The National Broadband Network debate seems to have quickly escalated into a “he said/she said” battle of false figures and meaningless rhetoric, so the present situation is not only difficult to read, it is also almost impossible to claim to know the “right” answer. However, it seems that the passing of Margaret Thatcher came at a curious time in the course of this debate, because as many of you will know, Mrs Thatcher was a big proponent of the “just good enough” approach when it came to government spending, and it seems as though the Lib’s plan for the NBN is in the same vein.
As I mentioned before, the debate between the two major parties’ NBN plans has become somewhat of a pissing match, but really at the core of the proposals is not a difference in “the vision for Australia”, a difference in ideologies. The Liberal party believe that discarding the “perfectly good” current copper wiring system is unnecessary, and simply upgrading the part of the network will be sufficient to keep most Australians’ internet ticking over. The Labor party believe that now is the time to install a new fibre system capable of delivering faster speeds and potentially longer-term stability, but at a greater cost.
Now it’s true that the Labor NBN is a costlier short term investment, especially in the “we must have a budget surplus because……reasons” era of politics, but many believe that the Liberal NBN plans could end up being costlier in the long term anyway, economically or otherwise. The copper wiring that has been in use for over half a century is slowly but surely degrading and will need constant maintenance until eventually it will need replacing. The argument that by that time, fibre technology will be cheaper to implement is valid, but even if the theoretical mountain of money can be saved by that time, it seems like a “save a penny, lose a pound” outcome.
Australia is already behind the rest of the developed world in terms of both internet access and speed, and the highest possible speeds that the Liberal party could promise by 2020, up to 100mbps, is already being surpassed in America where Google’s own experimental fibre network is already delivering speeds of 1gbps. That’s 1000mbps, or 10 times the theoretical Liberal NBN speeds. And let’s not forget that “theoretical” government plans rarely deliver their “theoretical” peak. The Labor party on the other hand has the upper hand in the theoretical speed department, and as fibre is basically an entire new system it too can be upgraded as needed moving forward.
As you can probably tell I am more of a fan of the Labor NBN plans, but I can see the merit of the Liberal plan too. However it seems to me that the Liberal party’s plan would have been revolutionary five or ten years ago, but greatly underestimates the needs, and desires, of the public. The internet is one of, if not the most used and most important part of the every day lives of the Australian people, and seeing that Australia is in the favourable position that it is compared to other countries economically, now seems like the perfect time to invest in a technology that can tangibly help a majority of Australians. Despite the higher economic cost compared to the alternatives offered, it seems to be the opinion of many industry leaders that the cost of not having it would be greater.