July 05, 2011

Horse 1208 - Build the NBN... in 1999!

I love the world of pure speculation because it allows me to dream of what might have been and what we should have had.

I keep on hearing with reference to the National Broadband Network ,that Fibre-to-the-X is not "future proof" and as such it is a waste of funds to invest in such technology. Malcolm Turnbull as shadow Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband seems to suggest that the project is best left up to private enterprise, and Andrew Robb told ABC Radio that a "Coalition return to power would see the government's fibre-to-the-home broadband network halted and either sold off or incorporated into its broadband vision where appropriate." How iniquitous!

Let's imagine for a second what would have happened if Telstra hadn't been privatised. The accounts for 1996/97 show Telstra making an $8.1bn profit. If Telstra had been allowed to continue as a single government owned entity, then the profits would not have had to have been distributed and they could have been ploughed into reserves.
If Telstra's profits had performed at worse than average inflation and only achieved a progressive 3% per year, then by the end of 2010/11 it would have accumulated $150.6512bn. Finding $40bn to build a FTTX network would have been child's play.
Assuming Telstra had maintained world's best practice and commenced building the network in 1999, then this debate over NBN Co would have never have existed.

Is such a thing possible? Are they comparable projects? Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) did build such a network and although uptake was slow initially, by 2008 FTTX networks eclipsed DSL as the main carrier networks of internet traffic in Japan.
Real world speeds in Japan work out to be about 66 Mbit/s in the country and 78 Mbit/s in the 23 Special "Cities" of Tokyo.

Malcolm Turnbull of all people should have appreciated the benefits of having a national broadband network when he was CEO of OzEmail. Service providers would use the network like private users currently use the road networks. No-one seems to complain in-principle about access fees to using public highways do they? So why is it different for a National Broadband Network? Would he have argued for NBN Co in 1999 as CEO of OzEmail?

The point is that if I can see this via hindsight, then how come this isn't being looked at with the same broad vision looking forwards. I agree with the current Government's standpoint that broadband networks will be like the railways of the 21st Century. A properly executed national plan and infrastructure network is therefore obvious isn't it? And if it's obvious now, why wasn't it obvious back in 1999?

FTTX would have been "future proof" back then for now. Now we're trailing behind in the Digital Dust.

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