The Farce of NBN’s Technology Choice Program

The Technology Choice Program

“I think (sic) would work out at around $3,000. So it is not $5000.” — Malcolm Turnbull. 24 July 2013, Sky News.

This was the line of opposition communications minister Malcolm Turnbull on the election trail in 2013 regarding the minimal (to him) cost to upgrade an individual premises to FTTP.

Another bald faced lie in retrospect was the claim that the multi-technology mix NBN Tony Abbott (Prime Minister for a time), Malcolm Turnbull (PM for a time) and the Coalition party said would be completed by the end of 2016.

But what I’d like to focus on today is the Technology Choice Program instituted by the Coalition government which is a program to enable an upgrade path to certain technologies in the MTM to FTTH.

The Whirlpool Forums’ guide to the costs of the Technology Choice Program

The Whirlpool Forums have been documenting the processes and costs involved in partaking in the Technology Choice Program since 2017. They have an excellent Google Sheets spreadsheet (pictured above) that you can view here which outlines the costs to upgrade to FTTH.

As you can see in the document the costs involved in upgrading are anywhere from $5,500 to $35,000. For one person on Fixed Wireless who doesn’t use Whirlpool the cost quoted was $218,000.

The main technology most of the Whirlpoolers are upgrading from is FTTN. Most seem to have copped the bad end of the stick in regards to the speeds they attained as well as the reliability. By most accounts in the Whirlpool thread the customers of the TCP were happy with the speeds and latency they achieved once completing their upgrade. And these are people who seem happy enough for whatever reason to have coughed up the cash for full fibre.

This doesn’t do much for the digital divide and makes for a haves and a have nots scenario where those with the most money can get an effectively exponentially better service with fibre to the home when those lucky enough to have been a part of the Labor rollout pre-2013 attained what we all should have got as a part of a nation building infrastructure project.

The answer that Labor are rumoured to be brewing up is more Fibre to the Curb (or FTTC) going forward. And with NBN soon to offer an upgrade path to FTTC this could be a compromise. And presumably the upgrade path from FTTC to FTTH under the TCP would be a lot cheaper than FTTN or Fixed Wireless to FTTH

In an excellent piece for Independent Australia, telecommunications analyst Paul Budde wonders whether it will be third time lucky for the NBN if Labor can win the upcoming federal election. He argues that the NBN should be seen as a national good and not so focused on being a hardline business to be sold off to private industry. This would allow more of the original plan for fibre to be built back into the network.

I’ve already written on “The Tragedy of Australia’s NBN” and this was before I actually had the NBN. I wrote on how much of a lottery receiving FTTN was. And sure enough I was on the receiving end of less than stellar speeds. I receive just under 23 Mbps down and just over 5 Mbps up on a FTTN connection that has deteriorated over time. And I’ve only had it around 8 months. Meanwhile others I know receive 95 Mbps down and 40 Mbps up. One unlucky person I know on FTTN receives 12 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up on a stability profile (a setting to minimize issues) after NBN couldn’t fix their constant dropouts.

“25 Mbps down to all Australians by the end of 2016.” Malcolm Turnbull

I’ve considered using the Technology Choice Program to upgrade to FTTP in the past but my Retail Service Provider Aussie Broadband claims I’m 1200 metres from the node. So going on the Whirlpool calculations I could be up for anywhere from $20K to $35K. Not something I’ll readily admit to being able to afford. But all I can think of is the feeling I’ll have knowing my line can be upgraded to basically massive gigabit proportions whenever NBN decides to “change their mindset” as Aussie Broadband CEO Phil Britt put it in a recent reddit IAMA and offer gigabit+ NBN.

I await both parties’ telecommunications policies in the lead up to the federal election but going on past promises from the Coalition I don’t hold much faith in them. In fact I think the Coalition, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull should be hauled before a Royal Commission into the catastrophic mismanagement of Australia’s telecommunications’ future. Say what you will about Kevin Rudd but he is dead right about the need for this.

I don’t know why I punish myself but I just finished watching a joint committee into the NBN that happened this past Monday. The Liberal representatives were very soft on NBN CEO Stephen Rue and Labor got stuck in over whether NBN Co would admit that they had fudged the numbers in relation to the cost to continue building Labor’s full FTTH NBN as opposed to restarting it after the Coalition’s wrecking ball of the MTM. As many of you might know under a politically motivated Coalition NBN Co estimated an all-fibre fixed-line rollout would need funding between $74 billion & $84bn compared to $46bn to $56bn for a MTM model. But Stephen Rue would not admit that this wouldn’t have been the case if the NBN had been continued under Labor’s full fibre model.

I thought it interesting that the Nationals representative asked about the Technology Choice Program. He got a run of the mill response from the NBN staff. I just think these upgrades from copper based technologies are going to play a larger role in the NBN going forward. I foresee Labor (if they get into power) subsidizing or lowering the cost of the TCP and working with RSPs to improve the access of the program. Unfortunately the MTM is here and it’s gonna take a lot to unscramble the copper wiring egg.

I’ll leave you with this. The first CEO of the NBN Mike Quigley in Senate Estimates in December of 2018. He lays out the absolute destruction of the NBN by the Coalition government. It gets pretty feisty for a Senate Estimates video and has been viewed nearly 6,000 times on YouTube. I get the feeling people are very angry about the NBN debacle. Vent your anger by watching the masterful truth telling on #fraudband by Mike Quigley:

The incomparable Mike Quigley.

Anthony Eales is a media, news & tech junkie from Australia. You can reach him on Twitter @ants000.



Media, news & tech junkie.

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