NBN rollout in Penrith: Liberal's Fiona Scott speaks out

1. Is it not time for the Liberal Party to accept that NBN is not only coming, but is welcomed by just about everyone, including the business community?

“The NBN may be coming – but it’s at the pace of a snail. In December 2010, Labor promised to have 137,000 houses connected to the NBN’s fibre network by now . In fact, they’ve connected less than 4,000 . Both parties share the objective of delivering superfast broadband. However, the Coalition will do that in a cost-effective way that can be delivered on time and on budget. And we will promote competition in fixed line infrastructure to push prices down for consumers.”

“What I’ve learnt having spoken to businesses and parents is that people just want their broadband upgraded. Instead of spending millions on advertising, the Liberal Party will speed up the rollout by using a mix of technologies where it is sensible to do so. That will involve fibre-to-the-node in many built up areas. Where fibre-to-the-node has been deployed in places like Britain and New Zealand, there is a clear upgrade path to fibre-to-the-premises and that can be done much sooner than the decade-long timeframe Labor has set.”

2. If not, what would a Coalition government do about NBN lines already laid around Penrith?

“The Coalition will not rip up any infrastructure that has already been laid. But it is important to keep the rollout in perspective. Going on the latest figures provided by the NBN , there will be 3,000 houses in Penrith that will be able to access the fibre network by February 2013. And that is provided they can meet their deadlines – which they have failed to do on virtually every deadline they have set for themselves so far. And the experience in Tasmania is that even when they have passed a neighbourhood, less than one in five houses have switched over to the NBN .”

3. If there was a cheaper alternative to just as efficient broadband, are there any independent studies to establish that and why hasn't the government taken that up?

“NBN CEO Mike Quigley used to work for Alcatel and when they commissioned a white paper on this topic, they concluded: “The economics of FTTN are hard to resist, given cost points that can be 50 percent or less than those of PON” . Alcatel also concluded that “There is no one right answer; some technologies will be a stronger fit than others based on topology and service needs.” That is why the Coalition will take an economically agnostic approach to technology and deploy fibre-to-the-premises only where it makes sense – such as in new developments (the so-called ‘greenfields estates’).”

“When the Rudd Government was elected in 2007, one of their campaign promises was to conduct a rigorous cost-benefit analysis on major infrastructure projects by the Productivity Commission. And yet, Kevin Rudd and Stephen Conroy mapped out the NBN project on the back of a coaster and never submitted to a cost-benefit analysis.”

“Tony Abbott has committed to conducting a cost-benefit analysis on major infrastructure projects and the Coalition will submit the NBN to the Productivity Commission as a matter of priority. The simple fact is that no Government has spent billions shutting down existing networks and then completely overbuilding it with a new fibre network.”

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