NBN - get me my net faster

By Emily Gadaleta. 17th June 2016.

Our goal is to provide an accurate summary of where the parties stand, but we advise that you also read more broadly and verify other sources of information before deciding who to vote for.

The NBN promises to bring fast internet to every house in Australia but it remains shrouded in uncertainty after years of delay and political disputes. 

In Australia, the internet is integrated into every facet of daily life.

For some of us it is our life.

From logging onto social media after waking up in the morning, to streaming Game of Thrones late at night before going to bed, we live in a world that is constantly connected.

But it is more important than that. A good internet connection fuels innovation, employment, research and business. It is at the heart of modern education and is how medical care will be delivered in the future.

For many, many good reasons that every young Australian seems to get (the old mates struggle a bit harder on it), the NBN is a vital national investment.  And it can’t come quick enough – at the moment Australia’s broadband speed comes in at 60th in the world and slipping.  

This is not good enough – and every party knows it.

Key info:

The rollout of the NBN has been a political hot rod since it was first announced by Labor in 2007.

Labor’s original plan promised a fibre connection to each home delivering speeds of up to 1 GB per second by 2021.

The Coalition’s counter plan was based on a slower but cheaper fibre to the node, copper to the home model that promised speeds of 25-50 MB per second by 2019.

Since then, blowouts, errors and politics have delayed the project. The initial roll out under Labor in 2009 was slower and more expensive than anticipated. The Coalition continued this tradition after coming to power in 2013, with the project afflicted by even more delays, bungling and soaring costs.

By the end of March 2016, only 900,000 people were using the NBN – significantly less than was promised by both sides of politics. 

For more information on the history of the NBN and #whoistoblame, check out Waleed Aly’s brilliant take on The Project.


The Coalition (The Government)

FIXING THE NBN

The Coalition dedicates a section of their ‘Building Australia’s Infrastructure’ policy to explaining how they aim to put the plan “back on track.”

The Coalition wants to build a predominately fibre-to-the-node network:

  • 38% of Australians will receive copper wires to their homes fibre-to-the-node;
  • 20% of the nation will have a fibre-to-the-premises;
  • 34% will run through pay TV cables; and
  • 8% if left to the ‘other’ category.

Under the Coalition, it will cost $46 to 56 billion and be finished sometime between 2020 and 2022 (maybe).  


The Labor Party (The Opposition)

NO BOOM WHILE STILL BUFFERING

The main difference between the two major parties boils down to their preference for fibre-to-the-premises versus fibre-to-the-node.

In a nutshell, fibre-to-the-premises offers faster internet but is more expensive to install. Fibre-to-the-node promises slower internet but is cheaper to install.

The Coalition loves fibre-to-the-node and copper to the home, Labor loves fibre-to-the-home.

Labor’s “Positive NBN Policy” promises to hook up 2 million more homes than the Coalition to the fibre-to-the-premises network.  

If elected, they will immediately stop rolling out the Coalitions fibre-to-the-node, copper-to-the-home model.

For houses already connected to the NBN, Labor says it will commission Infrastructure Australia (a government body) to manage the upgrading and transitioning of customers to the fibre-to-the-premises network.

Under Labor, it will cost $49 to $57 billion and be finished sometime in 2022 (maybe).


The Greens

CONNECTING ALL AUSTRALIANS

The Greens have been supporters of the NBN ever since it was first proposed. 

The Greens share Labor’s concerns over the internet speeds offered by the Coalition and wants fibre-to-the-home for all Australians.


MINOR PARTIES

There are quite a few minor parties with an interest in the NBN.

The 21st Century Australia Party believes the NBN is overpriced and that the money going into it could better benefit regional Australia in other ways.

In contrast, the Pirate Party fully support a fibre-to-the-premises model and wants all Australians to have high speed internet. They also love illegal downloading, so check them out if you love not paying for TV shows. 

The Science Party also wants fibre-to-the-premises. Check them out for some other interesting sciencey policies.  


The Verdict

In the end, the debates around the NBN aren’t about whether we need it or not – that is a given. They are about which party can deliver the fastest internet speeds on time and under budget.

There are basically two visions on offer.

The Coalition’s NBN, which promises slower internet but at a cheaper cost, and Labor’s NBN (supported by the Greens), which promises faster internet but at a greater cost. 

Vote wisely. Your next Netflix and chill session is at stake.