Margo: Steve Jenkin and Kieran Cummings are regular contributors to No Fibs on the NBN. Here are their takes on its future under an Abbott Government.


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‘NBN Lite’ won’t happen, but served its purpose to take NBN off election agenda

Steve Jenkin

1 September 2013

To win the NBN Debate, Malcolm Turnbull only needed to convince the media that he had an NBN Plan that was acceptable to the great unwashed and was roughly the same as the Real NBN.

To do this he had to cast serious doubt on the NBN Co budget and ability to execute, and to confuse/conflate the critical questions so media never asked them:

  • Lifetime on-budget spending of both Proposals.
  • Lifetime Rate of Return from Equity
  • Pay-back Period of Government Equity
  • Downside Risks

Turnbull succeeded on 10-April when Alan Kohler announced “How Turnbull Saved the NBN” summed up as:

Malcolm Turnbull, with the help of the polls, has turned the Liberals into an NBN party. His plan isn’t perfect, but it’s better than dismantling the whole thing, …

After that, the mainstream media assumed that line and most ‘analyses’ uncritically accepted the unverified, unchecked Coalition figures as truth.

The ALP failed to counter this strategy, even under Conroy. Noticeably, they failed to ask Turnbull the central questions above and have the media, and so the electorate, question the fate of an NBN under the Coalition.

It’s now too late for them to put the fate of the NBN back on the election agenda. The only thing we can believe in everything that Turnbull has said and written is that they will commission three ‘reviews’ to report within 60 days. These will be headed by hand-picked high-profile Liberals, exactly as Peter Costello was brought in for Campbell Newman of Queensland’s ‘Commission of Audit’n(CoA).

Just like Newman’s CoA, the three NBN reviews will produce NO surprises. They are designed to:

  • Underscore and ‘prove’ the ‘Worst Government Ever‘ rhetoric.
    • All intentional economic destruction resulting from Liberal actions will be blamed on Labor, and
    • as things get worse, even dire, the Liberals will trumpet ‘Labor put you in this hole, aren’t you glad we’re saving you! We came along in the nick of time!’
  • ‘Demonstrate’ a complete failure of Governance under Labor.
  • Assign blame and considerable opprobrium to the individual Labor actors.
  • Reinforce the ‘Great Big Useless White Elephant’ view.
  • Make ‘official’ the unsubstantiated claims that it ‘will cost over $100 billion to finish”, and
  • Concoct an official Cost Benefit Analysis that ‘proves’
    • a Fibre NBN is not “Cost Effective”
    • that the only NBN build that can provide an economic benefit is based on existing HFC & phone-line copper assets, with small amounts of “remediation”, and
    • that as these assets are in private hands, that the NBN can only be built “Cost Effectively” by the private sector.
  • Turnbull can then be the wise business investor who ‘saves us from a $100 billion disaster’ by liquidating NBN Co and giving away its assets to the private sector.

    He might run supply and construction contracts to completion, or invoke force majeur clauses, or just wind-up the company, leaving the creditors to duke it out [Telstra wins]. Telstra and Optus, as the major creditors, would trade their future contract payments “at a substantial discount” for the NBN Co assets. Optus may take a one-time payment from Telstra. Telstra will abide by its Structural Separation Undertaking and keep NBN Co as a separate, but controlled, entity.

    The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission won’t have much to say because the legislation and regulations controlling it, and the Telecommunications sector in particular, will be changed to support consumer choice and diversity of suppliers, creating real competition’, meaning Telstra will once again control both the wholesale and retail markets.

    Welcome to the Brave New World brought to you by Malcolm Turnbull. Does he, or any Liberal, regret this deliberate destruction of National Assets? Will they have any pangs or twinges of conscience over deliberately destroying Australian national productivity P
    and making Australian business internationally uncompetitive for the next 50 years.

    No! Turnbull is a gun for hire and has ‘won the argument’ as he was asked to do. The consequences are for others to suffer.[/dropshadowbox]


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    Coaltion NBN Policy – Post Election

    By Kieran Cummings

    1 September 2013

    I decided to write a post on what I think will happen if the ALP lose the coming election & the LNP take over the NBN.

    The Swami

    To start off with, it’s clear that there are no solid plans for an election victory. Everything hinges on 3 separate review processes. Something I think will take time to complete. I’m not going to project 100 days, as this is too short for these reviews to complete.

    If we look to Queensland and what Newman did with the Queensland Commission of Audit, I think we can get some idea of the time it will take to complete the 3 reviews. It took more than 12 months to complete and release a government response.

    I’d suspect that the first thing an Abbott government would do is reshuffle Turnbull to either the backbench (political suicide) or to Environment or something like that again. I’d say someone like Robb will be given Comms, as he’s struggling with Treasury.

    I Give It 1 Star David

    Strategic Review

    The Coalition’s estimate of 60 days for a strategic review that looks into not only the current plan, but alternatives is laughable. It took multiple panels, committees, & so forth, two years to complete the recommendation for the current NBN, how an alternative will be found in 60 days is beyond me.

    This is the first hurdle, and I feel this could take anything from 6 to 12 months conservatively. Much of the information is already there, it’s just about crunching the numbers & finding new evidence to support inferior plans. NBN Co don’t have the staff or funds to dedicate a whole business unit to this, so there is little doubt it will take time.

    Independent Audit of Policy & Governance


    Costello will be the man charged with destroying the NBN by review.

    The next step is the ‘independent audit’. This puzzles me, it’s almost like the LNP want to dig through the legislation to ensure that it is changed to benefit specific parties (I’m thinking Telstra & Murdoch).

    The terms of reference look at attacking the root reasons as to why the NBN was created & why the fibre target is 93{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} of premises. Almost like if reasons are for the audit is to remove a reason to roll out an NBN. Is the LNP overtly telling us they intend to keep a get-out-of-gaol-free card so they can axe the project? Seems that way to me.

    Cost Benefit Analysis

    This is probably the weirdest part of their policy, as CBAs are well known to ignore societal benefits of massive infrastructure projects, especially when they are government mandated. Much of the data is already available via NBN Co’s corporate plan that is continually revised. A CBA will merely give us the bastard’s snapshot of a company, not a true overview of what impact the project will have.

    This can be little things like being able to call your parents without drop-outs via video chat, or it can be life changing things like being able to interact with more than your carer & not be judged for your disability. How do you put a value on that? Is one housebound person being able to interact with the outside world worth $1 or $1b? I bet if you asked the housebound person the latter wouldn’t even cover it.

    Tick Tock, Post Election Clock

    Eternal Clock

    The key here is that these reviews will take time, a lot of time. I doubt a single node will be installed before mid 2015, as the reviews not only have to be completed, but the responses formulated & legislation drawn up. This is all without any negotiation with Telstra.

    Telstra is going to be the biggie. They have a huge team of lawyers, they know what their network is worth ($33 billion) & you can bet they won’t let go of it for anything under value. Looking at how long it took NBN Co to get access to Telstra plant (pits, pipes, & lead-ins), an agonising 9 months, we can expect negotiations for the copper network will take longer, anything from 12 to 18 months is my guess.

    Back To The Future

    With time running out on the mid 2017 target for 5.1m homes to be connected to whatever technology will be at play, there are few options left. With so much not planned, I’m going to give the LNP 18 months to complete the mid 2017 target. If the crews work 5 days a week that’s 13000 premises connected per day, or 1600 premises per hour connected to whatever technology.

    There are literally not enough technicians, engineers, contractors, & manufacturers in Australia to complete this task. I’d say they’d struggle to complete 1600 installs a day, let alone 13000. No doubt the reviews will pick this up & recommend against FTTN due to the time it will take to install 5.1m lines.

    So what will happen? You guessed it! The project will be scrapped in its current form completely. Possibly the LNP will keep NBN Co alive long enough to complete the 22{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} fibre footprint that’s in the policy, then again, there will be enough leeway from all the reviews to cancel contracts I think.

    There Can Be Only One


    In true LNP tradition, I suspect that the first thing they will do is hand the money to Telstra. Just grab $30b of public debt, hand it to Telstra & say “build wireless”. It’s not an earth shattering revelation, Hockey made it clear he thinks wireless is the future, the Young Libs have been spreading FUD on social media about fibre being outdated by wireless “in 2 years”.

    It all leads me to believe there is no intention to offer wireline access to Australians. Turnbull himself made clear that FTTN is only a suggestion & the real technology that will be used is yet to be determined. So all the arguments about FTTN being the right technology are as hollow as the background document supporting the policy.

    We will not get anything like the network suggested in the policy, & to me, that’s wholesale fraud.

    The reason why I think Telstra will be handed money to build wireless is fairly simple: it is physically impossible to build a wireline network to 5.1m people in just 18 months in Australia. The ONLY way to deploy a network that quickly is to have most of it already built & just increase the capacity slightly: Telstra’s 3G/LTE network.

    This hits the mark on all Turnbull’s current claims:

    • 25Mbps minimum (even though actual speeds can be under 1Mbps)
    • 100/40Mbps at 400m (Category 4 devices are capable of 150Mbps/51Mbps, but rarely reach this)
    • Cheaper than FTTP (because it’s already built)
    • Sooner than FTTP (again, already built)

    Howard & Costello

    It’ll be like they never left us, except it’l be Abbott & Costello. Wait, where have I heard that before?

    Ok, so many will not believe this is possible until it happens. The LNP are notorious for fucking over comms. Telstra went to the Howard government no less than 3 times with plans to upgrade Australia’s telecommunication network, 3 times the Howard government rejected them.

    At one stage Coonan had no room to move, so just threw her hands up & basically said “we don’t want to do it because we don’t want to do it”. There’s no need for the reviews, & with the NBN sliding in what matters to voters, I doubt there will be any depth to them. If anything, they’ll be expensive excursions that take longer than expected & add no value to the government’s communications portfolio.

    My cynicism may be taking over, but I have no faith in Turnbull, Abbott, or any of the other technologically illiterate frontbench mates of Abbott to continue the NBN as is, or even as their policy describes.

    If it’s not on the 6 point plan, can we assume the NBN is a non-core promise?