Sep 202010

There’s some intriguing argument beginning to surface in regard to the much vaunted National Broadband Network (NBN).

The federal opposition leader has tasked Malcolm Turnbull with ‘demolishing’ the NBN, which is yet another piece of the ‘kinder gentler polity’ proposed by Tony Abbott back when he thought he has a chance of cajoling the then undecided independents. That tactic failed, so it’s back to the adversarial, antagonistic and rapidly becoming spiteful tactics normally employed by Australian conservative politics when attempting to counter their opponents.

Turnbull, to his credit – although I suspect most political watchers don’t believe his heart is in it – is doing his best to present the case against the NBN by calling for a conclusive cost-benefit analysis proving the business case for it’s implementation and expenditure of $43 billion in taxpayer funds. Thankfully, he hasn’t, as yet, dragged into play the all too common opposition cry of ‘more debt’ and ‘$100 million a day’ in order to denigrate what is essentially a nation-building project for the long term public good. I can fully understand the thrust of the argument calling for a CBA, but as pointed out very succinctly in this piece, upon what basis should a CBA be performed? What kind of return are we seeking? Over what term? What should we determine the break-even point to be? What is to be defined as a ‘cost’ and what as a ‘benefit’?

Then there are the nay-sayers who want to raise any form of counter argument from "no-one will pay to use it" to "there will be no commercial return". Both of which I have to say don’t adequately counter the PossumCommitus argument of the unknowable cost-benefit analysis outcome.

My own stance is along the lines of "build it and they will come" primarily because once it’s built, ‘they’meaning us, will be forced to come because there will be no alternative. A counter-counter argument which I’ve not seen anyone put forward yet. Surely the commentariat doesn’t honestly believe that NBNCo/Telstra, as it rolls out Fibre-To-The-Home, it won’t be rolling up the aged copper wire network? Does anyone really believe the copper network will be left in place, simply because it’s already there so why not leave it for the poor people to use? Hello??? Remember the analog mobile telephone network? Gone! Digital television is fast taking over from analog signal broadcasts. 2013 is the final cutoff and bingo! No more analog TV. So, surely, this business of claiming the copper wire isn’t dead yet, that faster speeds are being engineered, etcetera, is simply a flawed claim. At the end of the day, that argument, along with practically every other ‘nay’ claim, doesn’t impress me. NBN is to my children’s children what subscriber trunk dialing was to my parents. STD didn’t cost anymore and timed local calls – what a bogus boogey-man scare tactic that was – never eventuated. Neither will any of the dark-cloud doom predictions of FTTH.

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