Today Australian Labor Party (ALP) announced a new NBN policy that it plans to action if it returns to office in the federal election.
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The multi-step policy includes connecting older Australians to the network, making broadband more affordable and improving both speed and reliability.
Labor's NBN review was jointly presented by opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland in Sydney.
"The review will examine the implications of the multi-technology mix on NBNCo’s long-term cash flow position, capital structure, pricing evolution, options to grow revenue, options to reduce cost, and the capacity of NBNCo to co-invest in future infrastructure upgrades under a range of market scenarios.
This process will also help inform judgements about the purpose of the NBN going forward, the price and quality dimensions in which competition occurs, and the market settings best suited to that purpose."
There are five areas that the ALP plan to address in the policy:
- Launch a 'Digital Inclusion Drive' with the aim of connecting over 1 million Australian households that don't have internet. In this there will be a particular focus on older Australians as well as those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Establish a $125 million program within NBN Co that will aim to reduce dropouts and improve speeds for up to to 750,000 Fibre to the Node households by fixing crappy cabling issues for free.
- Create an 'NBN Service Guarantee' that will overhaul service standards in order to protect against excessive downtime, particularly for small businesses.
- Field trials to test the cost and feasability of co-investment fibre upgrades
- An immediate economic review of the NBN, including future funding and capacity requirements for the fixed wireless network as well as options for alleviating network congestion.
While this all seems lovely, what we're potentially seeing here is a lot of campaign promises with no price tags outside of $125 million for wiring fixes.
Interestingly, this is the first call we have seen for mending old copper wires in order to improve NBN performance - as opposed to placing a large chunk of the blame on fibre to the node.
The call for potential co-investment is also worth noting, considering that the current government already provided NBN Co at extension on its $19.5 billion roll out loan in late 2018. This was in addition to the $30 billion it had already invested in the project.
With the 2020 roll out deadline looming and a large question mark being placed above fibre upgrades, it's starting to feel like a race to the finish just to see it done and dusted.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield jumped on the ALP's announcement quickly, stating that it was a "final admission the Coalition’s plan to use a range of technologies to see NBN completed six to eight years sooner, and at $30 billion dollars less cost than Labor – has worked".
"For years we were told by Labor that using a range of technologies, like the rest of the world, was not an option. Today, the Coalition’s policy has become Labor’s policy."
Today's announcement comes just one day after the ACCC stated that the NBN is become increasingly less affordable.
"We are now observing prices of low-speed NBN plans offered to new customers that are at least $10 per month higher than what consumers paid for equivalent ADSL plans," said ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
Sims also stated that the ACCC believes that NBN Co's entry-level services should be equivalent ADSL prices as to accommodate customers who have to move to the NBN after their previous services are shutdown.