Why The 'NBN Rollout Determined By Electorates' Argument Doesn't Hold Water

The Coalition's latest attack on the NBN has shifted from purely financial to accusations of pork barrelling, stating that the areas chosen for the next range of roll-outs were selected for reasons of political expediency. How accurate is that kind of thinking?

Earlier in the week, I mused on whether opposition to the NBN was shifting from a costs basis to one of impatience. It looks like that prediction is coming ever more true, with Brisbane-based Coalition MPs complaining about the boundaries for NBN Co's three-year rollout plan.

The Australian reports that Liberal MP Andrew Laming is decrying the rollout strategy, stating that Labor was servicing its own seats as a survival strategy in light of the recent state election. The Australian -- whose own particular position on the NBN is rather well known (as, to be fair, is Gizmodo's) -- quotes Dr Laming as stating that

"The cold, hard reality in Brisbane is that households in Labor seats are eight times more likely to get the NBN than those in Coalition seats. Worse, the odds are around 50 per cent better if your Labor MP is a minister. This is a save-the-political-furniture strategy. They are not targeting marginal seats here. They are just trying to survive."

Laming's not the only Coalition politician on the warpath; Paul Fletcher, the Federal Member for Bradfield has issued a release with much the same spin:

"Stephen Conroy was at pains last week to argue that there was no political bias, and the number of Labor seats receiving the NBN was similar to the number of Coalition seats. But as the Coalition’s detailed analysis of NBN’s suburb by suburb rollout promises in Brisbane reveals, this claim from Stephen Conroy is no more reliable than any of the other claims he has made about broadband."

NBN Co has been adamant that rollout strategies were chosen with physical and infrastructure boundaries in mind. Speaking at the NBN Co three year plan announcement, CEO Mike Quigley stated that "The planners had no idea of electoral boundaries. Not even interested — I can assure you that wasn’t even considered."

It does strike me that, presuming that NBN Co's been working on the plan for some time, suggesting that it'd shift it in favour of an election that took place a fortnight ago seems to imbue NBN Co with rather clairvoyant powers of deduction in terms of results and then needed "survival" strategies.

In sheer numerical terms, the breakdown is fairly even; rollouts occur in 67 Labor electorates, 61 Coalition electorates and six cross-bench electorates. It does strike me that this could be something of a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" kind of argument; if the rollout areas were in Coalition-held seats, it'd be just as easy to decry the NBN as trying to "buy" Coalition seats. That's politics for you, I guess.

That aside, I thought it'd be interesting to see if this claimed bias plays out on a larger national scale. After all, if the strategy was to only target Labor electorates, then you'd omit the most obvious candidates -- wouldn't you?

So let's run them down, starting at the very top; from my reading of NBN Co's three year plan maps, Tony Abbott's seat of Warringah misses. Deputy Leader Julie Bishop's seat of Subiaco is swathed in coverage. Warren Truss' electorate of Wide Bay isn't -- as Truss himself noted earlier in the week-- on the three year plan, although there may be constituents receiving NBN connectivity via satellite.

While he's no longer a member of the Coalition, they don't come much more conservative than Bob Katter in Australian political circles. His seat of Kennedy largely misses out, although I've a sneaking suspicion many of the rural areas within Kennedy may be satellite serviced instead in the same way that Wide Bay is, and the three year maps on NBN Co's site don't show satellite or fixed wireless coverage zones at all.

In a similar vein, Sydney radio host -- and noted conservative - Ray Hadley caused something of an NBN storm earlier in the week when he prefaced a paid NBN Co readout with his own opinion of the project (he's not a fan). For what it's worth, while I strongly disagree with Hadley's viewpoint, I've got no problem whatsoever with the separation of editorial and advertising, and this is a prime example of that.

Back to the point, it would appear that Hadley may live in Dural (as per this story); that's a no-NBN-yet zone.

In the interests of balance, flipping over to the other side of politics, what about Julia Gillard? She's the member for Lalor, and there's coverage within Lalor. Stephen Conroy's a senator, so technically gets a tick for Victorian coverage generally; ditto for foreign minister Bob Carr. Wayne Swan's division of Lilley is covered.

Just for the sake of complete coverage, there's Bob Brown, but then he's a Tasmanian senator, and that entire rollout is due to finish by the end of 2015.

The thing is, what does this all ultimately prove, beyond the fact that it's easy to score a few headlines with accusations of pork barrelling?

Nothing. It's not like the rollouts are directly on electoral lines anyway; there are plenty of areas within electorates that may get on the three year plan while other areas are, for the moment, passed over.

For what it's worth, I've used the same criteria that Andrew Laming seems to have; if an area had some form of representation on the three year plan, then it "counts"… for whatever "counts" actually means. As an example, within Gillard's seat of Lalor, you're in the plan if you're in Werribee or Melton, but those in Laverton or Rockbank are plumb out of luck.

I've also already noted that it's a simple matter of mathematics that if your three year plan involves passing (roughly) a quarter of the premises in Australia, then the other three quarters must logically come later. As such, you could pluck any given number of examples out of the air along any particular lines you liked.

Is NBN Co biased against Coalition electorates? I'm sure I could find enough to stage that argument. Is it biased for Coalition electorates? Pretty certain there would be data that could support that assertion. Is it biased against areas with high Bilby populations, or where people like wearing garish Hawaiian shirts ? I could probably find figures to support those positions as well. You can cherry pick stats to support many arguments, but that doesn't make your argument any more valid when you're looking at a rollout of this scale.



    "Is NBN Co biased against Coalition electorates? I’m sure I could find enough to stage that argument. Is it biased for Coalition electorates? Pretty certain there would be data that could support that assertion."

    So, "'NBN Rollout Determined By Electorates’ Argument Doesn’t Hold Water" because you don't think it does. Great analysis.

      Constructive and useful feedback there. My point is that selective data picking -- no matter WHO picks it -- doesn't "prove" anything.

      One word: Hasluck

      If the NBN rollout was political then surely when they were planning this rollout for the last few years Hasluck would have been high on their list of seats to influence. The most marginal of marginals, it's a Liberally held electorate which has changed hands at every election since it was created in 2001. Why isn't there any sign of a rollout in Hasluck?

      If the argument held water then they would have done Hasluck and ignored Julie Bishop's seat. They didn't. Perhaps the reason for that is because Hasluck is covered by a PoI that hasn't been built yet. Maybe that reason is the same reason why these other non-inner-city electorates miss out. Maybe the reason the Coalition are missing out is because they win votes in areas where there isn't the exchange space. No?

      I built a house in a suburb becuase we were told it wouldbe deployed immediatly after the pilot in TAS. guesss what? the deployment got shifted because someone wanted some seats and i am still waiting 2 years latter

        No, you're wrong skywake. There is no point in wiring up Hasluck, because the ALP's primary has fallen so far below the ~38% they got at the last election that any and all marginal seats are a write off for them no matter what at this stage.

        And that's the point Dr. Laming was making: the ALP is throwing everything they've got at their safe seats in Brisbane in light of the March 24 State electoral wipe out in order to save the furniture. That's all the LNP is claiming the Government is doing (i.e. politicising the NBN rollout in Brisbane and Brisbane alone), and that is the manifestly the actual facts of this scenario.

    Well large swathes of Bill Shorten's electorate didn't get it.

      Or Stephen Conroy's.

        Bill Shorten and Stephen conroy missed out but Malcom Turnbull's did.
        If Malcolm really thinks the NBN is inappropriate he could have stood up for him and his electorate and said sorry dont install it here we dont need it. Well Malcolm ?? We all know you are sprouting the liberal parties village idiot's (Tony Abbott) ideas rather than your own knowledge that the NBN is needed.

    So what I'm hearing from Turnbull is that the NBN is so awsome and what people want that it will sway their voting in the next election?
    Surly if the NBN was so crap and out dated as he claims then the Libs wouldn't want the NBN in their electorates?

    The NBN has been a political football since day one! More nanny state and we no what's good for you Labor politics! Let's have any election now and see how fast the wired NBN would be cancelled!

      Hmmm nice trolling. Nanny state? The LNP wants to pay us to have them!

    Satellite hardly counts. It's unreliable and slow.

    Just because it's part of 'the NBN' doesn't mean it should be considered on the same footing as fiber. So delete all the satellite covered electorates and reassess where the fiber is then.

      The new Satellites are going to be 12mb down and 1mb up. Why is that unreliable and slow? They will be different and better than the current satellite setup.

        The latency of satellite connections is astronomically high. So while the bandwidth is adequate, the delay in receiving information will be in the vicinity of 1000ms to 1400ms (round-trip delay) from the premise to the ISP. Compare that to a latency of around 30ms for ADSL (round-trip delay) from premise to ISP and you can see that with satellite internet you're in for a usable but unpleasant experience.

        Highly reactive gaming will still be unplayable, but the technology should be good very everything else. However this is a best case scenario, I'm unsure as to what real world speeds will entail.

        Yes. Then along comes Mr Cloud and rains all over your silly assertion.

    If the Liberals rolled out the NBN who would get it first?

    Let's go and do some politicin.

    Why is Gizmodo entering into political commentary at all, Alex? Stick to tech journalism and leave the politics to the "mass media". I'm finding these articles very unbecoming of Gizmodo and very disappointing. NBN is happening whether people love, like or hate the idea.

      Well not exactly. there is a very real possibility of a change of government in a year or so and the NBN debate will be a critical part of that election (unless the LNP change their mind before then). So as tech enthusiasts we have a very real interest in the politics of the issue. But I take you point - if you don't like these articles, don't read them - move on. I like them and read them, if it's all the same to you...

      There's one very good reason why you can't afford to leave the politics of this issue to the "mass media" - they're terrible at it, and can't analyse these issues! The mainstream media does little more than regurgitate Malcolm Turnbull's press releases, without the capacity to apply any analysis of the facts of the matter. Gizmodo and other tech sites & blogs perform an absolutely vital service by shining some informed light on the issues underlying the politics.

        Regurgitation in politics? Who would of heard of such a thing. While I don't like, nor agree with either parties 'policies ', I do think LNP's approach of saying no to everything is wrong. Case in point the NBN. When you look at countries like South Korea how are we ever going to advance technologically if we cannot agree to essentially run some wires and improve our overall competitiveness with the rest of the world. For this reason I applaud Labour, for their forward thinking, just wish they would get on with the job and not cock up along the way doing it, because like it lump it the LNP is going to get in, and then a brilliant idea could be at risk of been scrapped, due to poor management in regards to Labour's inability to govern.

      I think it's Gizmodo's duty to be pro-technology, and Labor is the one who's pushing NBN. I would expect a Liberal government rolling out NBN would also get the same backing from Giz.

    Welp, either way, being a resident of Mackellar ensures that I won't be seeing the NBN wagons for a fair few years no matter who's in charge.

    So we have a new saying .
    "There's Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics and then there's Anti-NBN arguments."

    There's a little more water when you compare the population of various states with the ammount of broadband they're getting.
    Victoria is currently in line for less than 20 per cent of the three year roll-out while containing a quarter of Australia's population.

      Queensland and WA provide more than 60% of Australia's GDP and they've ended up with what could be considered as an "inadequate" portion of the inital rollout.

      Your point? Thats right, you're making a strawman arguement. Victoria likes to think they're special because they have the most population. This is a 10 year project. Just because you're not covered now doesnt mean you wont be covered - I think QLD / NT / WA should have been covered first. They're most likely to make efficient use of NBN for Mining / Agriculture growth. However it could also be argued the other way. See how your strawman makes no sense ?

        Glad to see you don't let facts get in the way of an argument.
        QLD and WA provide ~33% of GDP together (19% and 14% respectively)
        NSW provides ~31% of GDP
        The average GDP per capitia is $58,811
        VIC is $54,774
        QLD is $55,414
        WA is $80,858
        ACT is $81,420

        Queensland and WA about 1/3 of GDP according to this article and they make up just under 1/3 of the population.... On the other hand VIC and NSW make up over half of the GDP ! http://www.treasury.act.gov.au/snapshot/GSP.pdf

        I've seen smoe pretty amazing claims for how the NBN was going to bring the money rolling in, but this is probably one of the better ones. The NBN will help to grow mining and agricultue?! Seriously?!

        You are right that this 10 year project will get to everyone eventually. And I think that the NBN Co are going to be blasted at each subsequent roll-out announcement for missing out which-ever area thinks they deserve it more...But let's keep our heads here.

        The NBN will bring improved connectivity, but it isn't going to be a magic cornucopia of sudden wealth generation. And bearing in mind that as an island nation, we are going to need a lot more infrastructure put in place to connect us to the rest of the world - a fact that most NBN discussions seem to miss. (The NBN is within Oz, what about pipes to the rest of the world??)

    Simple if you don't want it, you don't get it. Infact when the NBN rolls past your door all you Liberal Muppets can say decline and go back to Dialup, you deserve it.

      I hope those Liberal Muppets know that the Dialup is also going to be turned off.

      I don't want it, yet I'm still being forced to pay for it like every other tax payers. The only people avoiding this is probably the free loading students that mass around here with there ridcoulous Lefty views.


        Thank you for demonstrating the single most common mistaken - and simply wrong - idea about the NBN.

        To put it simply, the NBN is being funded over time by its users.
        Its not being paid for by tax money. Its not ordinary spending like roads.

        The process is simple. The government establishes NBNco, a company like many others, including for instance Australia Post. The government borrows money in the form of bonds and that is used to fund the initial stages of the build. Because NBNco goes on to generate cash flow, and can also in time do its own borrowing, the peak funding requirement from the government is $27B. NBNco have chosen a 7% rate of return. This means that not only does the NBN become an asset, it is also able to return dividends to the government and this then repays the original borrowing.

        And that's a very long handed way of saying, it costs the tax payer nothing and its paid for by its users.

        The fact that a lot of people don't understand this, that they think its another road, that its paid for out of tax and just sits there as if its given away for free, says something about how bad our political system has become. How absolutely pathetic our media is, and how much the Liberal Party has gone all out to exploit ignorance (and not just on this issue).

        The NBN is not just a technically brilliant idea, its also a masterful piece of public policy. It does not compete with genuine spending, like roads and schools. And it becomes an asset. And if the fact that there is no net cost to the taxpayer isn't good enough, the fact that it will raise GDP, increase revenue, fund other projects and provide vast social benefits, is simply a bonus.

        The entire Liberal argument is predicated upon the wrong idea that the NBN is spending. Therefore they go on about how they will cost cut it. But if its not spending, what are the Liberals talking about? Yep, they're lying, willfully taking advantage of people who are simple not well enough informed.

        But then, that's what you expect from them isn't it - do anything, say anything, tell any lie because the media won't pull them up on it.

        Put it this way, if Abbott were remotely honest, he'd be fronting a press conference saying "yes, I'm going to fund the Pacific Highway but you'll have to pay for it per Kilometer of travel". Instead he tells lies about the NBN.

    When they first tried to roll it out, Elwood in Melbourne was one of the first places it was started, now its rolling out again,I have to wait 3 years. If they wanted to roll it out sensibly, they should start at the city, then the inner suburbs and out from there. What they are doing now is just a big jumbled mess. Because of this,I would definitely say there is a hidden agenda. This sucks

      Minority governments mean that you need to bargain for power. Bargain was that NBN for regional first. Regional > City makes more sense, given the Regional areas not having internet (almost at all) is the whole point of the project.

        City first makes more sense, because then more people get it first, so more people can join, and payments for the subscription fees will go towards finishing the project sooner, rather than getting little return early on.

          Instead they are building the POIs and then building around those. There are over 100 POIs spread around Australia. The POIs are the central nodes, just like the GPOs are the central nodes of the postal system, and the exchanges are the central nodes of the PSTN. It would be interesting to see just exactly how close each suburb is to a POI, I suspect they are incredibly close. That's one of the issues with green fields, sometimes they can't get the NBN because the POI for the area hasn't been built yet.

    The Libs want the NBN in their electorates so they can then complain about being forced to have the NBN.

    Those who miss out are being cruelly denied this opportunity.

    Where's the equal opportunity for hypocrites? Hypocrites are people too, you know!

    With Victoria you have to account for the fact that Tasmania is being specifically fast tracked to be fully covered by 2015. You also have to account for the fact that Victoria has the highest per capita coverage of HFC.

    It sucks for Victorians, I agree. But with a roll out of this magnitude people were always going to have to wait.

    My brain is starting to hurt on this apparent change of tack from the coalition. First it is "we don't want it, it's old technology, it's too expensive, we've got a better plan" and now it's "they're cheating, giving it to their guys first, we want it now!!". What's the message here guys? Do you want it or not? Talk about sending mixed messages to the electorate!

    To the Coalition, it's also simple mathematics that if the 10 year plan is only 30 to 35% complete after 3 years - then it has totally failed to provide for 100% of the nation.

    The other 6 or 7 years doesn't matter from their point of view because they can't think in the long term.

      That's because they intend to kill it when they get back in power. The long term won't matter because there won't be a long term for it.

        I disagree. I think they will not kill it. They'll keep it and say it is too costly to abandon at that point in time. So if it ends up costing too much it's still Labor's fault (they pass the blame on) and if it succeeds they take the credit.

          It was revealed recently that when Tony Abbott was negotiating with the independents to form government he said wtte "I'm not going to have the NBN, that's not in the Liberal DNA". Well, maybe he'll have to eat his words.. not like he cares whether he's contradicted himself or not. In reality the one thing you can guarantee about the Liberal DNA is its mindless hostility to public utilities.

          The NBN won't be closed down, but what the Liberals will do is order NBNco to do a deal with Telstra, effectively granting Telstra ownership. That will be done in conjunction with Telstra's existing separation undertaking. Net result is a division of Telstra that owns the NBN. Guess what? Even if you were lucky to get fiber you're going to regret voting Liberal as your retail prices go up. Google "south Brisbane fiber prices" to see what I mean.

          The roll out will be scaled back, meaning lots of larger towns won't get it. And the Telstra owned NBNco (or whatever the catchy name it will be called then) will then set about charging the government for any of the "non viable" areas. Meaning ongoing tax payer funded subsidy, and substandard wireless. At least with NBNco you are going to get the best wireless and satellite technology.

          The only way to be sure the NBN remains a world class network is to vote Labor. Voting Liberal will guarantee it will be maimed and the only winner will be Telstra.

            An d the only way to not get a nannied down, in the pockets of big American movie and music studio company regulated internet is to vote Liberal.

            There is always a draw back for who you vote for.

    The reason they aren't rolling out from the cities outward is that the cities and inner suburbs already have decent enough broadband coverage . Not NBN standard by any stretch of the imagination, but compare it to the regions that have no broadband whatsoever, and this is pretty much everyone outside of the capitals.

    If you were in the bush, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be suggesting that Elwood get it first, for what would ostensibly be aesthetic reasons.

    The LNP should be happy, if people in their electrates get the NBN they may talk to others...

      But then they might actually educate themselves, and start voting Green

    Why ow why would the Liberal party or the voters want a giant white elephant in their backyard?.. you want it or you don't? which one is it??.. The only white i see is on the Liberals faces. Who wouldn't want cutting edge technology to lead us into the future?.. And what exactly is fast than the speed of light???.. that's right Mr Turnbull already has fibre connected to his house.. :S

    I find the argument rather funny considering my electorate (Swan) is an extremely marginal seat and there's plenty of coverage in the 3 year plan.

      What's more, Swan is held by the Liberal Party. I'm also in the electorate of Swan and the NBN is due to start construction in my area within a year,

    Enough Gizmodo, your writers are young Lefty jorno

      ...s, we get it. Now can you please STFU and try to remain unbiased? I know it will be hard but get some professionalism for once.

        speak for yourself.

        All I see in the article is a rebuttal against a moronic view that is increasingly making the Liberals seem as though they are nitpicking for nitpicking's sake.

        Are you actually Cory bernardi? Because your rants sound like his drivel.
        If every tech professional, economist etc want an NBN why shouldn't giz report positively about it!
        And while thyey are at it refute the retarded liberal lie 67-61 sounds pretty even to me. Especially when you consider it's also over the entire country while tassie (a completely labor state) is getting it front ended. Take tassie out and how do the numbers look?

    I just so happen to be in a Labor seat at present (Richmond) & we got nothing.

    I notice that with the new announcment the other day, the date for our area went from being before October this year now to be starting till maybe October this year and completed before 2013

    Guess they mean Federal Labor seats... since the majority of the state is effectively Liberal now anyway; in saying that considering the Libs didn't want the NBN; why roll it out to their electorate?

    I'm waiting for the coalition to provide some details on where all the wireless towers are to be built. Their current plan seems to have about 3 times the wireless coverage of the NBN. Considering the tin foiled hat NIMBYISM of people who want 5 bars reception but no mobile towers I can't wait to see the furor generated. It should be up there with the deaths of a few parrots and wind turbines :)

    To give you an idea of the reality of the NBN my Dad is lucky enough to be connected. He used to pay around $70 a month for ADSL + phone line rental. No cheap plans as Telstra had the monopoly in the area. He's now paying $34.50 a month for 8 times the download speed. He paid $15 to transfer his Telstra phone number over to Exetel as well on their $0 VOIP plan - he just pays 9c for untimed landline calls now. He's very happy with the huge increase in speed, and can now watch DIY videos and catch up TV.

    The amazing think about fiber is there's no real limit to how much data you can fit onto a single fiber. There's equipment that lets you put 80 wavelengths down 1 fiber - 800Gbps. 40Gps per wavelength is becoming common, with 100Gps in the not too distant future. yeah, this is backbone tech, but not so long ago 1Gps fiber was also the domain of data centers and carriers, but is going to be possible on the NBN. We wont need to lay more fiber in the future. It will just get installed to new houses. In my book that's a smart tech to install.

      Now you're just applying logic. Don't tell these people that this is scalable. They won't even know what that means.

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