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An unhelpful ideological comparison between FttH and anti-vaxxers

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Businessman Steve Baxter made a questionable comparison of FttH favouritists to anti-vaxxers (Screenshot via YouTube)

On a recent podcast, Steve Baxter compared people in favour of a fibre-based NBN with anti-vaxxers, a comment which Paul Budde disagrees with.

ONE CAN ONLY THINK that Steve Baxter had ideology on his mind, in a recent podcast, he compared those who are in favour of a fibre-based NBN with "anti-vaxxers". It is simply too ridiculous to take this otherwise respected ICT businessman seriously on this issue.

He seems to argue that people who favour an FttH NBN are ideologists similar to anti-vaxxers. If we look at FttH developments in Europe, Asia and North America, I am wondering what Steve thinks of all those hundreds of millions of people who love their FttH connection in those countries.

Is it possible that Steve has his own form of ideology as some sort of an “anti-FttHer”? This would be very remarkable as he himself has built several fibre networks. This would make him one of the very few ICT experts who are not in favour of fibre networks and I don’t think that is the case.

It would have been helpful if he had taken the ideology out of his comments and discussed the arguments in a more rational way. His key arguments are in relation to NBN wholesale pricing. I have absolutely no issue with him on those matters — to the contrary, I am on record of supporting a drastic reform of the NBN wholesale prices. I am also on record that, whatever NBN technology we choose, in the end, it must result in affordable end-user prices.

Having said that, I believe that an FttH/FttC solution for the NBN is the best one and even the current Liberal Government has indicated that an FttH or FttC is the preferred “end solution” for the NBN.

What I believe might be a fundamental difference between my philosophy regarding the NBN and Steve’s one is that I see significant national economic and social benefits in a high-quality NBN. As a result, these and other infrastructure projects nearly always involve the government. As a key stakeholder in the success of the NBN, government can also be financially involved in such a national infrastructure project.

Of course, as many people will argue after ten years of botched NBN policies, having the Government involved in the NBN has turned out to be a disaster. However, Australia is the only developed country I know of in which telecom policies have become a politicised issue. Everywhere else, such policy gets cross-party support.

Through proper collaboration, we could have had a fibre-based plan for the NBN and affordable pricing. However, we never had a proper bipartisan long-term vision and subsequent strategy for such a plan, hence both the infrastructure and pricing troubles.

So, rather than fuelling the already heavily-politicised NBN debate to compare the promoters of FttH with anti-vaxxers, it would have been more helpful if he had concentrated on the different issues of pricing and infrastructure, and provided a rational approach to both these issues. With proper bipartisan support, and a collaboration between government, industry and the larger community, we can find the best solutions for both these issues.

With his scathing criticism on anything to do with Labor, the unions and academics, whom he seems to blame for all of the troubles with the NBN, it would be interesting to know what he thinks of Malcolm Turnbull’s suggestion for governments now, not only intervening in national telecoms networks, but, this time, also in the international manufacturing market. After all, the suggestion was not made by Labor, the unions or academics, but by a Liberal politician.

Paul Budde is managing director of Paul Budde Communication, an independent telecommunications research and consultancy organisation. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBudde

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