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Public telephone cabinets have been around since the First World War in Australia...

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Vision needs to remove NBN Co monopoly

Gary McLaren's picture

Frank makes up some great points.
But unfortunately there is common ground across the ideological and partisan NBN debate about the fundamental disconnect in Australia's telco policies - everyone seems to consider the NBN Co monopoly as sacrosanct. This is starting point for everyone's disparate "visions".
Australia seems to be the only country that starts from this position. This is the core of Australia's problem. Monopolies do not invest unless someone provides extra funds, usually taxpayers or customers who have no choice! As a result investment either doesn't happen or is too late.
Any vision for the future of Australia's telecom policy must first consider the fundamental issue of telecom monopolies.
Why is Australia the only market that considers this a no go zone?

The Utility of Broadband

Tim Herring's picture

Transferred to the main blog under "Broadband"

How should the FTTx investments be recouped?

Frank den Hartog's picture

I agree with Prof. Tucker's conclusion that the NBN will not bring Australia higher up the international ladder of fixed broadband connectivity speeds. But "being high up the ladder" should not be a goal in itself. The real tragedy is that we (industry, public, government) do not seem to have a shared (!) vision on our society's needs for broadband now and in the future, how these needs would translate into a measurable improvement of the society's well-being, and how this improvement subsequently would translate into everybody recouping a fair share of the investment costs and taking a fair share of the investment risks. Said otherwise, a viable business model and business case seems missing, plus a vision on how to implement such a business model given the existing organisation of Australia's telecommunications market.

As an illustration: the article discusses the costs of FTTN and FTTP deployment internationally, but costs may differ greatly per country, especially the OPEX part of it. Besides, who cares about the costs if there is a clear vision on how to earn them back? And what role could mobile networks (5G) play in this discussion? But lacking that vision, the only thing we can do is minimising the investment costs, and then comparisons like presented become relevant indeed. And, to be honest, even $2500 then sounds like a lot of money to me: with a fee of $50/month per household it would take ~10 years to earn this back, depending on which part of the fee should cover the infrastructure investments (here estimated on ~50%). Which company, nowadays, or even government (with its <3 year cycle), is prepared to take such a long term risk for an unclear outcome?

I firmly believe that Australia should be much better connected than it is now in order to maintain our standard of living, or even improve it. I believe that FTTN will help too little too late. But as long as we discuss broadband policies on the basis of just believes instead of facts and evidence, we will loose a lot of time, energy, and money in discussing and fighting. Resources we should better put into updating the network. I support Prof. Tucker's conclusion that NBN needs a vision for the future beyond 2021. But that's easier said than done. The lack of this vision is the real tragedy.

Good observations, Bob.

Graham Shepherd's picture

Good observations, Bob.

In the latest Journal, I try and take an overall view of the latest policy and Gary McLaren compares the utility model you describe with the competitive model proposed by Vertigan. The government seems to be hovering between a utility approach and a comptitive approach. In the Business Spectator last week ( Mark Gregory noted that if the government delays selling off the HFC until NBN Co upgrades it then a well-cashed-up player like Telstra could walk right back in to a dominant position in broadband access.

I wish that rational argument would prevail but despite the mantra of rational economics I doubt that it raises even a lazy eyebrow. Daniel Kahneman in "Thinking fast and slow" demonstrated that markets and consumers are not rational (unless they really concentrate). I suspect that governments and politicians are the least rational of all and wide open to powerful forces, including half-cocked ideologies, political expediencies and modern, more sophisticated versions of the good old brown paper bag (Askins, I think they were called).

I remember Richard Alston laughing his head of at naive young me when I suggested that he simply had to explain to the Australlian people the "good reasons" for privatising Telecom Australia and he would get his legisltation through. Of course, it was the mountainous tax-payerfunded political pay-offs to Senator Harradine that actually ensured the result he wanted.

There will be a wide readership of the Journal articles. You might like to add your comments there.

Graham Shepherd

Gigabit connections: MyRepublic says NBN chief is wrong

Nigel Swinney's picture

Given the rediculous cost to get 100Mbits currently I doubt we could justify 10x that for gigabit but it would be good to have if they priced it right

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Ian Campbell's picture

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Rob Nicholls's picture

PDF file reissued

administrator's picture

Thanks, Bruce. I hope that you received the reissued version of the pdf file on the same day.

Graham Shepherd