11 Mar 2016

Windsor will shine a harsh light on Turnbull’s NBN

Based on an article by ROB BURGESS Economics commentator

Former independent MP Tony Windsor plans to use use national issues to unseat deputy PM Barnaby Joyce. At the top of the list will be the Coalition’s ‘fast-enough’ NBN.

When Tony Windsor announced on Thursday that he would be running against Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce at the next election, he cited the National Broadband Network among his key motivations for getting back into politics.

Mr Windsor has long seen the NBN as essential nation-building infrastructure.

In 2010, Mr Windsor and fellow independent Rob Oakeshott included NBN choices on their shortlist of reasons for backing Julia Gillard to form government over Tony Abbott.

They supported an all-fibre network, with a ‘roll-in’ from the regions towards the city, which was an economic argument with several elements.

Getting regional centres connected to high-speed broadband helps alleviate some economic disadvantage.

Farmers, for instance, are increasingly employing internet-enabled technologies to improve crop or livestock production – so called ‘smart-farming‘.
Click to compare internet speeds:

First published by The Conversation.

And regional Australians stand to gain the most in e-health applications, including in-home aged care, and online education – again, because of reducing the number of times they have to travel.

Sydney and Melbourne, both of which have large infrastructure deficits in road, rail and other services, are growing increasingly expensive and difficult to live in.That might not interest city folk too much, until you look at the flip-side of the regional coin.

That’s why an increasing number of regional cities are putting money into marketing campaigns to coax resident away from the Big Smoke.

See, for instance, the TV ad for living in regional Victoria – featuring, of course, a bloke using a laptop in his garden.
Sooner, cheaper, slower

‘So what’s the problem’, you might ask? The Coalition won government in 2013, with then-Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull releasing a plan to complete the NBN “sooner and at lower cost” than Labor’s scheme.

The Coalition’s NBN is cheaper because it only provides full-fibre connections to 20 per cent of premises. The rest is a combination of fibre-to-the-node (points in the street), HFC cables (used for cable TV) and some wireless and satellite services.

Mr Windsor said at Thursday’s news conference, that the NBN is “a national issue of very high importance within the country areas – absolutely critical”.

“Go to Armidale and see what they’ve done there and what they are planning to do, and you will see that it is actually a cost benefit to be in the country … It has to be fibre to the home, and I will fight to see that restored as well,” he said.

 Mr Windsor is going to put economic arguments around the NBN back onto the national stage.

Mr Windsor will be shining a light on the ‘fast-enough’ NBN – a network that will be significantly eclipsed by broadband speeds in our trading partners in the years ahead.

The graphic below, also created by Rod Tucker, shows how far behind we are falling.

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