John de Ridder, an independent telecommunications economist, and Rod Tucker, Laureate Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne and a member of Labor's Expert Panel that advised on the NBN, put forward their proposal on Radio National's Money programme on Thursday night.
Currently, the NBN Co charges retail service providers a connectivity virtual circuit charge for building into the network; the amount charged depends on how much bandwidth the provider buys. Additionally, there is an access virtual circuit charge, which depends on each customer's connection – the RSP pays more if the customer takes one of the higher tier plans.
NBN Co has accused RSPs of buying less bandwidth than is needed by their customers in order to maximise their profits. RSPs have, in turn, said they can only pay so much of CVC charges, else they would go out of business.
According to Money host Richard Aedy, the plan proposed by Tucker and de Ridder would eliminate the CVC charge, and instead impose a fixed charge on all customers, much in the way that electricity customers pay a charge for their use of poles and wires.
There would be a separate charge based on the amount of data used — as electricity customers pay depending on the amount of power they use — with the AVC charge also scrapped. But customers would be given access to the full bandwidth available, meaning that there would be no speed tiers.
According to Aedy, this would eliminate the main complaint from customers — slow speeds — and earn the NBN Co about the same as it was earning now.
Independent telecommunications analyst Paul Budde, who also participated in the programme, said now that Australia had stopped building a fibre network, it would fall further and further behind the rest of the world as far as broadband speeds were concerned.
Dr Tooran Alizadeh, director of urban design at Sydney University's School of Architecture, Design and Planning, said there needed to be a great deal more openness around the NBN.
She said that analysis of data between 2007 and 2013 showed that political factors had played a part in which suburbs had been connected to the network earlier. She pointed to the case of Armidale and said its early connection was due to the fact that independent MP Tony Windsor, the member for this area, was one of three parliamentarians who was propping up a minority Labor Government.
Safe Coalition seats were the absolute losers in the early stages of the rollout, she claimed. As to whether the same trend was continuing, Dr Alizadeh said she could not say anything with confidence due to the lack of transparency.