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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.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam believes the NBN will end up looking like a "dog's breakfast" if the Coalition wins the federal election.

A long-time supporter of the NBN, Ludlam is highly critical of the idea of a network based on FTTN, stating that Turnbull had been given a "bad brief" from opposition leader Abbott.

Independent MP Rob Oakeshott believes based on his own "rough figures", a Coalition version of the NBN would only be $5 billion cheaper than Labor's $37.4 billion NBN.

Oakeshott, who helped Labor form government after the last federal election and cited the party's NBN policy as a key reason, previously told Computerworld Australia any NBN cost benefit analysis by the Coalition needs to consider the cost of maintaining the existing copper network or it risks coming up with "false figures".

"[The Coalition is] denying the maintenance of and the retention of the copper network in what I've seen quoted by them so far. That would be a cost that would continue to grow over time as the copper network becomes more difficult to maintain," Oakeshott has said.

MyNetFone's CEO has also rebuked Turnbull's claims the Coalition could deliver a cheaper model for the NBN, stating the cost of maintaining the copper network will add to a FTTN deployment.

However, the idea of an FTTN network is not bereft of supporters.

AAPT's CEO David Yuile previously told Computerworld Australia that while consumers may prefer FTTP, rolling out FTTN is more economical and the financial return of the network versus the cost to roll it out needs to be factored into the equation.

James Spenceley, CEO at ASX-listed company Vocus Communications, has also said that FTTN technology should make up part of the NBN. He said Conroy has dictated what customers need for the NBN instead of assessing whether different consumers around Australia need different things.

"They also have varying amounts as to how much they're willing to pay. I think that's the biggest folly ... of Senator Conroy's is not looking at technology for the right application," Spenceley said.

Labor is now reportedly staring down the barrel of a landslide loss at the federal election, with Newspoll finding 50 per cent of voters would vote for the Coalition, compared to 30 per cent for Labor.

Unlike the previous federal election, when the NBN was a highly debated election issue, Monash University's Economou has said the NBN will not play a major role in the broader public debate during this year's federal election. Instead, it is likely to be overshadowed by other issues, such as the mining tax, the carbon tax and apparent leadership problems in the Labor party.

With Turnbull set to release a broadband NBN policy tomorrow, it might not play a central role in the upcoming election, but it will be one of the most anticipated tech policies to be released this year.


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