Legal Opinion: Is fibre to the node a done deal, or can we turn it around?

Malcolm Turnbull and optic fiber

By on September 27, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Here’s the plan. After decimating Indonesia’s fishing industry with our bottomless slush fund, we haul their boats back to Australia. This done, we tow the boats to every suburban street corner, load them with telecom gear, and fibre them to the NBN. Finally, the last metres of frayed, rain-soaked copper goes to every home, garage, and boatshed in the nation. It’s fibre to the boat, the sort of primary industry-focused policy we could have had with the foresight to vote in Bob Katter’s Australia Party.*

Could have, would have, should have. Like many gamers, I’m bitterly disappointed with our new government’s proposed broadband policy. That’s not to say I voted on this issue: Labor’s brand of leadership musical chairs makes me ill. But still, fibre to the node sucks—a technological dead end of sunken costs.

All is not lost, however. Fibre to the node is still just a glimmer in the eye of Malcolm Turnbull—Mr Broadband (as is how our PM describes him). As we’ve seen before, politicians are capable of some impressive backflips. Could this happen here?

Mandates don’t exist

Just after the election, Mr Broadband reacted to an online petition which urged him to reconsider his endorsement for FTTN.

“Last Saturday there was a general election at which the NBN was one of the most prominent issues. The Coalition’s NBN Policy had been published in April, five months ahead of the election. The Coalition won the election.”

Indeed, mandates cannot exist, for minor parties may have been voted for in an effort to force negotiation on policy

“The promoters of this petition apparently believe that we should ignore the lengthy public debate on the NBN that preceded the election and also ignore the election result. We should within days of the election walk away from one of our most well debated, well understood and prominent policies. Democracy? I don’t think so.”

This quote, apparently, draws on the idea of an electoral mandate—that if you have a policy going into an election, and win, then you are clear to implement said policy. Tony Abbot’s post-election rhetoric has further expanded this idea, directly calling it a “mandate”, urging the Senate to stand aside and not block new laws.

However, mandates don’t exist. Our Constitution establishes a representative democracy. Legislation is determined by majority vote in Parliament and the Upper House. Essentially, if you have a majority government in both houses, then you have the numbers to pass legislation.

That’s it. Nothing prevents politicians from backflipping. There is nothing to stop minor parties blocking policies of major parties in the senate. After an election, politicians are free to do as they please. The only real checks are the internal discipline of the party, and the possibility of being re-elected at the next election.

Indeed, mandates cannot exist, for minor parties may have been voted for in an effort to force negotiation on policy. To expect political negotiation to simply stand aside in the interests of filling a mandate is to disregard those who voted for minor parties. That’s why we don’t have any mention of mandates in our Constitution.

Legally, therefore, Mr Broadband could abandon FTTN and embrace FTTP at the drop of a hat. Not that this would ever happen, of course—it would be political suicide within the Coalition. But let’s not mistake towing the party line for democracy, for mandates don’t exist. They are simply political rhetoric.

Could we have a “mandate” to reverse FTTN?

The wildcard in the process is the outcome of the three reviews Mr Broadband is proposing for the NBN. As he has stated time and time again, his biggest problem with the Labor NBN was the lack of transparency. Opening the prospect for FTTP to be considered, he has written:

“The strategic review will consider all those matters – openly and honestly. No spin. No politics. Just hard facts. And that will make the debate much better informed.”

While it’s likely that Mr Broadband is talking more about his desire to see the supposed-benefits of FTTN supported in the media, for these reviews to be truly valid they would need to canvass the benefits of FTTP. These benefits, such as ubiquity of access, ease of maintenance, and future-proofing, have often been overlooked in the election campaign’s political spin.

Unfortunately, there is very little to stop the cherry picking of experts and auditors sympathetic to the FTTN policy

It would be very interesting indeed if the government’s “mandate” to use the most cost-effective solution ended up being shepherded into some variant of FTTP on the basis of reducing long-term costs. Already we are seeing halfway solutions by private carriers such as FTTB supported by the market that were not in the original FTTN plan (and that’s basement, not boat). That these are cropping up so soon calls into question whether the policy was really all-encompassing, and will pose hard questions for NBN’s profitability and equity between Australians if all the best customers go to private networks before it even gets off the ground.

Unfortunately, there is very little to stop the cherry picking of experts and auditors sympathetic to the FTTN policy. No regulations prescribe independence of the reviewers—it’s not exactly Royal Commission material. This is a big problem, for example, in court cases where each side gets to choose their own expert to give evidence. The only safeguard is to ensure both sides of the debate have their own experts, but with the panel being assigned by the government themselves, it is unlikely that the reviews will be truly independent.

If the reviews identify that FTTN will end up costing Australia years down the line as a sunk cost, then hopefully our government will admit it. However, with few safeguards in place to ensure the independence of the reviews, the chances of this happening are slim at best.

* This is satire. I have no idea what Bob Katter’s broadband policy actually is, other than it probably involves big hats and top sheilas.

55 comments (Leave your own)

Yes, this was debated heavy and a lot of people are aware of the issues with the NBN, they just don’t understand which model is going to be better in short or long term.

I cannot remember how many people/friends that knew about the NBN but had zero understanding of the topic at a basic level.

The number of people that posted about this topic on Facebook/forums that clearly had no understanding of the topic, yet would go into bat for the FTTN, and just be completely incorrect in what they believed was the difference.

I was shocked to say the least. On top of that people would ask which is better, days before they had to vote.

The people just didn’t understand that this was about building a better network to last years into the future.

Yes its for the people that would be able to connect to the network today and tomorrow or in weeks to come, but it was more about the future and what we set our country up with for our kid’s and maybe theirs.

 

The government has already shown they are unwilling to listen after Malcolm Turnbull had an outburst after a QLD university lecturer did an accurate report of the coalition’s NBN plan.

Speaking of Turnbull, he may be a good “businessman” but who on earth puts someone with no qualifications in IT&T in charge of Communications and Broadband?

People voted for them, now pay the price.

 

somexspec: People voted for them, now pay the price.

Agreed, While the rest of us suffer, with the FTTN system that will be roll out in area’s that don’t have a contract to honor.

 

Instead of a mandate how about a deal?

You give us fibre to the home and we’ll give you a free pass on ________ policy.

 

kanzer,

I’d prefer we didn’t give them a free pass anything because I can bet they would immediately choose the refugee boat issues (which they haven’t stopped and are initiating a media blackout) or eliminating the carbon tax (which they can’t do either because it’s a binding agreement with whatever).

kablekill,

I really wish I lived in an area that had a contract to honor but instead Labor chose a suburb close by that would take a year or more to complete rather than a suburb that could have been complete in 2 weeks! But that’s just a petty rant on my part.

My point is, the coalition is everything this country fought against for the past 2 years. Abbott is sexist, a bully and will not be able to deliver on any of the promises. (remember that massive anti-bullying campaign?)

People still voted for the coalition because they believed the media and I’ve said this before but the decision to vote the coalition/abbott in will be the worst mistake Australia makes for the next 4 years.

 

The only mandate any elected government has is to serve the people – not their own party’s policies.

 

I personally believe that 95% of businesses and people DON’T actually NEED faster internet speeds.

You WANT to download movies, games, youtube etc faster, but in essence thats just a luxury. Most businesses pay for their websites to be hosted in a high bandwidth datacenter, so they don’t need faster internet either. It’s only businesses that continually generate large files. Photographers and film makers (which often make a lot of money and can afford the $3000 – $10,000 to connect their own premises to the NBN)

Yes, I would like FTTP, but it’s clearly a WANT and not a NEED. We might save a billion dollars a year in 15 years time, but is 15 years time a priority for us now? Oh, and that infographic doesn’t factor in the power/battery costs for Fiber. (with fiber, you need to supply power at both ends of each cable, as well as have battery backup or you lose access to your phone calls during a blackout. “Sorry grandma, no ambulance for you because we’ve got FTTP”)

I agree, roll out the FTTN now, and we can always upgrade it when it becomes a priority. Hell, in 15 years time we’ll probably have wireless devices that make fibre optic look slow. (and as we all know, wireless networks are a hell of a lot easier to replace/upgrade than wired networks)

FTTN is perfectly good for now, we have more important things to spend our money on, we can come back later and finish the job. (because FTTP realistically is upgraded from FTTN)

 

lordfury

You missed the boat (no pun intended) on the debate. FTTP is inevitable; you’ll eventually have to pay out of your own pocket ($5,000 minimum were his words) to connect your premise to fibre as the copper network will inevitably fall apart.

There are 6-7 million homes in Australia, but lets say there are 4 million.

4,000,000 x 5,000 = 20,000,000,000

Coalition Plan = 27,000,000,000 (Taxpayer Money)
+20,000,000,000 (More Taxpayer money)
———————-

=47,000,000,000

Labour Plan = $47,000,000,000 (Or 80,000,000,000, which is the figure the voices in his head tell him)

Add to that the renegotiated figure Telstra will receive now that we’re going to be using their copper wires longer than before, line rental fees on top of what an NBN staffed with former Telstra CEO’s and their cronies will price the system at.

“…even in a fake democracy I think you should get what you want at least some of the time…” – G.C.

 

lordfury:
I personally believe that 95% of businesses and people DON’T actually NEED faster internet speeds.

You WANT to download movies, games, youtube etc faster, but in essence thats just a luxury. Most businesses pay for their websites to be hosted in a high bandwidth datacenter, so they don’t need faster internet either. It’s only businesses that continually generate large files. Photographers and film makers (which often make a lot of money and can afford the $3000 – $10,000 to connect their own premises to the NBN)

Yes, I would like FTTP, but it’s clearly a WANT and not a NEED. We might save a billion dollars a year in 15 years time, but is 15 years time a priority for us now? Oh, and that infographic doesn’t factor in the power/battery costs for Fiber. (with fiber, you need to supply power at both ends of each cable, as well as have battery backup or you lose access to your phone calls during a blackout. “Sorry grandma, no ambulance for you because we’ve got FTTP”)

I agree, roll out the FTTN now, and we can always upgrade it when it becomes a priority. Hell, in 15 years time we’ll probably have wireless devices that make fibre optic look slow. (and as we all know, wireless networks are a hell of a lot easier to replace/upgrade than wired networks)

FTTN is perfectly good for now, we have more important things to spend our money on, we can come back later and finish the job. (because FTTP realistically is upgraded from FTTN)

And when we do NEED to do that upgrade it’ll probably cost us ten times as much. It’s common knowledge that short cuts are never short and the cheap option is never cheap.

 

lordfury:

I agree, roll out the FTTN now, and we can always upgrade it when it becomes a priority. Hell, in 15 years time we’ll probably have wireless devices that make fibre optic look slow. (and as we all know, wireless networks are a hell of a lot easier to replace/upgrade than wired networks)

Nothing is faster than the speed of light

And those wireless networks are congested by nature and more expensive.

With fibre you just need to upgrade the hardware at the end of the cable as that’s the technology limiting the bandwidth.

Plus you can do more with fibre if its made to be a level playing field for the industry:

Cable TV / Cheaper on demand service
Clearer sound (phone, radio)
3D video chat?
Advanced home security systems
Mobile phone connection point for areas with bad reception (on any plan)
etc

 

lordfury:
Yes, I would like FTTP, but it’s clearly a WANT and not a NEED. We might save a billion dollars a year in 15 years time, but is 15 years time a priority for us now? Oh, and that infographic doesn’t factor in the power/battery costs for Fiber. (with fiber, you need to supply power at both ends of each cable, as well as have battery backup or you lose access to your phone calls during a blackout. “Sorry grandma, no ambulance for you because we’ve got FTTP”)

Are you high?

Do you really believe the new network would not have a measure in place in case of power outages?

Keep in mind the number of people who keep old analogue phones around (just in case) is me, you and two other people (neither of whom is your grandmother).

 

lordfury:
I personally believe that 95% of businesses and people DON’T actually NEED faster internet speeds.

You WANT to download movies, games, youtube etc faster, but in essence thats just a luxury. Most businesses pay for their websites to be hosted in a high bandwidth datacenter, so they don’t need faster internet either. It’s only businesses that continually generate large files. Photographers and film makers (which often make a lot of money and can afford the $3000 – $10,000 to connect their own premises to the NBN)

FTTP is not really just about the download speeds. That is only part of the argument for it. I see the real benefit on the reliability it will provide accompanied by the dramatically increased upload speeds enabling things that businesses and homes never thought possible.

Yes, I would like FTTP, but it’s clearly a WANT and not a NEED. We might save a billion dollars a year in 15 years time, but is 15 years time a priority for us now? Oh, and that infographic doesn’t factor in the power/battery costs for Fiber. (with fiber, you need to supply power at both ends of each cable, as well as have battery backup or you lose access to your phone calls during a blackout. “Sorry grandma, no ambulance for you because we’ve got FTTP”)

You just said there is a backup battery. Also, ever heard of mobile phones? Even grandma has one.

I agree, roll out the FTTN now, and we can always upgrade it when it becomes a priority. Hell, in 15 years time we’ll probably have wireless devices that make fibre optic look slow. (and as we all know, wireless networks are a hell of a lot easier to replace/upgrade than wired networks)

FTTN is perfectly good for now, we have more important things to spend our money on, we can come back later and finish the job. (because FTTP realistically is upgraded from FTTN)

Thing is its a priority now. Half of europe are moving to FTTP as well as much of asia. The coalition is spending ~$29b on the FTTN network, the labor version cost ~$37b. $8b over a period of 8 years is no very much savings. Furthermore the NBN will make a return on investment, so its not like the money is being wasted.

Wireless is a shared medium (air), it will never beat fiber because of that. The more people there are the slower wireless works.

 

And the super fast broadband only really works if you’re 400m from the exchange. (his words not mine).

In which case it would be easier to just roll out a bloody ethernet cable and save a lot more time and money

 

kablekill: The number of people that posted about this topic on Facebook/forums that clearly had no understanding of the topic, yet would go into bat for the FTTN, and just be completely incorrect in what they believed was the difference.

lordfury,
You just added to my first comment.

I cannot believe that you think wireless internet will be better than fiber. Well done.

kablekill: Yes its for the people that would be able to connect to the network today and tomorrow or in weeks to come, but it was more about the future and what we set our country up with for our kid’s and maybe theirs.

 

lordfury, I would say that looking at the present, you are correct – most of us have no real need for faster internet.

However, you could have probably said that at any time in the past 10 years too – we don’t *need* faster internet, but it’d be nice. But having the increase in bandwidth has lead to a huge innovation to fill that additional bandwidth. Evidence comes by looking at Netfilix, Steam, Skype, Youtube, etc. Granted, these companies are all for “wants” and not “needs” – but since they contribute millions (billions?) of dollars to world economies, I don’t care.

In summary, we need NBN-style fast internet to promote and take advantage of the technologies that WILL fill it – not necessarily today’s tech – and this will simulate the crap out of our economy.

*EDIT* Also, Kanzer – “Nothing is faster than the speed of light” – I said this too, until someone reminded me that electromagnetic signals (wireless) also go at the speed of light :S
However, I totally agree with you – congestion, reception, etc. are all reasons why fibre is way better.

 

Ok here’s the thing FTTP(N) is better for…
Long term cost.
Speed.
Power consumption.
Maintenance time required.
Network stability.
Due to the reduced power consumption it’s better for the environment.

I would engage people directly but whatever ignorant argument you may have, one of these points will address.
There is no benefit of FTTH over FTTP none it just doesn’t exist, if you attempt to claim cost I ask that you remove your Eye from the toilet roll with which you view the world and look at the entire picture.

kanzer: Nothing is faster than the speed of light

That we have observed so far …

 

somexspec:

People voted for them, now pay the price.

Amen to that, and as I write this I cant help but giggle slightly as my suburb is flooded with trucks loaded with massive rolls of optic fibre cable. Not long now!!!

WOOOOOOOO

 

We could well see a change in the liberal plan since its looking like their particular network design will need a “node” every 300m on top of renting copper from telstra.
For anyone who doesn’t know what this means [like lordfury] each node needs a power hookup and a battery backup. both are expensive.

might as well just put fibre in to many places.

I’m still glad my area is already under contract.

 

Unfortunately, there is very little to stop the cherry picking of experts and auditors sympathetic to the telstra share holders

Fixed

 

lordfury:
I personally believe that 95% of businesses and people DON’T actually NEED faster internet speeds.

You WANT to download movies, games, youtube etc faster, but in essence thats just a luxury. Most businesses pay for their websites to be hosted in a high bandwidth datacenter, so they don’t need faster internet either. It’s only businesses that continually generate large files. Photographers and film makers (which often make a lot of money and can afford the $3000 – $10,000 to connect their own premises to the NBN)

Yes, I would like FTTP, but it’s clearly a WANT and not a NEED. We might save a billion dollars a year in 15 years time, but is 15 years time a priority for us now? Oh, and that infographic doesn’t factor in the power/battery costs for Fiber. (with fiber, you need to supply power at both ends of each cable, as well as have battery backup or you lose access to your phone calls during a blackout. “Sorry grandma, no ambulance for you because we’ve got FTTP”)

I agree, roll out the FTTN now, and we can always upgrade it when it becomes a priority. Hell, in 15 years time we’ll probably have wireless devices that make fibre optic look slow. (and as we all know, wireless networks are a hell of a lot easier to replace/upgrade than wired networks)

FTTN is perfectly good for now, we have more important things to spend our money on, we can come back later and finish the job. (because FTTP realistically is upgraded from FTTN)

Then you haven’t worked in business a great deal. I know of tens of businesses that at languishing on pathetic ADSL speeds because of cable length, RIMs, cable quality etc & the price of fibre (if available) is just too high.

The issue isn’t about ‘get stuff faster’ for a lot of people. It is about getting a reliable connection that can meet their requirements. I have lived in three houses in the last five years in different suburbs and none of them has been able to get ADSL above ~5Mbit. One of the houses couldn’t even get DSL for two years after I moved in and it was about 3km from the Adelaide CBD.

Rolling out FTTN now is just a complete waste of tax payers money. There is no ROI. The nodes will be junked in the future when a FTTP network is required. The amount of nodes required to service the metro areas of Australia is in the tens of thousands and each of these nodes needs fibre + power + backup run to it (and of course all the existing copper needs to be re-terminated too). For all that wasted expense we get a network which is significantly less capable than the Labor plan, doesn’t cost significantly less over the life of the asset and won’t solve the reliance on a degrading copper infrastructure which will have to be replaced eventually anyway.

The rest of your post shows you actually haven’t done any research on fibre, deployment methods or wireless technologies, the costs associated with the latter or the ridiculousness of spending 3/4 of the money now and then being forced to spend much more in the near future to save a buck now.

Just out of interest – what ‘important things’ should we be spending the money on instead?

 
Leave a comment

You can use the following bbCode
[i], [b], [img], [quote], [url href="http://www.google.com/"]Google[/url]

Leave a Reply

PC Gaming Calendar 2014

Follow Games.on.net

YouTube

Steam Group

Upcoming Games

Community Soapbox

Recent Features
Destiny

Destiny continues to impress in beta: Our thoughts as Bungie’s new juggernaut rolls on

It's clear that Bungie are putting their best foot forward with Destiny, but as James discovers, playing on your own can be strangely empty.

Screencheat

Five Australian Indie Games We’d Hand Arbitrary Awards To: AVCon 2014

From a split-screen shooter where everyone is invisible to an abandoned space station, Australian indies are killing it at this year's AVCon.

Mass Effect 3 580x300

Here are 10 things BioWare absolutely must NOT do in Mass Effect 4

The hard truths that BioWare don't want to hear.

Streaming Radio
Radio Streams are restricted to iiNet group customers.

GreenManGaming MREC

Facebook Like Box