NBN – Lib vs Labor vs Greens – A Result!

By Branko Miletic

UPDATE SEPT 7, 2010: After much consulation and keeping  the nation on a knife's edge, the three independent MPs Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Bob Oakeshott have made their decision, so it's going to be Labour's $42 billion broadband that gets the nod. This means within the next three years huge tracts of Australia will be getting superfast broadband.

Windsor is on record as saying that the NBN was one of the main reasons he chose Labor, and Oakeshott did allude to a deal being made, but whether that had anything to do with the NBN, we'll know soon enough. However, as there is a perception in regional Australia that is usually gets the short end of the stick when it comes to infrastructure, then the NBN would more likely than not, be in the mix somewhere.

This election was a “Cult of Personality” with both incumbent Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Man Who Would Be King, Tony Abbott, focused on each other’s campaign and what their rival is not doing, instead of letting voters what their party has in store for us over the next three years.

But, underneath it all, there are policies that need to be looked at, dissected, broken down and then put back together again so the Australian public can make an informed decision on who to put in charge.

On the tech front, one of the biggest issues will be the national broadband network, or NBN. In between kissing babies, sound bites and walking through shopping centres, typically taxes, health and education are the main planks from which politicians will debate and draw a line in the sand. And while to some the NBN will seem a peripheral issue, it should be remembered that in the case of education and health, the outcome of the NBN debate with have a crucial effect. This is because the future of both education and health – and how professionals in both these sectors work – is tied directly to the speed of the network and the efficiencies it can help render.

While both parties try to outdo each other on various policies in order to secure a vote, a lot of what they are selling is the same with some nuances – the same can’t be said of their broadband plans.

So who is doing what? Well, the ALP is still set to use $26 billion of public money plus find another $17 billion from the business sector to build the NBN and roll out a super fast, filtered broadband to 93 percent of homes in eight years time.

The Coalition on the other hand, will spend $6.3 billion over a seven year period, more or less upgrading what we already have plus adding some fibre to local telephone exchanges, but no net filter.

The Greens, who have a unique opinion on just about everything bar broadband have decided to be lazy and carbon copy Labor’s ideas, but minus the filtering.

Voters have to ask themselves several things: “Do I want a super fast but super expensive National Broadband Network? Or will a cheaper but slower mix of wireless and ADSL2 technologies do the trick? Do I like my internet filtered or plain old non-filtered? Which one will be better for me?”

There are pros and cons to both sides. The Labor plan seems comprehensive, and offers world-class download speeds, and allows for upgrades to piggyback on the new structure.  The time frame seems possible and there will be plenty of coverage. However, it will cost a lot and they want to include the controversial filter.

With the Colaition plan its two main pluses are low cost and lack of filter. It will also cover a little more of the country. However, the cost aspect could be akin to putting a sticking plaster on a festering sore. The unknown side effect is that nobody can give an exact scenario of what Australia’s future needs will look like and if the Liberal plan could end up being a waste of money. Another downside is that if there is a coalition win in the election, it is unlikely they will rollback plans that are already in place so you have to ask yourself, why can’t we have what some parts of Tasmania have?

As for the Greens, as mentioned, they have hitched their wagon to the Labor plan minus the filter, so their option sounds like the perfect plan if you want great downloads with no filter.

If you check out the table below, you will see in simple, easy-to-understand terms what the different policies are, and which fits your ideals. It is only one policy in the myriad of policy outcomes voters will have to make on the day, but one, that could have a direct impact on the way communications will be set up in the country over the next few decades.

At the end of the day, there is also the matter of unknown variables that will come into consideration, such as: what technologies will be around in 10 years time? Will 1GB of download speed be passé in 2020? What will the load on the network be like and can it handle it? What can be said for a certainty is that Australia needs some sort of viable broadband plan if it wants to keep up with the rest of the developed world. Saturday’s vote will go a long way in deciding exactly what that future will be.

 

 

  Type of
  broadband

  Top Download
  Speed

  Build
  Time

  Filter

  National
  Coverage

 Total Cost

  ALP

  NBN- Fibre to
  the home (FttH)
  network +
  wireless &
  satellite for
  rural areas

  1Gb/sec
  –maximum

  8 years

  Yes

  93%

 $43bn-$26
 bn gov &
 $17 bn
 private

  Coalition

  Wireless +
  ADSL2+ cable
  & some Fibre
  to the Node
  (FttN)

 12-1Gb/    
  sec –  
  maximum

  7 years

  No

  97%

   $6.3 bn-
  mostly
  gov’t
  funded

  The Greens

  Basically the
  same IT policy
  as the ALP

  1Gb/sec
  -maximum

  8 years

  No

  93%

 $43bn-$26
  bn gov &
  $17 bn
  private

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