Earlier this year, the NBN CEO confirmed the thirty year NBN business case has no plan, and no budget, to upgrade the millions of premises that could be stranded on FTTN. 

Senator O'NEILL: Could you confirm for me whether the ongoing capital expenditure that you have just said is set aside in your forward projections is for a wide scale upgrade of the 5.4 million premises that are on the FTTN network?

Mr Morrow: I can assure you it is not. It is for miscellaneous things. If a cabinet gets hit by a car, we have to go out and put a new cabinet in.


The CEO then asserted that any upgrade depends on a business case emerging — based on higher willingness to pay — that will justify further investment.

“When we see that people are willing to pay more than what they are paying today for 25 Mbps, then a business case can be written."

"But  you have to be willing to pay above what you are paying today for the 25-meg service, and the only way people typically do that is if in fact there is better value for them and there is better utility for them." 

Source: Senate Estimates, 28 February 2017.


Fast forward to the August 2018 Corporate Plan release and Mr Morrow appears to be signalling the business case was already present:

"We have done third-party studies that strongly suggest people are willing to pay more for better broadband -- and that means faster, that means consuming more, that means lower latency on it,"

"The study that we had, 40 percent of them said that they'd be willing to pay AU$12 more."

Source: 2018 NBN Corporate Plan conference call, 31 August 2017.


Labor has consistently argued that fibre is the most cost-effective way to deliver the speed, upload, reliability and latency that consumers value now and into the future.

Further, at $45 billion, a fibre to the premise NBN would have been cheaper than the $49 billion multi-technology mix, and a far better investment for Australian taxpayers.

The critical point for the present debate is that it’s much cheaper to deliver more fibre now, than it is to rip up the copper later.

A coherent vision for the digital economy requires society to take a long-term view about the enabling infrastructure that will help the nation succeed and remain globally competitive.

Malcolm Turnbull needs to heed Labor’s call, and act to scale down copper, and scale up fibre where feasible, before the window of opportunity closes.