back to article Aussie parties trade blows over fast broadband

Australia's outgoing Labor government has a Very Big Idea: to get ultra-fast broadband (up to 100MBps), mostly delivered by fibre, into nearly every home. They think the National Broadband Network (NBN) will cost $43bn, about $5bn a year over eight years. Australia's conservative Federal Opposition, the Coalition, say this is …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    A more paranoid man than I..

    would see the NBN as another route for government control of data, aka Singapore. Well at the end of the day as long as this increases my avaiable bandwidth with which to kill (virtually of course!) others in any FPS of choice then this cloud has a sliver of a silver lining.


    1. Dr Gerard Bulger

      No point in high speed: the bottleneck is in and out of OZ

      There a very few pipes out of Australia. I cannot see the point of 100mb, or even 30mb broadband within Australia while there is so little capacity to the rest of the world.

      Australians have much better things to do than make web sites, and there is only 21million here, so one needs decent connections to get overseas for anything (let alone bbc iplayer via proxy).

      I am living in Cairns QLD, with Telstra, the firm that is detested here more than BT ever was in the UK.

      Download speeds I get here in OZ from my UK servers are never above 1.2mb/sec. In the UK the machines provide as fast as Virgin cable allows to my UK home... 18mbs. My UK servers have 50mbs connections.

      My service in Oz is with Telstra's 14mbs ADSL... I am within 600m of the exchange. Within Australia I can get 9-12mbs downloads. That's fine for me, and surely for most people. But it is pointless as I am throttled when going to USA or UK, where stuff resides.

      There is no point in speeds above 14mbs whilst Australia is not properly connected to the rest of the world.

      Traceroute to UK shows the horrors and routes go all over the shop.

      Even download from to Hong Kong to China proper, Australia's greatest trading partner are terrible.

      I'd prefer the Government invested in to laying more ocean going cables than spending money on digging up roads.

  2. Winkypop Silver badge

    "Australia's outgoing Labor government"


    Have I nissed something?

    1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: "Australia's outgoing Labor government"

      'Outgoing' does not mean Labor has lost. If Labor wins the next election it will form a new government.

    2. John Angelico
      IT Angle

      Yes, you have...

      By definition, when warrants are issued for an election, the government of the day resigns, and is required by the Governor-General to act only in a caretaker mode until the polls are declared and the Parliament sits again.

      So not only have you N-issed something, you are liable to be dissed as well. Take care :-).

      Icon is there only 'cos I have never used it before.

  3. Roger Jenkins


    Australia is big. If you havn't been here I promise you, you will not be able to imagine how big it is.

    Giving us all broadband is only something that a government can do. I live about 15 Kms. outside of a small town which has ADSL, in my locality (farming), houses are few and far between, there is no way that we will ever get ADSL even with town so close, it just is not economically viable and there are tens of thousands of homes a lot more isolated than my locality.

    I have two choices, dial up or satellite. The government subsidises the cost of satellite where there is no other higher speed connection available. If wireless was financially viable then we would have it, it is around. So for us, NBN is our only hope. We would finally get connections with good speed and without the horribly restrictive download/upload caps that we now have on satellite.

    I am not a supporter of the Labour party in any way, but, it appears to me that the opposition is saying no purely because they can't say yes for fear of making Labour look as if they are offering something good and will work.

    Bloody politicians, they'll waste what NBN has spent already and then throw in a few billions to make the existing telcos rich and I still won't get broadband. But they may win an election, so it must be worth it.

    1. John Angelico
      Big Brother

      Roger, just don't expect

      to be able to afford the NBN and don't expect it to deliver the speeds they are talking about.

      If you look into the fine print, the NBN co is not going to put FTTH into every place where a carbon-based bipedal lifeform chooses to lay its head nightly.

      Large sections of this sparse continent will only get satellite coverage.

      The NBN will be Telstra writ large. Governments are not meant to run businesses, and nobody likes Telstra's monopolistic "divine right of kings" attitude to customers.

      And if you have been around long enough, you may recall that our government of the day couldn't make a satellite operation pay (bleeding red ink for years before they sold it to Optus).

      However, Optus have managed it very well, including putting up two more satellites since then.

      I have it from an insider that they can't fathom the problems the govt had in making a quid - all they do is send bits up, wait a second, get them back again, and ring up the cash register (Dennis Bloodnok's favourite song as it happens). It's not rocket science, except at the beginning. :-)

      1. Denarius

        idiots and government business operations

        Actually governments run businesses well generally, especially in Oz where we have a few high density population centers surrounded by SFA. Water and sewerage systems for starters. Before the idiots sold the natural monopoly Telstra I lived in really remote areas. One could get basic comms of one form or another where now there is nothing or expensive satellites.

        A gov owned comms infrastructure could be improved by the owner ordering its employees to do it. Now the taxpayers need to bribe the so called market providers to provide something above dial up modem. Oz has lots of dark fiber and multiple providers in the busines areas and some suburbs. Duplicated infrastructure to have "competition" at additional cost. Very little anywhere else. Nothing either party has offered will do anything much precisely because it will add another lot of dark fiber where it is least needed and nothing where it is.

        I live 50 km outside the national crapital. Barely tolerable TV reception on multiple channels, all 3 phone networks drop off in light rain or heavy wind. No, I don't know why the wind makes a difference, just noticed it. Best internet is over satellite or an expensive 3G network with speeds 10% of what I got on cable in the Canberra suburbs. Some of outer suburbs of the god-forsaken hell hole that is Canberra still have no option but satellite or crappy dialup.

        People down the road out here can lose their copper connection for months at a time.

    2. Dr Gerard Bulger

      Its big

      i came across this map that shows you just how big the place is

  4. Pat 3


    I'd much prefer the government option - dig up the roads just once and rent out the infrastructure like every other utility. I was amazed when looking at connections the other day and ADSL2 isn't even standard yet.

    As for money going into Australian pockets, probably not. The job listings mention one 'Oracle ERP suite'. No doubt to implement it they'll hire some multinational who will outsource the work.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Who remembers Telecom?

    History is against a state run telco, Who remembers the monopolistic and lethargic practices of Telecom? Better that the govt gives private industry incentives to provide wide coverage.

    Nor am I convinced that it will be a durable investment. There was rumor that NBN was talking about buying out the TransACT (partial) fibre to kerb network. This would be good learning as TransACT has had an uphill battle against cheaper but adequate ADSL/ADSL2 network rolled out in competition. Does this mean the NBN would be relegated to providing over priced services to areas not cost effective for under cutting by commercial operations?

    "Australia's government obsession with FTTH seems almost fetishistic and its decision to set up its own company to handle the build-out, may seem curious to outsiders. Also it is vulnerable to charges of wasting public money and of pork barrel politics."

    OTOH, if you subsidise competition out of the water, it does make implementing the Conroy filter a lot more feasible as you suddenly control the walled garden.

  6. s. pam

    How dumb are Aussies? I'll show you how dumb!

    So Aussies really have no clue about technology or the infrastructural requirements for same. Witness the only folks who really do have a clue about the remotes of Oz, Broadcast Australia . They run a network connected over fibre, POTS and through the air to 2,200 TV/radio transmitters all over Oz. Some a more than a 1 day drive from a paved road, yet all deliver TV/Radio no worries mate.

    All that needs to be done to reach the rural population would be to interface to B/A and you'll be allright matey. But being Oz, where no good idea goes unpunished, this extremely logical idea will never happen due to the majority of thinkers in Oz being NIMBY's.

    1. John Pattenden

      RE: How dumb are Aussies? I'll show you how dumb! → #

      Not dumb enough to not know the difference between watching broadcast TV and broadband internet.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    "outer suburbs, rural and remote places, where coincidentally, their political support is strongest"

    Coincidentally where it's needed most

  8. Matware

    Those darn government monopolies,

    That gave us running water, sewage systems, power lines, rail services, postal services oh and telecommunications just can't be trusted.

    Their up to no good with their uniform service provision for the masses, we need a tiered society where you have to pay through the nose for privileges like sanitation!

    Private business may run big infrastructure at a profit, but god they don't seem to like building it in the first place. And given that governments like selling off infrastructure to pay debts, its best that they occasionally build some new stuff so that future generation can sell it off.

  9. Jerry

    NBN is all about movies

    I've worked in Australia for a few years in planning FTTH networks in new subdivisions. Especially on the economics of the process, but also on the technicalities.

    The only compelling reason for FTTH or FTTC is delivery of movies. This is the only use which requires such high bandwidth. For all other uses ADSL technology gives plenty of bandwidth.

    The reason the Government is looking at a NBN is because there is no commercial case for private operators to do so. The investment return period is several decades and requires huge amounts of pay-per-view content to even start to generate the type of cash-flow and margins needed.

    The NBN is in effect the Government paying for infrastructure so private content providers can make lotsa dough.

    Presumably the owners of content are being very jolly and supportive of the present Government plans - Rupert Murdoch for instance - who also controls much of Australian TV and newspapers which are quite influential in elections.

    1. Ted 3

      About Murdoch...

      "Rupert Murdoch for instance - who also controls much of Australian TV"

      I am as suspicious of Murdoch's influence as the next person (can't stand his newspapers), but please get your facts straight. There are 5 major free to air television station in Australia, which is the vast majority of the market. Murdoch owns exactly 0% of any of these. There is also Foxtel, the pay TV network, that only a minority of Australian's subscribe to. Even then, he only owns 25% of Foxtel.

      More indiredctly, he owns a major film studio (20th C Fox in the US), but this is not a TV station. So yes, he would no doubt benefit, but he sure does not "control Australian TV", as you put it.

      1. dylan 4

        more About Murdoch

        Furthermore one might point to the downright reactionary behaviour of "content providers'" in engaging in digital distribution of the works they earn their money from.

        At the moment they still seem far more interested in selling you a physical disc than in allowing you to download content.

    2. VoodooForce

      wow Jerry

      How can you be so blind? the only compelling reason is so Murdoch benefits? Amazing thought process there.

      I live in the center of the nations capital. ADLS2+ is not an option because the copper cannot support it. ADSL1 will connect unreliably at a max of 300k. Can you tell me when this will be fixed by Telstra?

      I know many people living on the Gold Coast who cannot get ADSL - that's the fastest growing region in Australia if you were not aware. When will this be fixed by Telstra? I know people in every captial city who cannot get ADSL anything. When will this be fixed by Telstra?

      People want to pay for the service but they cannot get it. Capitalism has failed and will continue to fail in this industry, in this country.

      the compelling reason for fiber to the home is to replace the outdated copper network owned by a monopoly that will NEVER be upgraded to be broad band capable. Is it that hard to get the big picture?

      The NBN is a more recent effort to provide essential services like the sewers, telephony, roads rail etc

    3. Richard Cottrill

      infrastructure is for the future

      As you alluded to, the NBN infrastructure isn't about 'now'.

      The only thing that requires a lot of bandwidth right now is movies; but there are other things on the horizon. Conroy (spit!) is fond of the tele-presence services like medicine, and so on; but the truth is that there's much more mundane things to use 100Mbit networks for; like file servers, off-site backups, phone calls, client-server applications (REALLY Rich Internet Applications); distributed offices, etc.

      Movies are this year's bandwidth hogs, because they're one of the few services that fits ADSL2 asymmetry/bandwidth. I tend to think that there are new uses to be had for all that bandwidth. Whether Australian start-ups can be found/funded to exploit it is something I have less faith in.

  10. John Tserkezis

    Steven Conroy is still a screwball.

    Steven Conroy says:

    "It will deny 1,000 towns across Australia access to fibre technology - the gold standard broadband network," he said.

    Of course he can say that. He isn't the arsehole who's going to pay for it now is he?

  11. aaaa

    Proven ability to deliver large infrastructure on time on budget

    In recent years the labor party certainly hasn't shown an ability to deliver large infrastructure (in NSW) for anything like an industry accepted price (schools, home insulation, etc). I look at the proposals like this: labor - will waste $43B; liberal - will waste $7B. Since it's coming out of my pocket I favour promises to waste less.

    Yes it'd be nice to have national FTTH - but the only country I know of to have done it is Korea. Anyone know what model they used and can sum up why it's worked?

    1. Veldan

      Ding Ding Ding!

      and aaaa got it!

      Every single project the government of Australia has ever run since as long as i can personally remember has went hideously over budget and has missed it's schedule by years.

      My brother and i have a joke that if you want to predict the budget of any Australian project you need to add it to itself for every 3 years the project will ACTUALLY take. To find out how long it will actually take you just need to double the proposed schedule.

      So $50b over 3 years turns into $150b over 9 or $250b over 15.

      Given that the light rail they proposed for Sydney at several millions, yet only ever saw planning stages which took several of those millions without returning a god damned thing. I see the NBN going exactly the same way.

      Give aaaa a beer for figuring out the magic numbers :D

    2. dylan 4

      forgot your point about the "on time" bit?

      People 'round here seem to have no clue about any of the recent economic stimulus projects, and the difference they made to people staying in jobs.

      Because the _only_ part of the project that was key to being delivered "on time" was _spending the money_, and nobody would argue they din't spend up in a hurry. Actually delivering the infrastructure was always a secondary consideration.

      The fact that examples like the schools projects showing that they "overpaid" by 6-20% (IIRC) for the works actually demonstrates that they got pretty good value for money.

      If you think the GFC is an Australian Labor conspiracy, you need to go visit Europe, UK, USA.

      There are many companies in Australia, employing many, many people, across building, planning, infrastructure consultancies etc that would have gone bust if the Govt hadn't boosted infrastructure spending through projects like this, including NBN.

      Regarding who does or doesn't have a record of delivering, private industry has no record in Australia of delivering large-scale national infrastructure, and never will, because shareholders expect profits.

      It is part of the role of governments to "waste" money by delivering infrastructure to all parts of the country, even where arguments of viable economic return don't exist. Whether our country-cousins need FTTH is debatable, but the same could have been said back in the day about extending the postal network, or copper telephony, or GSM (where our much maligned Telecom, previously Post Master General, delivered a network that outside mainland capital CBD areas is still vastly better than any competitor's).

      I think there are rational arguments for scaling back the scope of the NBN (sorry country cousins), but chopping it off at the knees really is opposition for it's own sake. The $7B "policy" is the emperor's new clothes, delivering essentially nothing we don't already have, and ensuring that sunk costs in the current NBN really are wasted.

    3. dylan 4
      Thumb Down

      While I don't deny he's a screwball...

      ...he probably pays his taxes too, so you're not the only a******e in the world.

      Personally I'm quite happy to pay my share, but call me an overpaid idealist with unrequited socialist tendencies and a profound disbelief in the ability of an unfettered free market to deliver a society worth living in.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    You can't have your cake and eat it too.

    On the one hand, Labor and Conroy are offering the prospect of FTTH with a clearly unrealistic price tag and a completion date far into the future.

    On the other hand, Labor and Conroy are offering internet censorship which _will_ be driven through the senate and enacted into law by "the peoples mandate".

    Which would you prefer?

  13. -tim

    100 mb is fast?

    How about those of us who want gigabit? NBN will make sure we never see it by killing all the competition.

  14. Mr Floppy

    Luddites the lot of them

    How bad is the Internet in Oz? It is woeful. 3G wireless is way over subscribed and it's not because of all the people with their portable devices, some people have to use it as their home broadband connection because either the copper is not available or when the houses were built, they went the cheap pair gain option.

    It just enforces the notion that Australia is that cheap beer swilling slow dim backwater on the otherside of the world with it's tin can on a string telephony. What, we dont need no steekeen brooaardband.

  15. A B 3

    It gives me a warm feeling...

    to know that farmer John who lives 300klm (200miles) from the nearest town, is going to be getting 300 klm of expensive fibre courtesy of the taxpayer for 1 house. If Libs /Nats can link the major cities and pressure the comm companies to put up 3G or better for 7Billion... I say go with that. That way Farmer John can earn money by letting them put the 3G tower on his property.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    NBN issues

    Tasmania put forward a case for fibre to the premisis. Our state owned energy company (hydro) has played with fibre to the house deployments for a while. When a national tender for better broadband services was put out, they put their hands up for Tasmania. Telstra who owns the current copper networks, in a monopoly siuation told the gubermint to feck off.

    The Tasmanian plan looked good enough to go nation wide with a little bit of cash (Labor has no idea of how to look after money, as taxes is like union dues, some other sucker pays) backing ie $43B

    Best of the lot as far as Labor goes is it tell Telstra to go feck emselves. As it would break the monopoly.

    Trouble is this Labor lot are morons who can only organize spin and waste, so 10 to 1 the new monopoly would get sold off at some point... And we will all be told to bend over again, just this time it would be NBN Co not Telstra

  17. bugalugs

    and now...a f^@&!^g user rant !!!

    being stuck out in the Victorian countryside on an ( elcheapo, granted ) 256k ADSL package that never, NEVER, gets anywhere near that speed AND having tried wireless only to be band-width-banjaxed from 10 am to midnight, we endorse any plan that might bring our internet experience into the 21st century and will vote accordingly.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    A pessimistic summary

    So it will work if we assume:

    1. That the govt can build a $43bn project on time and on budget

    2. That compelling domestic business models other than cable TV, BitTorrent and pr0n will appear (on the back of a major investment in digital TV)

    3. That the government can resist a global mania to privatise

    4. That if privatised, the govt will recoup a good portion of the $43bn invested or sell it for a song on the assumption that the buy will pas on their good fortune

    5. That the buyer will resist the urge to recover their $43bn investment from their subscribers (who are the taxpayers who paid the $43bn in the first place)

    6. That if privatised, the buyer will not act like a monopolist

    I don't think you can put a $43bn stack of cash on the table and not expect to attract the wrong kind of attention. It's hard enough not to get gouged on a well understood project like putting up a tin shed in a schoolyard.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    There's only one word for this


  20. D. M

    I remember Telecom

    And it shall never be repeated again. Sell off Telecom (now Telstra) was one of the biggest disaster we have had. Private section does not spend money to build something. They only want to rip people off for profit. For those long years under Lib gov, have anyone seen Telstra build anything at all?

    I read a lot of what BT has done wrong here. Times 10, no times 100, you get Telstra. Someone I work with now, used to work for Telecom/Telstra (still have connection there). From what he told me and what I have seen/heard, when Telecom was under gov control, they at least had to fix problems. Since gov sold it off, Telstra techs were NOT allowed to fix anything properly (or they got the sack).

  21. PooPoo the Korruptah
    Thumb Up


    Out here in the Tanami Desert I know that all the local mob are keen for this new infrastructure so as to spend all day downloading bloody retarded cat videos on YouTube and checking their Facebook profile with everyone else in camp. Bloody great idea this. Bring a 40,000year old culture into the 21st century! Beats chucking sticks at things.

  22. Bernd Felsche

    Akamai figures don't show DSL speeds

    I've got an ADSL2+ connection at over 13Mbps. So says my modem.

    Verified by downloads of huge ISO files from the mirror operated by my ISP. 1.36 megabytes/second.

    Akamai speeds seem to reflect the access speed to their servers and NOT the speed of the individual DSL connections.

    Clearly, anybody who uses the Akamai figures to support their argument is either woefully ignorant or using the statistics to prop up their lies.

  23. Bernd Felsche

    Fibre is already there, but cloaked.

    Those in Australian IT who actually observe what happens in the real world, will have noticed that many larger installations already have fibre running into the building or business parks. That's not just new ones.

    When one of my customers recently upgraded their WAN to SHDSL from Frame Relay, there "magically" appeared a fibre node on their premises. From which sprouted fake ISDN and DSL connections. The fibre is locked to that provider so when the customer chose to upgrade from a pathetically-slow ADSL to a cheaper, faster one, it had to be over copper wire all the way back to the exchange instead of being switched via the fibre to the same place.

    Just one example. I have more.

    It's long been cheaper to run fibre than 200 new copper pairs. It's now probably cheaper to run fibre than 20 copper pairs.

    I'd be surprised if new business parks, shopping complexes and larger building didn't already have their own fibre node. The incremental cost of providing e.g. VDSL at speed of around 50 Mbps is close to zero.

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