Does Canberra know best? The NBN Debate

by on 20 June, 2016

By Dean Hamstead

Labor just announced that “they” will install Fibre to the home for 2 million more Australians. There is no longer a pretense that NBN is a “national asset” – it’s similar another avenue for delivering pork to votes.

Despite this, hidden in a sea of non-sense articles from punters with no technical, no financial and, possibly no life experience – the SMH quietly published perhaps the most sensible article on NBN to date.

“The original vision of the NBN, “FTTP everywhere”, was laudable. Private monopolies are notoriously bad at deploying new technologies and have been in the USA and most other countries. That seems to have been the case in Australia as well. In frustration, the government launched the NBN to fix the problem.

But government monopoly programs are rarely any better than private ones — especially in dynamic sectors like telecom. True to form, it seems that execution of the original NBN did not measure up to the admirable vision. But the new government appears to have kept the flawed execution mechanism (government monopoly) while discarding the admirable all-fibre goal. Seems like the worst of both worlds to us.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There is no need for monopolies of any kind to build state-of-the-art FTTP infrastructure. In fact, contrary to common mythology, economies of scale are small in this sector and need not be a barrier to FTTP development. Profitable companies as small as 1000 customers are being built entirely with private capital in circumstances more difficult than you have in Oz…

“Nor are these networks rocket science. As we look around, we see plenty of people in Australia with the energy and talent to build them. If you are smart and enterprising enough to build and run a farm or small business in rural Australia you are smart enough to build and run a local FTTP network as well.”

My personal view has been near complete regulation and handing powers back to residents to decide what cabling is run in their street. With the pits and poles owned by councils, then access leased to any and sundry to run broadband services, pipe gas or whatever they can dream up.

Sadly, in Australia we have embraced that Canberra knows best. Got an idea that might work in your area? Are you willing to risk your own money or someone willing to back you? Too bad it’s illegal.

Leave a Reply