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Party line v fixed line: when politicians will connect to the NBN

Date

David Braue

Zoom in on this story. Explore all there is to know.

The NBN rollout will please some, but not all politicians.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has clashed with backbenchers over his paid parental leave scheme.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has clashed with backbenchers over his paid parental leave scheme. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

When Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced 3.5 million premises would be connected to the national broadband network by mid 2015, people flocked to the NBN Co's website to check if their home or office would be in the path of the rollout.

Among them were politicians of all persuasions, hoping to find out if they and their electorate would be lucky to be among the first connected.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who has led the Liberal Party's relentless negative campaign against the NBN, may be pleased he will not be able to connect to the network for at least three years, as his Forestville home in Sydney's Northern Beaches is well outside the suburbs included in the recent announcement.

However, our straw poll of NBN-related politicians and telco figures found the rollout plan created general enthusiasm, albeit sometimes grudging, amongst people on both sides of the NBN merit argument. 

In Sydney's Eastern suburbs, Malcolm Turnbull, shadow minister for broadband, will have the opportunity to have an NBN Co network termination unit installed at his Point Piper home sooner than most. Unlike the millions of Australians who will continue struggling with dial-up, wireless or slow ADSL speeds, Turnbull will have the option to migrate his existing ADSL2+ service to a fibre connection running at up to 100Mbps.

But he is not happy about it: "alternative fixed lined networks will be switched off, so the NBN has hardly given people a choice," Turnbull's spokesman pointed out when contacted by Fairfax's IT Pro.

In fact, since NSW has failed to introduce opt-out legislation, the NBN Co will need Turnbull's consent to hook up his house, but his spokesman said in any case there was "little choice with the NBN if you want a fixed line network".

Michael Malone, CEO of internet service provider and NBN reseller iiNet, lives in the suburb of Victoria Park, less than 2km from the Perth CBD, but cannot get ADSL at his home because he is connected with a Telstra RIM (Remote Integrated Multiplexer) that blocks his broadband access.

"All going well, I would expect a connection early next year," he said, well aware of the irony that as CEO of a major ISP, he is prevented by the Telstra network from using his own company's services at home.

Even more ironic is the fact the home of communications minister Stephen Conroy, who remains a key political force behind the NBN, has been overlooked in the current rollout. He will have to wait until late 2015 or later to have fibre services connected to his home in Melbourne.

That puts Conroy in the queue behind political rivals like Senator Simon Birmingham, whose South Australian home is slated to receive services within the next three years. However, Birmingham – a Liberal Party member who sits on the Joint Standing Committee on the NBN oversight panel – isn't holding his breath.

"While my house is in an area where the rollout is expected to commence within three years, I certainly do not expect my house will be passed in the next three years. The numbers presented in this announcement are no more than a smoke and mirrors trick.... I'm not making any plans to switch my personal broadband service anytime soon, simply because I don't believe there will be anything to switch ato," he told IT Pro.

Senator Mary Jo Fisher, a fellow South Australian Liberal and Joint Standing Committee member, wasn't sure about her NBN eligibility either way, since she was in the process of looking for a new house. She was however a bit warmer to the possibility of accessing NBN fibre.

"Will we be passed by the NBN? I hope so," she said.

"I'd be wanting to let the NBN get a few runs on the board – which I hope they do, but I'm not so confident they will – before I jump right in myself. I don't need the NBN right now, so I'll be sitting back and hoping it delivers what has been promised before I jump in."

Labor's Ed Husic – the federal member for Chifley in NSW who became a vocal critic of the NBN rollout plan after he perceived it had bypassed broadband black spots in the Chifley suburbs of Woodcroft and Doonside – won't see the NBN rolled into his present home. He's moving into a new development near Dean Park, NSW, where the developer is already working to roll out Telstra's Velocity fibre-broadband service.

While he happily noted the inclusion of Woodcroft and Doonside in the three-year plan and said he's been "impressed" with Telstra's efforts to alleviate local supply constraints, the self-confessed "basketball tragic", said "I can't wait to stream NBA League Pass Broadband on the big screen".

Senator Scott Ludlam, who as Greens spokesperson on broadband, communications and the digital economy has been a staunch advocate for the NBN, will see it arrive in his area in North Fremantle in approximately two years from now.

"I look forward to taking up the service and hope by then to be able to reduce air travel by Skyping into some committee hearings," he said.

"One of the most prospective applications will be reduced travel and increased telework by video conferencing."

But not everyone who sees potential in the NBN will get it soon. Simon Hackett, founder and managing director of Internode, an ISP recently acquired by iiNet, has been overlooked in the three-year plan.

"That actually means first connections in my area will commence in June 2016," Hackett said. "And that's assuming, of course, that there's no change of government and/or policy, neither of which seems especially likely in the coming four-plus years between now and June 2016."

"In general, that's one of the deep points about these plans," he added. "They're not dates at which a service can be ordered; they are dates at which you have only got another year or so to wait, after which you can start hoping that your street might get enabled soon. The build is a long way behind original expectations at this point, and an awful lot of catching up has to be done."

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52 comments so far

  • As each day passes by, the National Broadband Network is covering fewer and fewer parts of Australia. At this rate, it should be called the Previleged Broadband Network (PBN) all for the sake of returning the Budget back to surplus with PBN access only to the affluent Australians.

    Commenter
    President Akuma
    Location
    Australasia
    Date and time
    April 11, 2012, 1:26PM
    • Nonsense,nothing to do with the budget,and besides it is a major infrastructure project over 10 years,one can expect some to say they are happy with copper,while most are not and do not understand that a lot of people cannot get telstra copper and telstra was not going to spend money for them at all.

      Commenter
      Hooble
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 11, 2012, 1:44PM
    • The nbn is still covering 100% of the country, however it's going to take a decade or more to get something of this scale fully installed!

      The coalition did nothing with telecommunications for 12 long years - if left to private enterprise, what you've got now is what you'll have going into the future!

      If private enterprise were going to build this, they would have already.

      Wireless can't compete (there isn't enough spectrum for everyone - do some research!) and fttn depends on the quality of your copper and also if you have 2 copper pairs (most homes don't/what do we do with those behind rims?)

      Australia's infrastructure was sold off for $60 billion, it's costing $30 (which btw is off budget as it's infrastructure!) - consider it 3 billion for each year the coalition neglected this vital piece of infrastructure!

      Commenter
      iceyone
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      April 11, 2012, 8:47PM
    • I find it absolutely astonishing we are building something that by the time it is built will be obsolete. 100mps is not a holy grail standard by any measure. Thre is no other technologically advanced country that is even considering doing this. If you consider how Wi-Fi was overtaken by 4G and then extrapolate the advances in that technology in the short time it has been available, this is the most expensive white elephant option there is, and because it is political there will be no letting go of it. I have been told that currently technology is available that could push 1gig per second wirelessly and at a fraction of the cost using existing infrastructure. Why was this not debated thoroughly before a rash decision to spend $45 billion plus was made?

      Commenter
      Col the Pariah
      Location
      Faulco
      Date and time
      April 12, 2012, 9:18AM
    • If the Howard Government had handled the Telstra privatisation in a less opportunist way (rather than just maximising short term government income), the whole NBN issue could have been resolved on a more commercial basis.

      Major infrastructure takes time to put in place- remember that the Snowy Mountains Scheme commenced in the late 1940s, but was only completed in the early 1970s.

      Commenter
      extra
      Location
      Caulfield
      Date and time
      April 12, 2012, 10:19AM
    • @COl the Pariah - what utter rubbish. Fibre will not be obsolete, 100Mbps is what NBN will be offering at start-up however that is not what fibre is limited to - a1Gbps is technically feasible and will not take long to be commercially feasible. The current limit of fibre is around 10Gbps, but it's capable of more.

      Don't confuse commercially feasible with technically feasible. As the demand for data increases, so will the speeds provided by the NBN.

      Commenter
      James from Brisbane
      Date and time
      April 12, 2012, 2:57PM
    • @Col the Pariah

      WiFi was superseded by 4G? Fibre connections to be superseded? You seem to be confusing a few technologies here.

      WiFi is a format of local area network (LAN) which will give you wireless access through your home or business to your modem and then to the internet. Typical speeds are in the 50 megabit per second range. Typically you will still need a fixed line (ADSL/copper at present, NBN/Fibre in the future) and a modem to be able to connect to the internet. Range is usually up to about 50m of your internet connection

      4G is a wireless format where you can connect to your mobile service providers network at faster speeds. This is typically over your mobile phone, iPad/Tablet, wireless modem. Speeds for 4G can be towards 40 Megabits per second (Telstra apparently) though are likely to be much lower. Range is limited to mobile coverage generally.

      As to fibre connections being superseded it just isn't true. Fibre represents the cutting edge of the technology of what's possible to roll out. Speeds from 100Mbits per second may be whats on offer today, in the future this will be upgraded to 1Gbps, 10Gbps etc... Just as was the case with 14.4kbps modems 15 years ago with the copper lines and the 24Mbps ADSL running through copper these days.

      Commenter
      Aargh
      Date and time
      April 12, 2012, 4:18PM
  • Far as I'm concerned those politicians such as Abbott who've kicked up such a fuss about the NBN are ethically obliged to refuse to connect to it.

    But will this happen? Hmm. Let's see.

    Commenter
    dobbo
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    April 11, 2012, 1:31PM
    • And have absolutely no communications infrastructure available to them once the copper network is disconnected? They might be against the NBN, but once it is in the ground they will have absolutely no choice (which I guess is their point).

      Commenter
      Ben
      Location
      Newcastle
      Date and time
      April 11, 2012, 4:41PM
    • they could use dongles, seeing how they tell us wireless is so good an all.
      sticking to your principals means opting out, you can buy 3g/4g routers and bypass the white elephant.
      but noooo, inventing another whinge point is far easier.

      how many lib/nats boycotted ber school hall openings.....none

      Commenter
      jools
      Location
      DaBra
      Date and time
      April 11, 2012, 10:34PM

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