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The long and winding road to a Coalition NBN policy

Stephanie McDonald | April 10, 2013
The Coalition is reportedly set to release an alternative National Broadband Network (NBN) policy this week.

The Coalition is reportedly set to release an alternative National Broadband Network (NBN) policy this week. But while critics of the Coalition have lambasted it for continuing to target the NBN without presenting an alternative vision for the network, the contents of the policy is expected to hold little surprise.

The Coalition's initial reaction to the NBN was complete opposition to the network. Opposition treasurer, Joe Hockey, used a National Club Press speech in May 2010 to state the opposition would dismantle the NBN, stating the government should not use taxpayer money on what may become "expensive white elephants".

However, it didn't take long for the Coalition to soften its stance towards the NBN. In August 2010 it said it would spend up to $6.25 billion of public and private funding on an alternate broadband policy to provide 97 per cent of Australians with a minimum peak speed of 12Mbps. The remaining 3 per cent would have access to satellite at an undisclosed speed.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott still continued to hurl insults against the NBN, labelling it an "icon of waste and incompetence" in September 2010.

While the Coalition has not released a policy around the NBN, it has announced some details about what it would do with the network if it wins the next federal election.

The Coalition has committed to using a combination of fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), fixed wireless and satellite for the NBN, only installing FTTP in new housing estates.

Turnbull has consistently stated the Coalition could deliver an NBN cheaper and sooner than the current FTTP network being rolled out by the Federal Government. This would result in cheaper prices for consumers as NBN Co would not need as high a return on investment, Turnbull said.

Most people could achieve speeds of 50Mbps, while those farthest away from the node will experience speeds of 25Mbps and a third of people will achieve speeds of 80Mbps, the shadow minister has claimed.

This assumption is based on the experience in the UK, Turnbull said, but he has refused to confirm exactly what speeds Australian consumers would be able to access under the Coalition's NBN.

In September last year, Turnbull said he would seek to reverse existing NBN agreements and have Telstra and Optus retain their HFC networks, which are based on a combination of optical fibre and coaxial cable, in order to remove "barriers to competition" if a Coalition government was in power.

This includes two key NBN contracts -- the $11 billion contract with NBN Co and Telstra and the $800 million contract with Optus and NBN Co.

The idea of cancelling contracts was floated in June 2011 when Abbott said the opposition would consider cancelling some of the $7 billion worth of contracts already signed between NBN Co and networking vendors.


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