Malcolm Turnbull has provided the first real policy backflip from the last federal election by ordering a strategic review of the NBN’s business situation, which gives the current fibre to the node strategy a faint hope of survival. The review is expected to uncover how much the current project is going to cost, the real time frame of the current project and what options are available going forward. The Department of Communications is also conducting a review of broadband quality in all areas of Australia which is expected to be handed down within the next 90 days and could shape the future of any NBN rollout map.
The media has been reporting that Mr Turnbull asked the NBN Co board to resign last Friday. In an interview with the ABC on Tuesday he responded by saying “I offered them to offer their resignations, not to resign, to offer to resign. And that was so the Government had the maximum flexibility in terms of restructuring the NBN board in the light of a change of Government and a change of policy.”
The Australian revealed this week that the NBN Co received a letter from Penny Wong and Stephen Conroy earlier this year instructing NBN Co to have commenced work in all electorates by mid-2016. Mr Turnbull vowed to remove political agendas from the running of the NBN Co and said that “It’s got to be driven by rational economic criteria”.
Read more from The Australian.
Read the ABC interview with Malcolm Turnbull.
It would be a brave person who argues the case against the need for the NBN in any shape or form. I understand exactly how much time and frustration the improved speeds will save Australia every year and, more importantly, the potential for additional business revenue in Australia. But the real question which needs to be asked is whether the NBN is an essential service required by every Australian.
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had trouble accessing my emails, uploading photos to Facebook or even playing high bandwidth games online in recent years, so what will an internet connection 10 to 100 times faster actually give me? Not a great deal as an individual. Sure, it would be great to Skype a friend or family member with a higher quality connection, but I suspect being able to spot a pimple on the other person’s face isn’t justification for spending 37 to 94 billion dollars to give every person access to the technology.
The case for business gaining access to the NBN is certainly clear. Employees will spend less time idle while files download, emails send and most importantly, less time on the road due to improvements in conferencing software speeds. But it is important to understand that business already has access to broadband that is significantly faster than that available to households. The fastest plans currently available in Australia cost anywhere between $500 to $1500 per month and, through the implementation of the NBN, such speeds will be affordable for all businesses.
The future is unknown and our technology needs simply cannot be predicted. I think it is safe to assume by looking at previous decades that as a country we are becoming increasingly reliant on communication technology and the need for this technology to interact via data services. Whether we are talking about e-health, flying cars or refrigerators that sense you are low on milk and order a new carton, more data will in the near future be bouncing around on a daily basis in the near future and we need cable, wireless and satellite networks built for a growing population and increasing capacity.
Let’s hope Mr Turnbull does come to his senses and opts for fibre to the home (FTTH). After all, what is another couple of billion to get it right in the scheme of things?
Will the NBN change your life? Could the money be better spent elsewhere?