In the latest installment of our series dissecting the National Broadband Network debate ahead of the Federal Election, Andrew Jennings speaks to some industry experts about what they think is the best course of action for the winner of the election.
On Monday, Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull claimed that government is ‘sitting on’ a report on the National Broadband Network (NBN) so its progress can't be dissected by the public ahead of the Federal Election.
Turnbull made the remark during a heated debate with Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese over their respective plans for the NBN on the ABC's Lateline.
The debate covered the time frame for delivery of the NBN, the costs of the Coalition and Government's NBN policies and the different technologies of the schemes.
Both men kept to their party line, with Labor reiterating that fibre should be taken directly to the home, while the Coalition’s plan is for a fibre to the node network.
We asked industry experts for their opinion on the NBN debate.
John Grono, former agency man and current owner of GAP Research:
“Build it once, build it right. If they go into node there’ll be something like 65,000 nodes built on street corners around the country, which are going to be roughly the size of a fridge. It’s just a dumb idea.
“They shouldn’t do that, they need to build it to the home. And when they [the Coalition] say that they will do it for businesses, I have no doubt they will for the 7,000 big business out there, but what about the two million small businesses out there, half of which work from home?
“Drive it to the home. Full speed to your home, rather than full speed to a fridge-sized box that then it slows it down. It just is not going to be fast enough. The analogy I keep drawing is that if you built the harbour bridge with just one lane, with a guy with at the end with a stop-go sign. Does it work? The answer is yes, does it work well? The answer is no.
“We need vision. I think the figure the coalition pulled out of their arse is exactly that. The price difference in 20 years' time will have been paid multiple times. You've got to invest to move forward.”
Peter Hunter, head of digital, PHD:
“We need to try and get the highest speed possible. My opinion is that it needs to go fibre to the home. It will pay for itself in long run. We’re far behind the rest of developed world with regard to internet speeds into the home, so we need to pick up with rest of the world.
“NBN is a big issue, about how we get more broadband into the home, which to be honest opens up so much opportunity for our industry around IP TV, things like streamed content, time-shift viewing. We're certainly seeing things internationally that we’re not capable of doing because of bandwidth. It’s vital it goes to home.”
James Bush, creative technologist, M&C Saatchi:
“Definitely fibre to home is where it makes most sense. Fibre to node, whilst an interesting idea, will need further upgrading down line in a few years' time, there will be a need for more investment to solve those problems, so it makes more sense to solve them now.
“From a creative standpoint, the ability to be able to stream content in every form, not just music and video, to enhance experiences – specifically consumer experiences – on behalf of brands is very important. For a creative agency, it's being able to understand what speeds are achievable and being able predict that, and being able to scale to meet that.
“It’s incredibly important it’s rolled out correctly first time, especially given the amount of investment required.
“The rollout of the NBN really needs to be right because otherwise it’s going to be wasted investment with the speed of mobile networks increasing exponentially.”
Mat Jones, MD, Parker & Partners:
"The NBN policies of both sides are very important. The level of understanding the community has about the technical aspects of both of the policies is probably relatively low, however it does signify a forward looking approach and a willingness to invest in future infrastructure, which tells voters something about the party policies.
"For the communications industry, this infrastructure is vital for us and our clients to continue expanding and connecting with other countries around the world.
"What’s really important for communications industry is that this underpins new business and drives entrepreneurial activity that we can’t even conceptualise now. It will be interesting to see if the nuances of two different policies make a difference on polling day."