Home opinion-and-analysis Cornered! So what's wrong with the NBN being unique?

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Say what you like about Malcolm Turnbull, his grasp of facts on NBN-like (I use the term loosely) broadband networks and related policies in other countries puts that of most journalists covering the area to shame.

This was amply demonstrated in response to questions following his presentation - which I unfortunately was unable to attend - at last week's Kickstart conference for IT journalists on the Sunshine Coast. However Turnbull has provided a transcript of both his presentation and the Q&A session on his blog, which I have used for the following commentary.

Turnbull contended that "just about every other country in the world is doing it [building an NBN-like network of some sort]. Nobody is doing it the way Australia is doing it and more importantly countries that are very comparable are doing it in a very different way."

He continued: "As you know I've written about them because I've gone and interviewed the people in Britain and Canada and the United States and Europe and Korea and Singapore, there's a long list." He urged the journalists in the room to do the same.

The NBN is a hot political issue so it's quite likely that the Coalition is supporting Turnbull with considerable funds for people to research NBN related issues and Turnbull of course has considerable personal wealth, so could easily fund a full-time researcher or two if he chose. Most journalists have to rely only on their own resources, or those of colleagues, as well as keeping up their editors' demands to produce a steady stream of stories.

Colleagues of Simon Sharwood, Australian editor of The Register, a UK based global IT news organisation, appear to have let him down badly. Sharwood responded to Turnbull by saying, "I took up your challenge and I asked my San Francisco bureau to find me an example of an FTTN going, or going well in the US and they couldn't find me one."

Turnbull was gobsmacked and rightly so. "You are pulling my leg here. I mean, AT&T has got a gigantic FTTN set-up which they call U-Verse; which they're expanding..."

He was absolutely right. U-verse had passed about 30 million homes at the end of 2011 and on 7 November 2012 AT&T announced Project VIP, a $US14b three year wireline and wireless network expansion plan that included $6b to expand U-verse to pass 33 million customer locations.

Turnbull did not mention the equally gigantic FTTH network that has been rolled out by Verizon, nor the plan by Google to rollout FTTH in Kansas City, nor plans by various communities that missed out on Google's largesse to try and achieve a similar outcome. I wonder why!

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Stuart Corner

 

Tracking the telecoms industry since 1989, Stuart has been awarded Journalist Of The Year by the Australian Telecommunications Users Group (twice) and by the Service Providers Action Network. In 2010 he received the 'Kester' lifetime achievement award in the Consensus IT Writers Awards and was made a Lifetime Member of the Telecommunications Society of Australia. He was born in the UK, came to Australia in 1980 and has been here ever since.

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