The Coalition's Vague Plan For A New National Broadband Network

Over the Australia Day long weekend, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott released a plan for the nation called "Real Solutions". It's a 27-page document that outlines a whole mess of stuff, including what the Coalition plans to do for the nation's broadband infrastructure. Rather than real solutions, however, the document just looks like hollow talk from here.

The document clocks in at just over 17,000 words that address everything from the bold plan for a first year budget surplus, right through to a new strategy for industry that will lessen the country's reliance on the mining and resources boom.

In 17,000 words, less than 200 are said about broadband, with the first mention buried on page 15 of the document. Not exactly high up on the priorities list, it seems.

Here's what the Coalition promises for the future of digital infrastructure in Australia, from page 17 of the document:

Delivering more affordable broadband — rolling it out faster

• The Coalition will deliver high speed broadband that is both affordable for families and businesses and cost effective for taxpayers
• We will for the first time do a fully transparent cost-benefit analysis of the National Broadband Network, to find out the quickest and most cost-efficient way to upgrade broadband to all areas where services are now unavailable or sub- standard. This is the cost-benefit analysis Labor didn’t do before committing to spend tens of billions of dollars on the NBN.
• We will roll out super-fast broadband using whichever is the most effective and cost efficient technology and we will use existing infrastructure where we can.
• We will roll it out faster to high priority areas.
• We will end billions of dollars of wasteful spending on the NBN and deliver more of the modern infrastructure we urgently need while encouraging competition wherever possible to put downward pressure on prices.

Basically, the "plan" doesn't actually exist yet. All the Coalition is willing to do is conduct a cost-benefit analysis (drink!) into several different options and go with the one that has the best bang for buck. Depending on what it picks, the Coalition will likely redraw the deployment lines based on their "priority areas".

Interestingly, the broadband "plan" makes no mention of specific technologies that are under consideration. "We will use existing infrastructure where we can," sounds like a plan to roll-out fibre to the node (FTTN) with the area between the nodes and the houses set to be the old copper cables we all know and loathe. The Coalition loves that idea.

On the other side of the coin, the plan promises to scrap the wasteful fibre to the home plan for "more modern infrastructure we urgently need". What could be more modern than fibre, I wonder? Could the Coalition arrive at the conclusion that ripping up and restarting the fibre broadband plan is just too expensive?


After all, as Angus over at Lifehacker points out, NBN Co is already predicting 101,700 connected premises by June 2013 (54,000 fibre, 47,700 satellite).

Policy documents are meant to include details about how a party plans to achieve its lofty goals. Instead, this document is a manifesto of ideas with a big stamp on it that reads "fully costed". We'll have to take your word on that one, Mr Abbott.

Here's the plan in full if you want to have a read:

Our Plan: Real Solutions for all Australians. by



    Ha ha ha ha haaaaaa
    What total monkeys

    The total monkeys are the guys who boost up the single most expensive piece of garbage that the taxpayer will fund for years to come. Also, more unrelenting boosterism from Gizmodo staff for the Gillard governments super priced white elephant and trenchant criticism for an alternative, just what is behind this? Just what is the relationship between Hopwell and Gizmodo and the NBNco?

      Hey @lukehopewell - seeing you started it in the article I'm going to continue the anti-NBN buzz word drinking game!

      white elephant


        @mdolley Just got my NBN connection. It is awesome :-) Faster streaming, more reliable, quicker connecting. Seriously once you try it you will never want to go back to copper. Clearly you are not a fan but as internet data usage increases you will come to understand why the NBN is the right service at the right time.

          I love the NBN. If I could pay to have it today I would.

          So hows the wait at your local hospital then? Worth it you think?

            @kr00 NBN is an investment - it will pay itself off. Health expenditure is not. Different sides of the coin.

        reverse white elephant, selling off a monopoly like Telstra and its important infrastructure without thinking ahead and that we would need to buy it back to make any upgrade to an antiquated copper system.

        So that's 2 drinks I owe right? Can't see any more cost-benefit analysis or white elephants in this chat room. But yes we will see plenty of that language to get anyone drunk by August/Sept this year. Pleeeeeenty.

        BTW, vague is smarter, details make it less readable and open for more attacks. The docs not really for converting but for the converted to wave and say, "See he has a plan."

      Please tell me this is parody.

      No need for conspiracy theories - it's a tech site run by a demographic who by and large vote centre-left and they want the fast internets, regardless of the cost.

      " trenchant criticism for an alternative"

      The only "trenchant criticism" in this piece is that no alternative plan has been proposed!

      The only trenchant criticism has been manufactured by the Liberal party as there is no good reason not to have an NBN. No one that has even a parting knowledge of technology, economics, or industry believes the NBN will be anything but great for Australia and the people.

      Liberal Policy:
      - Get re-elected
      - Don't develop/maintain infrastructure: anything to have a budget surplus
      - Sell off everything you can
      - Institute new workplace laws to neuter workers, unions, guilds, associations...
      - Make Australia into a second world country
      - Rule like you were born to

        You forgot the most important conservative policy:
        - Tax breaks for the rich.

          Unlike brown paper bags for the unions, eh. Or houses in Fitzroy for AWU heavies……… hmmmm?

        Was there a good reason for us to leave cave-dwellings and drop the stone tablets too?

        edit: Hah my bad, read that as "no good reason to have an NBN" *facepalm*

        Last edited 29/01/13 10:50 am

        And how is this different to Labor's plan?
        Or any other political party for that matter?

        Or if you're labor
        - Run up a national debt, no future government could hope to pay off, while giving set top boxes to the pensioners or any other crazy scheme/scam we can think of in hope the people will just keep voting us in, while our union mates screw every business to the wall using extortion as a bartering tool. If you hate the rich, then you should hate the unions too. They screw the rank and file member paying his dues to keep corruption in power.

        I wish once, just once, an exiting labor government would leave a surplus behind, but alas it has never happened. But the poor saps who have to clean it up, end up looking like assholes for having to make the hard decisions. Its easy to piss money up against the wall, its much harder to get it back in the pity bank. If the stupid labor party wasn't for fucking wasteful, they wouldn't get tossed out on their ears for being so fucking dumb. You all sound like the Greeks. "we don't want to pay for anything, its our birth right". Just grow up.The lot of you. The party is over. Time to get your hands dirty and do some hard work for a change.

          Oh whatever, John Howard is one of our longest serving prime ministers so he didn't have too much to clean up by the end of his run. He still ruined our hospitals, roads, education and sold telstra, he was also wasted more money than any other prime minister, do some research instead of listening to what News Ltd says.

        Giving power to small business rather than unions equates to turning into a "second world country"?

        Is that you Stalin?

      Steve f – it would be lovely if we could deliver projects like the NBN for only a small cost but we just can’t. This is an investment in our future and failure to do so will disadvantage all Australians. All these big projects appears painful until you can see the rewards. Our internet usage is only going to increase with a future of Ultra high Def TV steaming becoming ubiquitous the Coalitions plan, for many Australians will be redundant before it’s even finished.

      Gizmodo has special interest. It's not hard to imagine why a technology blog would celebrate government spending money tax payers money on this issue.

      But for a blog to celebrate a government made NBN but demonize government internet regulations and censorship (basically ownership) is rather absurd.

        Why would you not demonise Australian government internet regulation and censorship, when neither of these presently in Australia is transparent?

          Sorry, could you rephrase your question. I think the word 'not' isn't suppose to be there... but I'm not to sure.

          Regardless though, the question is still present. If the government builds the NBN, wouldn't the government have more of a right to 'own' it? and if so, what could that mean in the future.

        I would have thought that demonstrated an independent point of view if they can applaud one aspect and yet condemn another. They are 2 different things and you can get one without the other. Nothing absurd about it at all!

        I'd disagree with some of your assumptions on the nature and role of government. In an ideal world, a democratic government is made up of the members of a society who represent the interests of those that elected them.

        Infrastructure that is funded by the people should be used as the people see fit rather than as the govt. desires. The govt. has a regulartory role, but that is to ensure the the infrastructure is used in a manner that reflects the desires of the electorate. The building of the infrastructure, it's intended use and the regulation of it are three different things.

        Also in an ideal world, citizens would be able to make an informed decision on whether a project is worthwhile and if an alternative would be better. It's the duty of an opposition to provide alternate options. It's just a shame that they still aren't coming to the table with any and it's now a couple of years into the rollout.

      You'll find most technology-related sites have a similar position. Geeks love the NBN, and we hate the antiquated copper network and anything that relies on it.

      Why is it that people can only see the Internet as needed for "warez and games". For these things DSL is sufficient (not great, but doable). The real benefit is true low-latency, high-bandwidth network access, opening doors to true telecommuting, better television subscription services, more stable and sophisticated video conferencing, and even more importantly, being an "enabler" for cheap infrastructure for small businesses (telecommuting and cloud computing stuff goes here too), and providing a better back-bone for things like Smart-meters for electricity and 4G access points.

      To top it all off, the copper network already in the ground is dated, it's deteriorating and needs replacing. Copper is highly susceptible to corrosion. If your going to replace something, why would you not take the opportunity to vastly improve it at the same time? One of the biggest benefits of Fibre Optics is that it is much more resistant to these things, can have longer cable-runs, is actually cheaper than copper (on the cable side), and is not affected by electronic interference.

      Sure, we don't need to run it all out right away, why don't we just sit around and wait for all the phones to just stop working, it's not like our modern society and economy relies on the internet to keep things turning over....oh.....wait a sec

      Get your facts straight, the NBN Internal Rate of Return has been calculated to be 7.6% for high cost areas and 8.8% for low cost areas.

      Turnball not only does not have a plan with ANY COSTING, but is now looking like he will reuse the FTTN plan which Labour already scrapped.

      Liberals couldn't economy to save their lives.

      "trenchant criticism for an alternative" Sorry what alternative? The Wi-Fi solution that was largely panned and didn't get properly mentioned here (so was probably dropped)?

      Fibre is the future. Simple as that. What a surprise that a site dedicated to technology and its benefits would reach a similar conclusion?

    I get that this was just an unofficial campaign launch, but if Tony wants my vote he needs more than vague promises and buzz phrases.

    I don't have any kids, and I don't have a mortgage. The only thing I really care about this election is broadband.

      The only thing I really care about this election is broadband.

      Not to be a buzzkill, but how do you feel about children being born in detention centres?

        I hope they have access to high speed internet.

    I would have far more respect for Australian politics if the policies of both parties didn't basically revolve around disagreeing with everything the other party says. Come up with some good ideas of your own and stick with them! Don't just argue like children for the sake of it.

      That's becauseyou're not looking beyond the tabloid press and 'Today Tonight's of this world. Labour has compiled a pretty sweet record in government now. Carbon tax, NBN, NDIS, Education Revolution. It's pretty impressive, more so than Howard's 2 decades long time in government me thinks.

        Wow really? You think Labour's recent work is better than 20 years of progress under Howard?

          What concrete benefits can you think of from his near 20 year term?

          John Howard did sweet f**** all, he destroyed a lot of what makes this country good, he ruined our hospitals, roads, education and sold telstra, he was also wasted more money than any other prime minister. He also brought far-right conservatism to this country unfortunately, the only good thing he did was change gun laws....

      Unfortunately that's the whole point of 2 party politics. I think there should be no shadow government. I don't really see the point.

    What their could do is replace the old copper between the node and the home and put in coaxial cable. This would be a lot cheaper and you'll still get high speeds between the node and the house.

    This article seems pretty bias towards The Labor party as well

    You'd think they'd discuss more than The NBN

      Why lay coax to the home when you might as well lay fibre? Coax wouldn't be cheaper (the cost is almost all labour) and fibre has far more capacity.

      Maybe in 1990 coax was a good idea, in 2013 it's not. It's fibre that's the go.

      Haven't you heard... all the existing HFC area's are consider "Rich" and will be used by NBN fo a quick influx of fund ones they finally catch up with delays.

      all they need to do is replace the Coax from node to home.... problem is whether or not NBN has fucked up the load per node, ie the more over loaded the node becomes the poorer the service.

      Remember NBN is using broadcast to node.

      On a superficial level there may be seen to be a bias, however, IMO, Gizmodo supports this particlular policy due to it's technical relevence and possible benefits to the Gizmodo readers and the fact that the opposition continue to criticise and yet provide little detail of their own alternative as well as some of the dumbass statements they make when it comes to technology does little to win them any friends on technology issues.


    Last edited 18/06/15 9:33 am

      Im generally a lib voter, and i totally agree, plus the maintenance of several technologies vs one.
      but thats ok because thats the next governments problem? they are all children.

      This is the same problem with any project or policy that lasts more then 4 years. Every time there is a change in government, they change the bits they don't like from the previous term.
      It makes really long 15-20 year projects a nightmare, because they have to somehow survive multiple government changes.

    I'm pretty sure Abbot and Co. talked about using wireless technology as an alternative to the NBN at the last election. Good ol' unreliable, slow, spectrum crunched wireless. Which would be an embarrassing step backwards. But what REALLY worries me is that, despite claiming "Workchoices is dead", he is STILL going after Industrial reform:

    Page 14:
    Inflexible work practices are holding our industries back
    The Australian Industry Group warns there are too many unnecessary barriers on productivity and flexibility that will lead to more business closures and jobs going overseas. They say it’s not about slashing wages, working conditions or living standards, but they fear the nation is going “the wrong way down a one-way street."

    There's also a section on page 23 about "Reducing Union militancy".

    So a vote for Abbot is a vote for yesterday's technology and yesterday's workplace laws..... do people really see this guy as a viable alternative?

      I think his plan is to install Mr Burns as industrial relations minister once they get elected. He'll then change the law to allow us to bring in low-paid Irishmen, work them until they drop dead under our whips just in time to be replaced by the next boatload. Now THAT is what you call workplace productivity. Excellent.

      Unions are pretty bullshit...
      Wireless is a stupid choice, but honestly so is Fibre to the Home.
      Fibre to the Node and additional trans-oceanic cables, are all that Australia needs. Supplemented by wireless in rural regions perhaps. It would be quicker, easier and cheaper.

        You may not like Unions, but compare our working rights to those of countries such as China where Unions are banned. I know where I'd rather be.

        "Fibre to the Node and additional trans-oceanic cables, are all that Australia needs"
        Until the power is out and you need 000, FTTH is a passive network, same as coppper. FTTN requires "Nodes" someone has to pay for them too you know. you cant just go plug a fiber cable into telstras exchanges and hope it works.

        "Wireless is a stupid choice, Supplemented by wireless in rural regions perhaps"
        So your saying that farmers dont deserve the same services that city dwellers do?

          I don't have any data, but I would be surprised if FTTN was more expensive then FTTH.
          Also how is FTTH passive? the exchange still needs power. A power out in your local area would still have the same effect wouldn't it? I would expect Node's to have some sort of backup, but I'm not well versed in that tech.
          Regarding "000", I have naked ADSL. I use my mobile phone for everything. It's a valid point but not really a deal breaker.

          As for wireless, I'm saying it's the only financially feasible option in rural areas.
          of course it would be great if everyone could have the same services but the cost of running cables hundreds of kilometres between farms is prohibitively expensive.

            not a deal breaker for you, but there are older people that it will be a deal breaker for.... you are a typical coalition supporter, unsure what you are talking about but still full of opinions, and pro everything that directly benefits you and anti-anything else.

      Well the current bunch have f**ked it up. From Surplus to $300 billion dollars of national debit in 5 years. Yeah, thats productive. If we didn't have the mining boom, we' be f**ked by now.

    Should be a way to throttle the anti-NBN moaners connection and give them a cheaper rate. It would solve the whole argument.

      Then you pay for it if you love it so much. Those who don't want the debt shouldn't pay. Bet you'd love your NBN if all you bludgers had to pay for it on your own. STOP BLEEDING OUR KIDS FUTURE DRY!!!!

        Stop being a bloody idiot.
        Seriously, every time there is an NBN piece you are all over it like "think of the children!!!"
        I am thinking of the children which is why I want the NBN and why I don't want Abbott anywhere near the government.
        It is people like you who will vote for that right wing nut job that will ruin this country for everyone including our children.

          I agree. If Julia came up to me and said "Your partner is pregnant, you can have $4000 when the kid is born or your kid can grow up having fast internet no matter where you choose to live in Australia"

          I would pick the internet.

            Absolutely. Give me the opportunity for my child to live in a future that has drastically altered the way we work and play. Where you can work from home and spend more time with your kids. When you can communicate face to face over large distances and remain connected to family and friends easily. The NBN changes everything and lays the groundwork for new jobs and new industries. One's not dependant on a limited amount of stuff we pull out of the ground. Yet people don't see this.

        The NBN is all about the future, stop being an idiot. Labor thinks of the future, Coalition thinks of right now. Everything you have written here shows that you love The Australian and all other News ltd media, so until you learn to educate yourself better you should have no say in anything politically related.

        How about we compromise...

        All of your tax dollars can go towards "wet future" projects while @rollz and I will use ours to pay for the NBN?

        But I should probably point out that eventually the kids are going to need to replace the copper.

    In the picture of them all looking across that table, what do you think they're looking at?
    I think it's chat roulette on a big screen.

    Oh and also:

    ohh, ugly ugly design.. looks like the coalition may go the way of mitt romney, skimping on advertising & outsourcing all marketing/design/tech work to a myriad of dodgy companies..

    bit like what they'll most likely end up doing with our much loved NBN.

    I just wish the NBN would rollout to areas which actually want and use it first...

    Still not even on the roadmap for the next 3-4 years in my area :(

      I had a look at Sydney's map on the NBN site and its rather bare all things considered.

    So the Coalition are promising that they will deliver a better service than fibre to the home, they'll do it faster, and spend a lot less money in the process? Wow, that sounds like magic!

    If such a solution existed, it would already be in effect. This is politicians making promises they can't possibly live up to so they can get elected and enjoy a few years of power. Say what you like about Labor, they certainly have their own shortcomings, but I really hope they stay in power long enough to finish the NBN and actually upgrade our internet infrastructure properly.

      The trick is in their definition of "better". In their opinion better = cheaper rather than better = technologically superior.

      Yes they will! They just don't know what it is, how much it'll cost or how to do it yet, but it will be better, faster and cheaper!!! ;)

        6 million dollar plan. The unofficial sequel...

    Someone needs to take Tony and Turnbull too see rotting copper and to also make them attend a basic science corrosion class.

    Work choices is dead eh? me thinks only the name is.

    Joe Hockey looks super sad in that image, Did anyone tell he he was going to be photographed?

      They did tell him. I think thats why he is sad!

        Maybe he was going for pensive, but exaggerated it to sad.

    When the liberals cost the FTTN setup they will find that it actually costs more as every box where fiber meets copper needs to be 1) powered independently (not currently powered/via lines only) 2) contain expensive hardware to decode, split and recode the signal for the copper.

    GG Abbott, and thanks for leaving the NBN alone in the end, why? because there is no cheaper option

      GPON is broadcaste. It utilizes TDM. 1:32 split = approx 76Mbps per home mimimum (disregarding throttling by carriers so thay can bracket the price of broadband plans) And if less users it can burst higher. Power users and business can pay more and get gigabit using the same infrastructure. No recabling just different end device. No other solution scales as well or upgrades so effectively without changing the inground infrastructure.

    NBN is need Our copper network was originally designed for phones, not growth in internet traffic
    some facts to think about

    1) ADSL2+ has a maximum speed of 24 megabits per second

    2) only 38 per cent of Australians were connected at speeds higher than 4Mbps.

    3) there are areas in capital Cities that can't even get ADSL2+ , due to Incompatible Infrastructure - RIM (Remote Integrated Multiplexer)
    A RIM, otherwise known as a Remote Integrated Multiplexer, is a device that Telstra uses to provision telephone services in areas where there is no existing copper, or the existing copper in the ground cannot support the demand for services in the area. RIMs are a fairly modern and flexible Pair Gain system designed mainly for urban areas in cities due to their ability to multiplex a large number of lines ( you can be only 20 minutes from the CBD and find yourself on one these )

    4) 10 megabits per second - the speed required to stream 720p high-definition

    5) The National Broadband Network will give speeds up to 100 Mbps download

    So don't tell me NBN is worthless

    when you have an internet speed of o.4mbps downloads, does this class me as high priority ?

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