 for households covered by the Rural Broadband Initiative. Overall net cost to taxpayers will be about $650 million, or $400 per household,” said Turnbull.
“All that without a great big new government monopoly. Or artificial restraints on facilities-based competition.”
“The Kiwis look across the Tasman at the NBN with astonishment. Its extravagance is almost beyond conception. The most common reaction was, ‘Well, you’ve got all those minerals so I suppose you can afford it. We have to watch our pennies here.’”
However, communications minister Stephen Conroy rubbished Turnbull’s proposals, saying that they amounted to “economic vandalism”.
“You cannot deliver those speeds on a single copper to the home,” said Conroy.
“The vast majority of copper to the home in Australia is a single copper; Malcolm wants to lock us into a 13[Mbps] world. We won’t even bother talking about upload speeds.
“He’s trying to pretend they’re the same but he’s not acknowledging that the technology that you need for the type of speeds he is claiming doesn’t exist in Australia.”