Friday, April 12, 2013

Expert Support For Coalition NBN Proposal: Political, Not Technological


Telecommunications analyst Kevin Morgan published an article on the ABC website The Drum today, explaining why the Coalition’s cut-down broadband proposal made more sense than Labor’s more ambitious, more advanced policy.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 5 years, Labor is rolling out a fibre-to-the-home broadband network called the NBN. It will connect 93% of households, deliver speeds far greater than we currently have and will be, in theory, infinitely upgradeable.

The Coalition, after opposing the NBN for years, have just released a hybrid proposal that would see fibre rolled out around the country, but not connected to individual households. Existing copper phone lines would be used for that. The cost would be a little lower; the achievable speeds would be considerably lower. The Coalition proposal would also be significantly more expensive to upgrade.

That’s the background.

Morgan’s article was heavily critical of both the Government and the NBN, calling the network roll-out a “train wreck” and “lead in the saddlebags” that the Coalition will have to deal with. The Coalition’s plan is described as “eminently sensible” and goes into some detail as to why hooking the NBN up to the existing copper infrastructure makes perfect sense.

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull obviously approved. He bobbed up on Twitter shortly after the article was published:



Thing is, Morgan is speaking rubbish. He is opposed to the NBN in principle, and has been from day one.

Consider this article that Morgan published in The Age in April 2009. Called “Rudd's $43bn broadband plan is just another sham”, it slams the proposal and concludes with this statement:

Welcome to 21st century broadband Australian-style, delivered over rotting copper wires.

Sixteen months later, on the eve of the 2010 Federal election that would eventually see Labor returned to power, Morgan called the NBN a “political cover-up” that had nothing to do with technology or economics.


Once the election was over, Morgan changed his angle of attack. Suddenly our phone lines were no longer “rotting copper wires”; now Morgan was saying “The copper still has good life in it” and claimed the existing network still had more to give.


Move forward another 12 months to October 2011, and here’s Morgan again. This time he’s writing about the NBN gravy train and the pork-barrelling that goes with it. No mention of copper though.


And another year on, in October 2012, Morgan and The Australian were at it again. This time the NBN’s commercial viability was under attack.


And now he’s back. His article on The Drum not only goes to some lengths to explain how we can keep using copper (but not the rotting copper wires he was so scathing about in 2009), but also tries to use the “our future is wireless” argument:

The flexibility of an FTTN deployment recognises that in an age of tablets and smartphones, predicating our future on one vast investment in fibre to every home, at unknown cost, is not sensible.

Morgan, with his years in the telecommunications industry, knows this is grade-A gold-plated bullshit. Wireless and cabled technologies are complementary, not adversarial. That’s why we have wireless networks in our homes home, fed by our physical broadband connections, to provide data to our wireless devices.

Ultimately, Morgan’s position on the NBN can be described in his own words:

Not economic, not technological, pure politics.