Alan Kohler’s column today "The Coalition’s NBN policy is madness” is pure fantasy.

He says that by the time of the next election the NBN will have "about a million” connected to its fibre to the premises network.

Yet the NBN Co’s own corporate plan, released with great fanfare only a few weeks ago, says that by June 30, 2013 there will be 54,000 premises in total connected to FTTP with only 341,000 premises passed. So even if he confused "connected” with "passed”, he is out by a factor of 3.

So where does the 1 million figure come from? Alan should explain it or publish a correction.

Further, it is far from certain that the 54,000 figure target will be met by June 30 next year – after all as at May 2012 the NBN Co had less than 4,000 premises connected to the FTTP network.

As far as Telstra is concerned a move to FTTN does not require major revisions to the deal with NBN Co (other than securing access to the D side copper) and would advantage Telstra because more customers would be switched over to the NBN network sooner and so the payments to Telstra would be accelerated with a consequent higher NPV. As an example BT in the UK passed 7 million households with its FTTN rollout in just the last year.

His argument about a "two tier internet access regime” fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the internet, the whole point of which is to enables the propagation of signals over a range of networks and channels. The internet is a network of networks – fibre, copper (of many varieties), HFC, wireless, satellite – and it is that interoperability which is one of is greatest strengths. The issue for customers is not the particular medium of communication connecting their device to the internet but rather the quality of the experience. If bandwidth is sufficient for their needs, then whether it is on HFC or VDSL or GPON or wireless or a combination of some or all of them is not particularly relevant if it is relevant at all.

It has to be remembered that the speed of connection is determined by the slowest segment of the network between the customer’s device and the server with which they are connecting which in many cases may not even be in Australia.

And as for saying I should ensure the NBN is delivered "on budget” – if only there was a budget! The NBN Co has no budget. It has a project the scope of which was given them by the government and they regularly provide estimates of what it will cost. There is no budget in the sense of a cap or ceiling on what they can spend. It is exactly like asking a builder to build you a house with no contract other than to pay him what it costs.

Malcolm Turnbull is the Member for Wentworth and Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband.

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This is an excellent reply (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 20). And a reply withing hours of the posting of the original article. That, surely is the sort of minister we need in government.
Re Alan Kohler's NBN Fantasy and Malcolm Turnbull's reply (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 20):
Tony Holland asked how Malcolm Turnbull ( & the presumably newly elected Liberal-Coalition Government )were going to get the numbers in the Senate to remove "The Greens" .
Simple !
Ask the voters to do so at the next election and also at the (probable) double-dissolution election to be held over "The Carbon Tax " which Tony Abbott has vowed to repeal.
So , as long as the voters want it , their choice at the election will ensure that Labor , 'the interfering Independents' and the "Greens" are consigned to political oblivion.
That is what liberal politics is all the people the choice !
So Tony , hopefully there are many more people like you that want to see the demise of the "Greens" and all that they represent , so Australia can get back on track and prosper.
Mr Turnbull, your disingenuousness knows no bounds, does it (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 20)?
Alan's one million figure is entirely his, but the argument is otherwise absolutely accurate. You are also well aware that the expert committee of the House of Lords is currently desperately seeking to break British Telecom's stranglehold on the network, whose Telstra equivalent you claim to want to entrench here.
Why do you persist in proposing FTTN, wireless, satellite and HFC solutions which cost more in total than the NBN? Why do you persist in proposing to fund it from scarce tax funds instead of allowing natural revenues to pay for it against project borrowings?
Why do you think the coalition will win government without a fibre to premises policy, when you lost an election exactly two years ago against an equally unloved Labor Party?
Face the facts. You are petulantly attacking the optimal universal broadband solution and its equally optimal funding model solely on political grounds, because your policies fail on all other measures. The folly of this action is that it undermines coalition prospects for the late 2013 election. Wake up to yourself. Better yet, take up one of the cushy jobs on offer and vacate your seat for someone who will act in the interests of Australia.
Mr Turnbull ( Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 20).
You are correct that the Internet is a mish mash of different technologies connecting a vast network.
And yes, you are correct that the speed of your connection is (mostly) limited by the slowest point in your connection.
So... This means that you and the coalition are indeed going to create a land of increased have's and have not's.
Those on fibre to the premises, those on fibre to the node and those with no increased benefit at all.
Also, let's face it, any change to the rollout will mean yet MORE delays before us poor have not's get any increased speed at all.
Gee thanks.
(By the way, I won't be voting for either major party next election, you're both as bad as each other now).
Hi, the problem with the FTTN is that at least some to my knowledge are already joined to the exchanges via fibre (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 20). So hooking up more sounds great but that then leads to the next issue, the RIM or pair gain ( whatever). If you are lucky then you are physically close to the exchange and thus get better speeds than someone further away. If you are further away and on a RIM or an extension chord of sorts then the phone line into your house may be split between in some cases hundreds of other houses. If you are one of the lucky few on this RIM to get ADSL broadband then you may also need luck in that the exchange may be out of ports and thus cannot plug you into ADSL broadband. For messers Kohlar and Turnbull the pain of ringing Telstra and undergoing their customer service labotamy is only further pained by the feeling of winning the lotto if you indeed actually get ADSL. Forget about 2+ speeds I am talking about 1.5 gigs per second. Oh and if you have a storm like we did in Adelaide last Thursday and you lose your phone line and Internet well it is now day 4 without service. Here's my case number for the fault 145 220 536, maybe Mr Thodey will read this and get my Internet fixed. The phone lines back but still no interweb. Oh and by the way, I'll vote for whomever is going to sort out Australia's comms nightmare. Thanks
Geoff (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 20)
Do some research.
Fibre installed in the 70's and 80's is still in use.Sure the early Multimode fibre may have been superceded by single mode, but still has not failed How many undersea fibre cables have failed due to failure of the optic fibre.
There is no known lifespan of fibre. So 50+ years is feasible.
FTTN. Once again do your research, what is required, what are the essential factors?
Nodes will be every Km approx. So better is NEEDED what will the cost of the upgrade, note the quote for a 1.5Km run of $150,000 as a one off.
Massive assumption of enough adequate cable pairs, if that is not the case which in many cases will be a certainty what then?
Most of the benifits of the FTTH NBN will be lost, just reduced to a minimal service, best suited to email, facebook and porn, Not SME or all the other benefits.
But all is GOOD Rupert will keep his monopoly on pay TV and the taxpayer will subsidise the HFC upgrade and expansion, running that thick coax into all those new properties instead of a fibre. Sure inferior and no cheaper but who cares
Michael (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, august 20).
I understand as a conservative all that matters is your immediate needs and the needs of the next generation are unimportant as is the needs of SME's, business, education, health etc etc,
But guess what we too can have that attitude and refuse to have our taxes subsidise your communications as with the NBN we wont be
In case you weren't aware the NBN will be switching on (that is all it takes) the 1Gb service for Business. Available to ANY premises with FTTH.
Are you aware how many home businesses there are and how many businesses started from home or the Garage, obviously not in Toorak
FTTN cannot provide that and practically as will be implemented never will be able to ( electromagnetic, so susceptible to noise, crosstalk, attenuation.
The Coalition option is short term thinking and most definitely not providing the Communications foundation for the next 50 years
This isn't the first time the government has insisted upon a telecommunications project being built regardless of cost and it won't be the last (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, august 20).
Does anyone remember what CDMA stood for... or how short it's life was... or why Tasmania had the most length of fibre per capita...
Anyway... while we 'budget' for a '$40B spend' it is good to see that our government is being responsible by closing hospitals and schools in order to deliver a surplus.
Michael Levey (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 20)
have you even looked at what NBN plans cost? I bet not.
My Dad's on the NBN and his monthly ADSL + lanline rental was waroound $70 a month.
He's now paying just $35 a month for a fiber connection that's 8 times faster than his old ADSL connection, and he gets 4 times the download quota a month as well. On top of this he's now using the RSPs free VOIP account and gets 9c untimed land line calls and much cheaper mobile calls.
I've yet to see the Coalitions broadband policy. How many nodes will be built, what's the minimum speed offered.
Small business are going to save a fortune when they connect to the NBN, and they'll finally be able to offer their services all over Australia and the world.
I can't see the mishmashed "broadband" policy that Tony Abbot is offering us as being a worth while spending of our money.
People forget that the money spent on NBN will be paid back by everyone who uses it. basically it's getting build for free. It's a bit like being given a new car, and only having to pay for it's running costs with a small extra fee to cover the purchase price.
Malcolm (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, august 20)
a) You really failed to address Alan's points. Maanging to do the Pollie divert the discussion thing.
"The issue for customers is not the particular medium of communication connecting their device to the internet but rather the quality of the experience. If bandwidth is sufficient for their needs, then whether it is on HFC or VDSL or GPON or wireless or a combination of some or all of them is not particularly relevant if it is relevant at all."
Great so you are trapped in your premises by what is available, as you say as long as it is adequate for your needs. Which will depend on the medium.
You wildly assume tomorrows needs will be the same as todays
You assume no home businesses or they are wealthy enough to pay many Thousands of dollars to upgrade to fibre.
Guess the old class war of keep the peasants downtrodden and in their place, but let them have some movie's facebook and porn wit a comms network that is anti business
What a terrible choice we have here (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 20. On the one hand we have an alleged financial guru who wholeheartedly supports an NBN with basically unknown financial fundamentals (except that it will be monumentally capital intensive). On the other hand we have a politician!
Normally one might favour the views of the guru, but in this case I can't help feeling he has shot himself in the foot by firstly advocating huge expenditure without a bankable business plan, and secondly by venturing into a technological realm in which his views are arguably of even less value than my own.
On balance I'll side with the politician this time.
I think Alan Kohler should curb his emotional instincts and stick with his strength and apply strict financial criteria to projects. If he does that my guess is that he will come up with a different result.
Thanks Malcolm for responding so quickly (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 21).
I don't really understand the arguments this time,but in the past you have been one of the very few people who made the slightest bit of sense in this silly dream the geeks insist we "MUST HAVE"
Geoff ( Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 20),
Where do you get the idea we will "have to begin replacing the first run" of the NBN by the time it's completed? The fact is that there is no known failure mechanism for optical fibre. Since the widespread installation of optical fibre started about 30 years ago, there has been no common failure of it. There are undersea optical fibre cables which are 25 years old and not only still in use, but carrying data 1000 times faster than when they were installed. I suspect that conditions are a bit tougher on the bottom of the ocean than in a conduit 500mm under the ground!
Corning have fibre in durability test beds that has been working flawlessly for 35 years, undergoing constant mechanical movement and submersion. Sterlite fibre predict a typical lifetime of 60 years. Compare that to the copper to my street, which Telstra replaced last year (at just 30 years of age) due to corrosion. My ADSL2 speed increased by 50% overnight.
Geoff explain why you think this is so (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 20)....
Then there's the life expectancy. I know all the armchair geeks think fibre lasts forever. Think again. By the time this network passes every home we will have to begin replacing the first run.
Please show me the builder that'll build a house for what it costs ( Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 21). No one does that, the closest you'll get is 'cost plus' basis. I expect with the NBN + Labour running the debacle it'll be cost plus plus plus, and with well below forecast connections and operability.
Sweet smiley disingenuous Malcolm T ....still following the Abbott instruction under the consequence of the great Godwin Gretch moment, not even superceeded by the Slipper moment, another high point of Liberal morality (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 21).
But you see he doesn't really want to get rid of the NBN, he knows the vast majority of communications experts support the NBN....and didn't Malcolm the technologist give his mate the cloud seeder $10 million to try out his stuff over Tasmania? This guy still thinkls he is a technology wiseman.
Give it a break Malcolm, in the above comments you can see the prejudiced politics versus the somewhat tech savvy.
Roll on NBN I say ...and what can we remember was achieved the last time the Liberals were in power anyway ....nothing significant comes to mind save the GST ....really ... I'm trying to remember ....must be getting old.
Oh well it's time for my pills.
If the NBN increases productivity in Australia by 0.5 per cent it will pay for itself in no-time (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 21). If it were supplied free (i.e. out of taxes) the increase in GDP from 0.5 per cent productivity increase means the taxes could easily be paid. Stop obessing about a business plan. Did the Harbour Bridge or the US Interstate Freeway system have or need a business plan?
Malcolm with respect, your banking prowess is the linch pin (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 21).
Fibre is the only way to put rapid trading in the bin where it belongs.
Rapid trading is endemic within the trading world. Malcolm, please hand back to the little Aussies, the ability to trade on a fair basis.
I wont bore you with the science to justify, what I have just said, just remember that I want to see Australia, keep up with the science based world.
Oxygen and copper are very problematic.
Maybe I misread or misinterpreted Alan's article yesterday. To me it was a warning to Malcolm Turnbull - not to get undone by the NBN. Nothing more, nothing less (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 21). The semantics of the network, uptake, the company or future role for Telstra, are just the tools by which he could become unstuck. To me Malcolm Turnbull is the only effective politician in the country (on either side). This country will need him, especially after the current government gets what it deserves.
A fantasy indeed, why wait for election wins, why not form an independent body now, which judges Malcolm Turnbull's and the Government's Australian internet system side by side before to much money is already spent on a possible white elephant after all the rhetoric and elections. I thought the introduction of the internet was meant to be introduced in the most affordable way for the benefit all Australians!
Now is the time to put the two projects side by side and let some experts judge them simply on their merits, rather than politics as that creates fantasies indeed!
Michael Macrossan (August 21, 1.32pm), the harbour bridge had an extensive business planning process that began before 1900 and had included royal commissions, expert review including effect on land value, consideration of social impact and impact on the wider sydney rail network (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 21). All to ensure the value for public money spent.
I've had the benefit of renting an office with ADSL 2 and then moving to an office equiped with fibre. There is no comparison (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 21).
It's not all about speed, it's about consistency of connection. We can now use cloud services without the previous ADSL 2 experience of drop outs and fluctuating connections.
The regular voter doesn't care about the numbers being thrown around, they care about their experience. Once you experience fibre coming from ADSL, you finally know what the fuss is about.
There are two basic facets to the NBN debate. What should happen, and how should it happen (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 20).
How should it happen deals with questions of implementation schedules, budgets and so forth. The opposition does well to deal with this issue in an attempt to keep costs down. However, with respect to what should happen, the opposition is living in Fairytale World. Malcolm, if you think for one nanosecond that Australians will be served in the 21st century with a Hodge-podge of antiquated rusting copper technology, not to mention all the other old bits hanging around, you are dreaming. Actually, you are in the grip of a terrible nightmare. Wake yourself up before it is too late. There is a reason why Verizon spent billions in the USA updating their network to fibre and there is a reason why developing countries are putting in a modern infrastructure. Verizon and other companies like it are private companies but they do not have to deal with the remote outback, let alone small somewhat isolated country towns. Private enterprise has no reason to upgrade networks there as is shown by Telstra’s lack of real action over the years. Only the government can do that, and it desperately needs to be done. The opposition’s plan condemns people in the country to a useless internet for decades to come. As VOIP, streaming on demand, video conferencing over the net, and video remote based education rises, internet speed will be of crucial importance. In terms of standard of living, Australia is a first world country, but in terms of technology, Australia is a third world country. I have been in poverty stricken countries whose internet speed puts ours to shame. The opposition’s plan will ensure Australia remains in the cyber stone age. By all means, drive efficiency. But please Malcolm, wake up and stop playing politics with this issue. The oppositions alternative isn’t even good enough to be considered madness. Alan Kohler was being kind.
Well well!!! Look at all the Geeks come out to play ( Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 21).
I bet half of you guys don't even understand what all the rubbish you write really means. And the other half just want "fast" broadband so that they can download their games or their movies (probably porn).
80% of potential users will never use the capacities the fibre to the home can deliver but will be stuck with a cost regime that will be subsidising all the ego tripping BIG users for their BIG downloads.
When was it any different?
Malcolm, I hate to admit it but you are dead right. Kohler is as usual away with the faeries!!
The argument about which technology to use in the NBN should be moot. FTTH is the only way to go (Alan Kohler's NBN fantasy, August 22). To hear FTTN being touted is not healthy especially in light of the arguments made in the recent past about the obsolescence of FTTH. If you think FTTH will be obsolete by the time the NBN is finished then have a look at FTTN - it's almost obsolete today. VDSL, the technology of FTTN is still distance dependent and the copper it runs on is susceptible to corrosion and water damage. It will degrade over time far more rapidly than will fibre. And I'm so glad we're over the debate about wireless being up to the task - it never will be. But Malcolm is right about budget and approach - the NBN should be built by the private sector in a competitive environment supported by government to ensure universal coverage. But I think the horse has bolted. As for cost, there is not nearly the same level of debate on the $46B being spent on upgrading the poles and wires of the electricity network to support the peak load for 8 hours a year when everyone has their air cons on because it's a hot day. In comparison the NBN is a far more worthy recipient of this level of expenditure. And as for applications, I do take exception to Malcolm's narrow view that the NBN is just for internet. It will enable a great many more services in health and education (as Paul Budde advocates) as well as business to business networking. And, of course, the applications we haven't yet thought of. Now enough of this communications stuff, Malcolm, get out there and be our next PM.