On Wednesday, Liberal communications and broadband spokesman Malcolm Turnbull hosted a question and answer session on the Opposition’s NBN proposal at the Gary Holland Community Centre.
While the Liberal’s NBN plan to connect fibre optic cabling to the existing copper network has been criticised by Labor, Mr Turnbull said it would provide more than adequate download speed, would be billions of dollars cheaper and would be delivered earlier.
Labor’s plan has been subject to cost blowouts, delays, allegations of contractors mishandling asbestos and the resignation of NBN co-|director Mike Quigley, but says its fibre-to-the-premises plan would make Australia a world leader in download speeds and would be significantly faster.
Wednesday’s event was advertised within Liberal mailing lists and Facebook pages and a letterbox drop, but was not actively promoted to the wider public. Most attendees were retirees, with a handful of business people and university students.
Mr Turnbull opened his address by accusing Brand MHR Gary Gray of ‘one of the more audacious lies I’ve ever seen in politics’, citing a flyer that said everyone would be connected to Labor’s NBN ‘for free’.
‘The NBN, whether it is completed under their specifications or under our redesign of it, is not going to be free at all,’ he said.
‘If you want to connect to it, if you want to have a service, you’re going to have to have an account with Telstra or Optus or iiNet and they will charge you so many dollars per month just as they do now.’
Mr Gray hit back in a press release later that day, claiming Mr Turnbull had tried to confuse people by accusing Labor of being misleading.
‘Labor has never told people that the NBN will mean they won’t have to pay for the service provided by an internet service provider. What we are saying is that having NBN fibre connected directly to your home will be free, whereas under the Liberals’ plan you will have to pay up to $5000 to have fibre connecting your premises to the network,’ he said.
Mr Turnbull told the forum he didn’t think it necessary to build services that might not be needed for 25 years, especially when rapid technological advances could render it obsolete.
Sarah Thomson, owner of local online marketing business Online Social Butterfly, told Mr Turnbull she did not agree with his assertion that the Liberal NBN’s plan would provide download and upload speeds that were more than adequate, saying she would take as much bandwidth as she could get.
While the Liberal’s plan has been widely criticised for being significantly slower than Labor’s and using the old copper network, Mr Turnbull told Ms Thomson she was an ‘exceptional case’ and research indicated 25Mbps would be ‘more than enough’ for the majority of users.
Work to build the NBN is underway in Bertram, Calista, Hope Valley, Kwinana town centre, Leda, Medina, Naval Base, Orelia, Parmelia, The Spectacles, Wattleup, Wellard, Golden Bay, Madora Bay, Meadow Springs, San Remo, Singleton, Barragup, Coodanup, Dudley Park, Erskine, Furnissdale, Greenfields, Halls Head, Mandurah and Silver Sands.