A Petition Pertaining to the Future of Australian Broadband.
To Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberal Party of Australia, the Senate and whom it may concern,
This petition is designed to highlight Australia’s desire for a superior ‘Fibre to the Home’ (FTTH) broadband solution, rather than the Coalition’s proposed ‘Fibre to the Node’ (FTTN) solution.
As currently proposed, the Coalition’s FTTN solution relies on the existing copper lines to supply individual premises access to the National Broadband Network (NBN) over the last mile or so. However, copper wiring solutions are rapidly approaching a century of implementation, with its inception dating back to the 1920’s. As such, its technological limits as well as associated weaknesses are rapidly developing.
First and foremost are its bandwidth capabilities. While your government proudly boasts eventual download speeds of 100Mbps and upload speeds of around a mere 5Mbps, this is unlikely to be sufficient for tomorrow’s technology centric society. A likely society in which data becomes ever more important, as a universal shift towards a total digital front approaches. A likely place where an expanding range of devices and services will become linked, cloud computing/processing becomes the norm and internet TV the main form of broadcast. In reality, there is no real way of knowing exactly what future technologies lie around the corner, but it is a safe bet that a FTTN solution will not contain them for long.
Having lived abroad for several years I have witnessed first-hand how far behind Australia is in this respective infrastructure. Your party’s claim to the success of FTTN implementation in other countries such as the UK/USA are irrelevant with said nations already seeking options to move on from this out-dated technology. So why position Australia and our future generations behind the rest of the world’s leading nations with a technology that they themselves are already decommissioning?
Secondly is the well-known fact that suggested speeds, in this instance 100Mbps/5Mbps, are more or less theoretical since actual speeds will be dependent upon the distance of an individual premises from the node. This in turn, accompanied by the spacious layout of Australian homes and businesses, even in inner city markets, will cause a significant variance in actual speeds received by paying customers. Further compounding the issue is the fact that the vast majority of Australia’s copper lines are well beyond their recommended lifespan and have already been affected, or are prone to environmental damages such as water.
In addition to this, by implementing your proposed FTTN solution an unfair division will occur between those who are connected under the FTTN method and those who have already been connected to the superior FTTH method. Now it is understood that customers will have the choice to opt in to a FTTH solution, however, in saying this, if connection costs are even remotely reflective of overseas models, it will prove unaffordable for the majority of Australian households. Furthermore, this will continue to promote an inevitable division across Australian citizens; namely a division between the wealthy and the rest of us. Likewise, unless your government utilises a model in which cost subsidising occurs, such a division will become increasingly more apparent. This division will not prove healthy in the long run for our economy, or our society. It is important to note that the above model will only prove practical under an entirely government owned network; not a network at the mercy of private organisations.
Moving on, it is disconcerting to find that your government is proudly quoting an approximate $30 billion cost, roughly 2/3rds of Labor’s approximate $45 billion cost, yet it will only manage 1/10th of the speed (with the deficiency in speed likely to continue to grow as time goes on). What's more these ‘savings’ figures do not factor in the cost of upgrading the FTTN network again when the time comes just a few quick decades down the road. These upgrade costs on top of your $30 billion estimated cost, combined with inflation rates will result in a budget blowout which will well exceed that of the Labor party’s existing NBN proposal.
On the other hand a superior FTTH solution is able to alleviate all these shortcomings as well as provide a host of advantages. Fibre networks are not dependent/limited by the distance from the exchange, are far less susceptible to environmental hazards/interference, will provide the vast majority of Australian’s with an equal and unified service, are renowned in the industry as a viable method capable of delivering future broadband services, will prove to be an increasingly more cost effective option as time goes on. Building upon this, under a FTTH NBN, future upgrade costs will be next to nothing since all upgrades will take place at either end of the lines (i.e. at the exchange/premises), rather than replacing the lines themselves.
Locations around the globe where FTTH technology exist have demonstrated that there is sufficient growth, market adoption and economic benefit to make this technology feasible, as well as justifiable in terms of cost. This is already apparent in Tasmania (its FTTH construction is approaching its completion) 44% of customers (and growing) are subscribing to its highest tier service of 100Mbps, suggesting a strong desire even on our own shores for gigabit services which are only capable on a FTTH solution. The strength of gigabit services, in places such as Kansas City (under Google’s Fibre project) are already witnessing a boost in economy via the creation of new jobs and services along with the garnering of international attention from global corporations alike.
Broadband internet is an ‘infrastructure’ and should be considered in the same light as highways, water management, electricity and so forth; it should be a ‘right’ available ‘equally’ to all Australians. Broadband internet is one of many crucial building blocks which creates the underlying foundation for a successful nation. Superfast broadband is about more than connecting several family PCs, laptops, iPads, phones and other devices to the internet. It is about more than downloading ones favourite music, TV shows, movies or watching YouTube sensations. And yes, it is about more than being able to connect health and educational services, businesses and corporations. Having a well thought out, well implemented, and well maintained National Broadband Network is about ensuring the prosperity of Australians for generations to come. It is a vision shared by the Australian spirit and achievable through FTTH technology. It is due to this dream and the concern that it may not be met, that I and many Australians urge you to reconsider your proposal of a FTTN NBN in favour of a superior FTTH NBN. As your policy currently stands it is merely patch-work; a short term solution to a long term problem.