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Friday, 08 April 2011 17:25

How to rein in NBN costs


The already highly politicised National Broadband Network has become an even hotter political potato since it has become apparent that the Government cannot deliver on its promise of 93% coverage for $36 billion. Given that it is politically unacceptable to increase the NBN budget, is there a way that 93% can still get fast broadband without breaking the bank? Perhaps.

ALP die-hards will probably hate me saying this but Shadow Broadband Minister Malcolm Turnbull has already publicly stated the solution.

A good proportion - perhaps 25% or more - of Australians, including yours truly, already have a form of fibre - hybrid fibre coaxial cable (HFC) - running past and to their homes. Hands up those who have Foxtel and/or Bigpond or Optusnet cable broadband.

As a user, I can say the technology that delivers the services is pretty darned good. It may not reach the lofty heights of a future FttH installation, but it's here right now and it more than serves the needs of its users.

Yes, I know upload speeds are much slower than download speeds and it's a locally a shared service but it's still pretty good.

That being the case, it is absolute madness to not even consider incorporating the HFC network into the NBN instead of simply switching it off.

The whole idea of the NBN is supposedly to bridge the digital divide and make fast broadband accessible to nearly all Australians.

Well I already have access to fast broadband capable of delivering all sorts of applications including high-end videoconferencing and movies on demand. I don't see a single good reason to shut down a perfectly good network that already delivers these high quality services at an affordable price just because it isn't the chosen technology of a particular government.

And herein lies the crux of the matter. We could still have a "relatively" affordable NBN if we could get past the fanatical quasi-socialist semi-religious conviction of some adherents who believe that we must at all costs ditch everything we already have so that everybody everywhere gets their broadband delivered through exactly the same medium using one technology.

It is perfectly clear that a substantial proportion of the population simply do not need FttH for the foreseeable future so why are we hell bent on breaking the bank to force it on them?

Let's leave aside the 4G wireless argument for the moment and let's accept that the copper network is going to be consigned to the scrap heap of history, but let's bring some sanity back to this debate.

If the Government is really serious about delivering the NBN within its already massive budget to 93% of Australia, then incorporate the already successfully operating HFC network. After all, it is paying Telstra a handsome sum to turn it off.


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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.



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