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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull labels the NBN “a massive waste of money”


On the same day the NBN connected its first Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) premises, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has labelled the nationwide broadband network “a massive waste of money”.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra ahead of a Four Corner special about the troubled NBN, Mr Turnbull answered “yes” when asked if the “project was a mistake” and “a massive waste of money”, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Well, it was a mistake to go about it the way they [Labor] did; setting up a new government company to do it was a big mistake,” Mr Turnbull said in a press conference.

“If you want to look at a country that did this exercise better, it’s New Zealand, and what they did there was ensure the incumbent telco, the Telstra equivalent, split network operations from retail operations and that network company became, in effect, the NBN,” he said.

“So the way Labor set it up was hugely expensive. And there are many billions of dollars wasted – and I’ve said this many times, it’s a fact of life – that we can’t recover.

“So having been left in a bad place by Labor, what we are doing is ensuring we deliver it as quickly and cost-effectively as possible but I have to say to you, again, one complaint is one complaint too many.”


Mr Turnbull was Communications Minister – and the NBN part of his portfolio – when the Coalition came to power in 2013 until he rolled then Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2015 to take over the top job.

Effectively, it was Mr Turnbull’s decision as Communications Minister to change course from Labor’s plan to roll out fibre to every home and utilise existing infrastructure (including copper wire) to keep costs under control and within reach of a $49 billion budget.

It was only last week when it was revealed complaints to the TIO about the NBN have increased by more than 159 per cent.

The bulk of the complaints were about speeds not meeting expectations and being slower than the previous non-NBN connection.


Amidst all of this it’s a blame game with NBN blaming telcos and the telcos blaming the NBN.

For the record, that first Fibre to the Curb home was located in the northern Melbourne suburb of Coburg.

FTTC brings fibre to the property boundary where it links to the Distribution Point Unit (DPU) in a telecom pit that connects to the existing copper line that serves the premises.

The connection was trialled and achieved speeds of 109Mbps downstream and 44Mbps upstream using VDSL technology over a 70m copper line.

FTTC is just one of the many flavours of the NBN technologies introduced after Fibre to the Premises to every home was knocked on the head by the Coalition Government.

NBN Co Cooks Hill FTTN Installation Cnr of Darby and Parry St, Cooks Hill Newcastle. 27th July 2015. 270715

As a result, the NBN is being rolled with a mixture of connections including:

Fibre to the premises: fibre-optic cable is connected to your property.

Fibre to the node: fibre-optic cable is rolled out to a point in your area and connected to your home with existing copper wire.

Fibre to the curb: fibre-optic cable is rolled out in your street to the telecom pit outside your home and used existing copper line to connect your home.

Fibre to the building: fibre-optic cable connected to an apartment building.

HFC (hybrid fibre coaxial): in some areas, the existing HFC cable which has been used to deliver pay-TV services will be utilised by the NBN.

NBN fixed wireless: this is like mobile broadband with data sent from transmission towers and received by an antenna installed on your roof.

Sky Muster: in remote and rural areas, the NBN can be delivered via the Sky Muster satellite.

The NBN was formulated by former PM Kevin Rudd and formed part of the platform that swept Labor to power in 2007.

Mr Rudd envisaged the NBN as a government asset that would generate an annual profit of 6 per cent.

In reality, it is expected to deliver a 3 per cent return.