The widely publicised “How Fast is the NBN” website is “inaccurate and intended to mislead,” says Malcolm Turnbull. He is right about the first bit, but we can’t be sure about the second.
Malcolm Turnbull is like a steamroller. He bulldozes all opposition with relentless and, to his mind, irrefutable logic. If quality doesn’t work, he will use quantity. His remarks about the website are correct. But they may have had greater effect if they had been a little more succinct.
“Senator Conroy’s new online BFF [‘Best Friends Forever’] starts out by quoting Tony Abbott as saying he’s confident 25 Megabits per second will be enough bandwidth for an average household,” says Turnbull is his blog.
“Labor and their apologists are attempting to twist this remark into something it is not, and present it as meaning the Coalition’s NBN will have a maximum download speed of 25 Megabits per second.”
That is simply untrue, says Turnbull. “Under FTTN most households and businesses can obtain download data rates of 50 Megabits per second or better, and upload data rates at least a quarter of that. And technology is not standing still. The latest technique for more bandwidth over copper, vectored VDSL (which Deutsche Telekom last month announced it would roll out to tens of millions of households) is already capable of download rates of 50 Megabits per second at a distance of 800 metres from the node (about the maximum line length under a Coalition NBN’s FTTN).”
Stephen Conroy refers to vectoring as “pixie dust.” He and Turnbull engaged in an acrimonious debate earlier this week about the merits of the Government and Coalition versions of the NBN (CommsWire, 7 May).
“What are the bandwidth needs of an average household?” asks Turnbull. “Well, first keep in mind upload and download ‘speeds’ are actually a description of the rate at which data can be transmitted over a link – in essence, a measure of the size of the pipe.
“Also keep in mind that a quarter of Australian households have one person, and a third two persons. And don’t forget 25 Megabits per second supports streaming four HD video programs in parallel. Likewise, a connection providing 5 Megabits per second uploads and 25 Megabits per second downloads would permit two simultaneous SD video conferences.
“In any case it cannot credibly be claimed 25 megabits per second is the end of the road, the limit of Coalition ambitions. To claim this either involves deliberate deceit, or provides evidence the claimant hasn’t bothered to read our policy (a badge of honour among some rusted-on fans of Labor’s NBN, which is a rather Colbertesque approach to weighing up competing proposals in an important area of policy for the next government).”
Colbertesque! Not a word one often comes across in public discourse. It’s not in most dictionaries. Presumably it refers to American satirist Stephen Colbert, famous for his deliberately fallacious reasoning.
In his blog Turnbull goes on to defend the Coalition’s plan in detail. It’s all stuff we have heard from him before, and probably explains why his blog is so long – he has pasted in slabs of text from elsewhere in his voluminous jottings. Then he returns the “half-truths and falsehoods” of the How Fast is the NBN website.
“The claim is made that for FTTP ‘no power or ongoing maintenance is required’. Both are wrong. Power plainly is required at the customer’s premises (where it powers equipment owned by NBN Co, but users pay the bill). That is why one of the devices the NBN Co installs in your house is a Power Supply Unit with backup batteries to keep your connection alive in case of a blackout.
“Equally false is the claim no maintenance is required on FTTP. What a joke – have Senator Conroy’s friends ever spoken to a telecommunications carrier? Are fibre optic cables immune to shovel strike? Are fibre distribution hubs, the NBN Co’s street cabinets, impervious to trucks backing over them or vandals setting them alight? Has human error been abolished so that all fibre splices are perfect? Maintenance is an issue with every network, everywhere.
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