NBN: What do the plans mean?

NBN: What do the plans mean?
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When it comes to the issues being faced at the September 7 election, most in the creative and media services will agree the future of the National Broadband Network (NBN) is number one for their business, and rightly so.

As Australia turns from a manufacturing to service-based economy high-speed internet is going to be vital. Whether you’re a creative agency pushing messages out on digital platforms, a retailer looking to transition to online solutions or a media company turning to the web to distribute your product, it’s increasingly central to everyone’s fortunes.

And Labor and the Liberals have markedly different, approaches to the scheme. Labor has started rolling out a “fibre to the home” solution, whilst the Liberals want to stop at a “fibre to the node” model. See our feature The NBN Debate here.

But what do these mean? Put simply, Labor will replace the ageing copper wires running data to your home with fibre optics to your door, whilst the Liberals would put it to the phone exchange, but leave the last few yards as copper wire. Both will put fibre directly into all business premises.

In practice it means the current government’s scheme will have far higher potential speeds than the opposition’s, but will cost more and take longer to roll out.

Last Thursday Liberal media and communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull (pictured) faced off with Business Spectator’s Alan Kohler in a room full of business leaders, defending the opposition’s plan. See the webcast here.

He started by saying there will be a direct cost/benefit analysis on both schemes if they win power, something which has never been undertaken. He also claimed the current plan would blow out to $90bn, from the estimated $30bn, whilst theirs would cost $29.1bn. Kohler challenged these figures as “rubbish”.

Defending the slower speeds of their solution he said: “Let’s assume the fibre to the node is knocked out at 100Mbps and fibre to the premises goes to 1Gbps. I that differential, bearing in mind we’re only talking about residential premises, worth $60bn?”

He also defended accusations their solution does not cater for future users’ needs, saying even the experts do not know what the future holds for technology, and it does “not limit the scope of technological imagination”.

Turnbull also said their solution was the “global norm”, and they had learned lessons from rollouts in places like the UK and Spain, which have a similar solution to theirs.

However, he did admit “If I could be a magician and make sure everyone has fibre to the premises instantly and for a low cost we would do it”, bus insisted that was not feasible.

In the coming days  B&T will be canvassing the opinions of experts on the two solutions, as well as industry leaders. If you want to get involved email Alex Hayes on alex.hayes@cirrusmedia.com.au.

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