Many informed commentators have questioned the commitment to a very large scale FTTN rollout given the widespread recognition that FTTP is the 'end game', and the expert panel's report has confirmed this. "The Proposals have...demonstrated that rolling out a single fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network is...unlikely to provide an efficient upgrade path to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), because of the high costs of equipment associated with rolling out a FTTN network that would not be required for a FTTP network (ie FTTN is not a pre-requisite for the provision of FTTP)."
That's not new information, it was well known back in 2007 when the FTTN plan was dreamed up. Indeed the Government need not have waited for the global economic crisis to give it an out. Had it announced, immediately after taking office in November 2007, that it intended to revisit its March 2007 FTTN policy I doubt that many, except the Federal Opposition, would have accused it of breaking election promises.
It is now 16 months into its term of office and the process of broadbanding Australia beyond ADSL has yet to begin. Meanwhile, Telstra seems well capable of upgrading its HFC network in capital cities to DOCSIS 3.0 with up to 100Mbps in a matter of months and locking in large swathes of customers with content-rich bandwidth intensive service bundles.
The Government has announced a plan of action on the way forward, but no time frame. There are no 'milestones' by which FTTP rollout is scheduled to commence or by when x percent of homes will be served. It is talking only about rollout commencing in early 2010.
And you have to ask if this latest broadband 'promise' is any better informed than the last one. Prime minister, Kevin Rudd's press release announcing the decision says: "The Government's objective is to achieve 90 percent coverage of the FTTP network, and remaining coverage to be delivered through wireless and satellite technologies, within this funding envelope. Initial advice to the Government is that this objective is achievable, but this estimate will be subject to an implementation study."
Is this advice from the expert panel: how solid it is? How well has it been researched? These are important questions that need answer now. The way things are going, this latest attempt to broadband Australia could be no further advanced than that of the Coalition when it lost office in November 2007 leaving its Opel regional broadband wireless network with insufficient momentum to prevent it being killed off by the incoming Labor Government.
It will be a very sad day indeed if the ALP loses the next election and its nascent FTTH plans suffer a similar fate at the hands of an incoming Coalition Government - one whose track record on broadband vision is woeful. Remember these were the people who brought you the National Broadband Strategy and its laughable action plan only to pretend a few years later that this had never existed and come up with the Broadband Blueprint.
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