Labor has oversimplified the NBN: Turnbull

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has once again criticised Labor over the National Broadband Network (NBN), this time proposing that they have been oversimplying the broadband debate into: "It's the NBN or perpetual mediocrity.”

"Ultimately, Labor prefers to frame the public debate over its plan and any alternative proposals as a series of caricatures and false dichotomies," Turnbull told the Communications Day conference in Melbourne yesterday. 

"Fast fibre or overcrowded wireless. Visionary nation-building versus mean-spirited penny pinching. The future versus the past."

Turnbull argued that the debate over the future of broadband internet in Australia is in fact more complex than how Labor had been presenting it thus far. He accuses them of reducing the debate to an oversimplified argument "to avoid scrutiny."

Turnbull argued that the NBN was Labor’s solution to four goals which were set by the government:

1.    Access to a minimum of 12mbps for all Australians
2.    A cross-subsidy on broadband from metropolitan regions to the bush
3.    Australia’s need for faster broadband than what we are currently getting
4.    A shift away from a Telstra-dominated market

In Turnbull’s speech, he argued that the NBN does not easily resolve any of these problems. For instance, he said that a direct subsidy to carriers or a voucher system to broadband customers would be more transparent than the cross-subsidy “hidden” wholesale pricing of the NBN.

On faster broadband, Turnbull suggested that it may be better to provide Optus and Telstra with the resources to upgrade their hybrid-fibre coaxial cable networks to the DOCSIS 3.0 standard – which is capable of 100mbps. He argued that this would be more appropriate, particularly because we still don’t know what the immediate needs are for broadband this fast.

Turnbull’s speech concluded with another plea for the government to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the NBN project.

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