Liberal party communications spokesperson Malcolm Turnbull, who is expected to be appointed the incoming government's Communications Minister next week, has rejected an online petition calling on the Coalition to reconsider its national broadband network (NBN) policy.
The petition, which gathered more than 200,000 signatures in less than a week, is calling for the incoming Australian government to not scrap the fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) NBN project of the previous government.
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Created by Nick Paine on the campaigning website change.org, the petition reads: "This petition is designed to highlight Australia's desire for a superior 'fibre to the Home' broadband solution, rather than the Coalition's proposed 'Fibre to the Node' solution."
The petition argues that the speeds offered by the Coalition's fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) policy will be significantly lower than what would have been achievable on Labor's FTTP, which was to have download speeds of 100Mbps and upload speeds of 40Mbps.
NBN Co had stated that it had been intending to upgrade that to 1Gbps download speeds before Labor's network was completed.
In his petition, Paine argued that on the other hand, "… [FTTN] suggested speeds, in this instance 100Mbps/5Mbps, are more or less theoretical since actual speeds will be dependent upon the distance of an individual premises from the node."
Turnbull hits back
Last night, Malcolm Turnbull posted a response to the petition on his own website, saying: "Last Saturday there was a general election at which the NBN was one of the most prominent issues… The Coalition won the election."
"The promoters of this petition apparently believe that we should ignore the lengthy public debate on the NBN that preceded the election and also ignore the election result," Turnbull wrote.
"We should within days of the election walk away from one of our most well debated, well understood and prominent policies. Democracy? I don't think so."
Hitting hard against the petitioners, he said: "For those who don't have time to read our policy (but time to sign an online petition), there are a few important points to bear in mind."
Turnbull explained that the Coalition wished to give Australian's access to faster as soon as possible, which would also be as cheap and affordable as possible.
He argued that Labor's NBN project was currently running over budget and behind schedule, and as such, the new government would conduct a strategic review of the current state of the NBN within the next 60 day to reveal how long and how much it would cost to complete the current NBN project.
With the new government not even sworn in yet, an NBN change is inevitably coming, petition or no.
Turnbull ended his post saying that the NBN debate wasn't over, "... but I am determined to ensure that from now on it is at least fully informed."
While a review of the current NBN project is welcome, it is currently difficult to say what the new face of the NBN will look like and if the NBN Co will survive a Coalition government.
While Turnbull helpfully pointed Australian's again to the Coalition's NBN policy, it will still be required to renegotiate NBN Co's current deal with Telstra to decommission its copper network and give NBN Co access to its ducts.
In between renegotiating contracts and reviewing the current state of the NBN project, it may be a while yet before we get a glimpse of what the new Australian broadband network will look like.
- Want to keep updated on what's happening with broadband in Australia? Check out our handy guide to the NBN.