Pirate Party NBN Policy

Current Policy is FTTP-only for the National Broadband Network:

Support for fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure projects
The current copper network is not sufficient to meet the requirements of a growing digital society. A fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure project that connects the majority of Australians to a fibre network, where economically feasible, is fundamental to the creation of a vibrant digital society in Australia."

I think it is very scant and outdated for 2016. I know this is an issue close to our hearts as digital pioneers.

FTTdp (Fibre-To-The-distribution-point)

Recently there has been a lot of noise about FTTdp. I know that FTTdp is just another fancy term that has recently come up, but I believe that FTTdp is a feasible cost-saving alternative which does not impede upgrading to a fully fledged GPON FTTP for a reasonable cost.

Here is a good doc which explains it well: http://telsoc.org/ajtde/2014-03-v2-n1/a26

In a nutshell:
FTTdp means is that Fibre-optics are run down the street in exactly the same way as a fully-fledged Fibre-To-The-Premises. It is compatible with and upgradeable to FTTP at any point in the future. The difference is that it stops short of actually entering each individual premises, where it uses the existing copper from there instead.

Entering each and every premises is extremely costly, time-consuming activity because every property is different (eg: Installation challenges, Owners, body corporate, etc.). It is a major obstacle when whole point of NBN is to provide universal access, and if not everyone gets onto the network then potential revenue needed to help recover the cost of it is missed.

Policy Proposal

I would support FTTPdp subject to the following conditions:

  • FTTP Upgrades available to everyone on the FTTdp network, at any time, if they are willing to pay for it.
  • Surveys sent out to all properties before design phase, to gauge interest of who will take up an NBN service first, and who will be skipping straight to a FTTP upgrade
  • FTTP Upgrades will be possible in two ways.
    Option A:
    NBNCo provides full installation of Fibre Lead-In (at a highly marked up cost to help fill the coffers)
    Option B:
    NBNCo provides the lead in up to the property boundary with a pre-spliced Fibre run, and then it is up to the property owner to hire a Licensed cabler to complete the rest. Doing their own trenching (according to appropriate safety regulations and 0011 Dial before you dig) is also permitted to reduce cost. This is the most cost-effective market-based approach to install a lead in, as installers are marketing directly to the customer, it’s the customers’ responsibility to organise it, and installers can customise it to the customers requirements and add other value-add services (i.e. setup home entertainment, computers, Wi-Fi, LAN network points across the building, etc.)
  • Those who skip straight to FTTP get a small discount (Maybe equivalent to Option B?) to reflect the cost savings of not having to install a FTTdp micronode port for them, and to encourage owners take on some of the cost.
  • FTTdp Micro-nodes are to be Reverse-power feeding (RPF)-only so that new lines for power do not need to be run to the Pit (If this means that even customers who have upgraded to FTTP will be required to keep their copper line so that they can help feed power for their neighbours too, then so be it.)

FTTP and FTTdp

Policy Proposal

  • Default to NO to an NBN Backup Battery
  • Charge Extra to get one, unless there is a medical condition involved.

NBN Backup batteries are a huge environmental and monetary waste. They add install time.
Even if you have them, the number of hours it provides backup for is limited to only a short time (because FTTP/FTTdp is too power hungry for the batteries to handle).

At the end of the Batteries useful life (about 2 years) they need to be disposed of and replaced. They use valuable metals inside which would be better put towards other purposes.

A far better backup solution would be to have a 3G/4G module in the customer’s phone/internet which acts the same as a mobile phone instead.

If an emergency call is required while the NBN is down, the module (which is backed by a small mobile phone battery) can make phone calls like a regular mobile phone would, or access the internet over 3G or 4G. Basic services to allow 000 calls will be free, but the customer or the RSP will have the option of adding a SIM card to provide extra redundancy for those who want it.

Telephone-only customers and very low internet usage customers

It’s an absolute waste to install broadband services in such a case when commercial 3G and 4G networks are more than capable of handling voice-only and low bandwidth traffic.

Policy Proposal

  • Adapters that convert PSTN handsets/alarms to send/receive their calls using regular 3G phone calls should become more common. ACMA should allow local number porting (eg: (03) 9999 9999) onto a mobile service (obviously cost of a local call for a caller to such a number)
  • Mobile Phone providers can make up their own pricing scheme to market conditions
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HFC Networks (Cable Internet)

NBNCo (Under the Liberal Government) has already purchased the Telstra HFC network as part of the $11.2 billion deal, plus a further $1.6 billion over the next 4 years to upgrade it, plus $800 million for the Optus HFC network, plus an amount not yet determined to upgrade that one too.

Safe to say that we are stuck with the two HFC networks which has cost us billions.

HFC networks are severely limited by their very design.

You will hear that “They can offer download speeds exceeding 100Mbps!”, however this is only a Peak speed. This speed can not be reliably sustained during busy times, and this is why these services are not marketed to businesses.

HFC networks were originally designed to deliver only Cable TV, where everyone is watching exactly the same show at the same time, and internet was just an afterthought. It does not scale well for internet use.

HFC networks require very careful management of the network from top to bottom to make sure that there is an even distribution of usage across nodes, including the use of bandwidth quotas and price controls to prevent excessive usage.

This naturally makes an HFC network only practical when it is managed top-to-bottom by one company, usually a monopoly. I am not aware of any HFC network in the world who offers wholesale access. When Optus originally started building their HFC network in 1995, Telstra followed down the street after them with their own HFC network to overbuild them, rather than join forces.

Optus in an effort to maximise the price they could sell their network for, started offering some relatively cheap unlimited plans on their cable network to get as many subscribers as possible, which had the dramatic effect of oversubscribing their network to the point that some nodes are slowed to a crippling speed during busy times. If there was an even larger influx of users by putting every user on it with NBN, the network would be absolutely crippled without major upgrades

Policy Proposal
Option A
Cut our losses and sell it off, even though we will still make a massive loss, and let the buyer work it how to make it competitive. Give them a period of exclusivity (There will still be competition with the ADSL2+ network) since it will be a while before NBNCo will be ready to overbuild those areas anyway while it focuses on non-HFC areas. It will still probably be a huge loss anyway.

Option B
Try and fix it ourselves

Technology overview
A Fibre-optic cable is run to a Fibre Optic Node, which serves an entire neighbourhood with a single Coaxial cable which is shared among all users. The capacity is limited by the actual cable itself, capacity can only be increased by making the segments smaller (node splitting is quite an expensive process). The only other alternative is to reduce usage.

Plan if we tried to fix it ourselves:

  • Do not even attempt to wholesale it, it would be a futile exercise to create this technology from scratch. Instead, NBNCo runs everything from top to bottom including backhaul, and simply resells the services directly to RSPs from a billing perspective. Perhaps offer a “whitelabel” option so an RSP can put their logo/name on customer-facing screens.
  • NBN IP Multicast service should be a top priority for the HFC Network. This saves bandwidth to deliver the same popular content to all users on the same node at once.
  • Encourage off-peak data usage.
  • Reduce bandwidth usage of the network’s biggest user - Foxtel. The majority of the bandwidth on the HFC networks is taken up by Foxtel to push out all their channels at once to all users, and this is doubled up on both the Telstra and Optus HFC networks. So for two HFC networks going down the same street, both are mainly being utilised to push out the exact same content.
    Reducing Foxtel’s footprint is complicated by the fact that the sale of the HFC networks stipulate that Foxtel is to stay, so some renegotiation is required.
  • Attempt to renegotiate with Foxtel to convince them to switch to be fully IPTV, which will allow distribution of the channels to be done fully over the NBN IP Multicast service. They will probably have to upgrade all their customers to an IQ3 which already has this functionality (probably needs a little bit of Firmware rework). Being fully-IPTV means that Foxtel content can be delivered with more efficient formats like H.265 and channels not currently being watched on that particular node don’t need to be multicasted to that node.
  • A possible card to play in negotiations is to give Foxtel discounted access to the NBN IP Multicast network, with a sweetener to open access to the NBN IP Multicast network on other networks as well like Fixed Wireless, FTTP/FTTdp etc. greatly reducing their service delivery costs in exchange for favourable terms of getting off the HFC network directly.
  • Use bandwidth recovered from Foxtel to handle more users for up to 100Mbps download, minimum 2Mbps upload, and if there is any capacity left over, put it towards more upload speed.
  • Where necessary, Split nodes. Split nodes back-to-back if possible so that the same Fibre strand can be used for both nodes instead of one (will have to upgrade the Fibre strand to handle 2 nodes at once).
  • If new Fibre needs to be run to the node, make sure there are of the same spec that would support being repurposed for FTTP in the future (even if this is a bit more expensive).
  • FTTdp/FTTP to be run to areas where there is already a low take-up of HFC lead-ins ever being installed to premises in that area, such as commercial premises and MDUs (who in the past have been ineligible for HFC installs under Optus/Telstra except in rare cases) or they just plain didn’t get many customers in that area.
  • Aerial HFC Lead-In preferred (i.e. area already has a lot of HFC lead-ins and that premises is one of the odd-one outs).
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CVC Pricing

In order for NBNCo to eventually turn a profit, they need to have a pricing model that they charge to earn revenue.

The business model chosen is that they charge Retail Service Providers (RSPs) to components, an AVC Charge (eg: connects to the end user as 12/1, 25/5, 25/10, 50/20 or 100/40 - in download/upload megabits) as well as the CVC charge which is the Backhaul to actually make that connection go back to the RSP and the internet itself, which is charged by the megabit and is shared among multiple users.

CVC doesn’t actually have an intrinsic “Cost” to NBNCo (other than the cost to build the network itself) but they had to draw a line in the sand to make a price and get some revenue.

What the industry is currently saying is that the CVC charge is currently too high. What this is doing is causing RSPs to compete more aggressively on price with one another because this is what the market demands, and to do that they need to cut costs. To cut costs they are stretching out that CVC among more users, but the result is that their customers are getting terrible speeds in busy times, and at the end of the day they are not getting the speed they are paying for - eg: 100/40 (100Mbps Download / 40Mbps Upload) - at all times that they want it,

To give us an indication of how expensive it actually is for them, Industry has said that it actually costs them more on the NBN CVC charge than it does to actually buy International internet bandwidth, when really it should be the other way around with local access cheaper.

RSP buys 100Mbps CVC from NBNCo, 100Mbps @ $17.50 per Mbps = $1750 for 100Mbps.
100Mbps shared among 50 users = $35 per user.
Add other costs like the AVC, Backhaul, International, Administration costs etc. A 1:50 contention would very heavily eat into their profit margin.

There is a challenge that previously ISPs on the ADSL/ADSL2+ network were dealing with a range of customers with access speeds ranging from 0.1Mbps to 24Mbps, so on average, they might only needed to account for speeds of around 12Mbps. Now that the access speeds are greater, the costs to supply a greater speed is much higher.

Policy Proposal:

  • Work with ISPs to identify exactly what would be a fair price would be to deliver a 25/5 NBN service with a similar contention ratio and a similar price similar to an ADSL2+ service.
    For example, If a customer previously paid $60 per month for a heavily contended Unlimited ADSL2+ service, they should be able to pay $60 per month for a heavily contended Unlimited NBN 25/5 service.
    If a customer previously paid $80 per month for a lightly contended 200GB ADSL2+, they should be able to get the same under NBN
  • Direct the ACCC to enforce contention ratios advertising, so that customers get what they pay for with clear advertising of what to expect. If a service is likely to be heavily contended (eg: Unlimited or Budget brand) then the ISP should say so. If the customer is paying for a good quality service, that’s what they should get. The aim is to take the customers opinion away from “NBN” getting the blame if it’s not their fault, over to the RSP taking the blame for being so stingy with the CVC or not advertising their contention ratios fairly.
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Fibre to the Node

Policy Proposal
It’s not too late to cancel it.

Existing contracts renegotiated into a FTTdp solution if it’s not needed anymore.


Policy Proposal
Leave as-is. Just try and extend reach with other technologies as much as possible.

Don’t use it for in-fill of NBN blackspots if at all possible. Subsidise commercial 3G and 4G networks (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Vivid, soon iiNet) if necessary, so that nobody who was previously able to get ADSL but now can’t get NBN isn’t left behind

If we ever get to the point that there is enough extra capacity for it, give some access to the Australian Overseas Territories Islands (eg: Norfolk Island) if technically feasible and no expensive changes necessary.

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Fixed Wireless

Policy Proposal

  • Sell extra capacity of 4G to commercial networks for their customers to roam onto (Priority goes to NBN customers
  • Buy capacity on commercial 4G networks (eg: Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, soon iiNet) where it is more economically feasible than building an NBN Tower
  • Voice traffic to use VoLTE
  • Pioneer LTE technology that can give emergency services priority access to a public-access network in case of a disaster, to the point the technology could one day replace dedicated emergency-services spectrum that is currently taking up valuable space in the 800mhz band, even though emergency services is also using LTE. One day the two LTE networks (and possibly commercial networks too, if they choose) could combine to share the spectrum more efficiently across all users.
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High Upload Speeds

Proposed Policy
The Pirate Party believes that upload speeds are very important, and is the cornerstone to making data intensive content creation possible to easily share with the world.

This is particularly a huge competitive advantage to Australian businesses who want to export their digital goods overseas.

For everyday users, general internet speeds will be much snappier to respond and video conferencing will be crystal clear for the other party to see you too.

A new marketplace will open up for online backups which will offer greater resiliency, more features, and less cost in many cases instead of relying on backup hard drives as your only option, which are prone to fail.

Currently with slow upload speeds, uploading a lot of data to services such as Dropbox could take months if you have a lot of photos you want to keep safe.

  • Upload speed to be maximised as much as network capacity permits. Aim for at least 10Mbps across all delivery technologies if possible.

  • FTTP tier 12/1 upped to 12/10 and 25/5 abolished into existing 25/10

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I’ve been thinking about this for some time. What we know as “The NBN” is nothing special. It’s what the phone network could have become, if we hadn’t screwed it up.

It follows that the Party doesn’t need an NBN policy. What we need is a telecommunications policy. Broadly, we should aim for equitable access to a comprehensive, integrated and coordinated network.

A while back, I started doing a bit of a write-up. It’s still very much a work-in-progress. Access it here, if you’re interested.


I guess the policy proposal would be found in (see the source for links):

Remedy past mistakes

Return infrastructure to public ownership.

Separate Telstra into retail and wholesale/infrastructure arms. The best mechanism I’ve been able to come up with takes the form of a de-merger. Telstra is split into two companies, with shareholders given shares in each proportional to their current Telstra shareholding. Government then acquires all shares in the wholesale/infrastructure company, at value.

Return radio frequency spectrum to public control. The easiest way would probably be to not renew spectrum licences as they expire. Associated assets of providers other than Telstra could be acquired at value, where economically and operationally rational.

Establish a statutory Commission to provide telecommunications infrastructure and wholesale services. Vest in the Commission all infrastructure and wholesale assets formerly held by Telstra and NBN™.

Build into the future

Optical fibre will evidently serve for at least a century. We therefore need to plan on that time-scale. Clearly, the Telecommunications Commission will need statutory protections from the short-term opportunism characteristic of Australian politics in the 21st Century.

Our forebears were not afraid of the future. For the telecommunications network, they lay copper with no end in sight. The rational limit was the length of cable that could be replaced within the service life of copper. That limit increased as muscle gave way to internal combustion and pen & paper to computer processing, accelerating the speed at which lines could be replaced. As we’ve seen, the service life of optical fibre is several times that of copper. I believe that, with so much time to work in, we could feasibly implement fibre to every premises on the mainland, Tasmania and many other islands.

It won’t happen overnight; stop-gaps will be needed. Satellite is the ultimate stop-gap; there’s not much of the face of the Earth that’s out of view of a satellite. Sadly, as the draconian “fair use policy” attests, ill-advised penny-pinching such as relegating entire communities to satellite has overloaded currently-provisioned capacity, but rapid deployment of terrestrial infrastructure might mitigate the need for more. Fixed wireless is of limited capacity, has a relatively short service life and is costly to run so the less we rely on it the better, but it is useful in the short term. I doubt there are any premises that are within range of fixed wireless that can’t eventually be reached by fibre. Long-term, the role of fixed wireless is little to none.

The resources of government are not infinite. Much can be accomplished, but it takes time. Members of communities such as BIRRR have repeatedly shown a willingness to do it themselves. As one of those involved in England’s B4RN commented, basic skills for working with optical fibre are not difficult to master. The Commission should encourage and facilitate. It should not unnecessarily obstruct those who seek to help themselves, but instead assist in any way possible.

What of mobiles? The mobile system uses the fixed-line network to connect to the rest of the world. As fixed-line infrastructure advances, so can the mobile network. With a sufficiently comprehensive fixed-line network, there’s no reason why the mobile network couldn’t cover well over 95% of Australia’s landmass. If, however, the job of providing mobile coverage is left to the private sector, experience shows that the most profitable areas will be served to excess, while others are under-served or not served at all. The private sector cherry-picks profitable markets, then puts out its hand for public sector subsidies to cover the rest. Paying for the unprofitable with revenue from the more lucrative would be far less indecent.

The network should not be run for profit. All income generated must be dedicated to maintenance & expansion of the network and associated research & development. The Commission must have statutory protections from becoming a cash-cow for general revenue. Government will benefit enough from increased productivity and well-being flowing from enhanced communications.

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To a couple of politicians (Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon and The Nationals’ Fiona Nash), I’ve put the following:
What is your party’s hundred-year plan for Australia’s telecommunications infrastructure? What is your vision for the network in ten, twenty and fifty years’ time?
The Pirate Party should aim to have answers.

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I agree with your sentiments David and our policy should be as broad as you say, however to fix past mistakes and buy back parts of Telstra seems too difficult, Telstra will never loosen their grip and the best option at this point is to overbuild their obsolete fixed line network, and keep it public this time much like other critical infrastructure such as roads.

Also to essentially buy out all the mobile networks seems like a monumental task for little benefit. Let’s fix other things before we worry about forgoing billions of revenue lost in not having spectrum auctions and having the government running a universal mobile network instead. If anything just start small as an extra provider serving regional blackspots that commercial networks can roam onto, rather than give free money to commercial networks to build their network for them. Could work on the same backend/expertise as NBN fixed wireless

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I have to disagree. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to build a stable telecommunications infrastructure without first attending to the rotten foundations.

Replace the foundations, that’s why NBNCo was created rather than getting Telstra to build it. The Foundations just can’t be fixed by using Telstra, it’s been tried for many years, but their grip is just too strong.

At the end of the day, Telstra’s assets are not considered “public” anymore (Legally, they bought them fair and square right?) and it’s extremely hard to tell a private company what to do.

NBNCo was created to attend to a fraction of the telecommunications network. It’s a creature of politics. We need to think beyond the NBN. Our problem is far broader than that.

[quote=“Simon, post:12, topic:727”]
The Foundations just can’t be fixed by using Telstra,[/quote]
Little can be achieved by ignoring Telstra. It’s in the way.

It’s not unusual for private assets to be resumed for the public good. Think homes that need to go for highways to be built. If a family’s home can be taken (and it happens regularly, with every urban expressway) then why not a bit of a company? That said, with a company like Telstra and radical market fundamentalists like the Liberals, it will be an entertaining bunfight.

I’d like to do it, if only to spite the Market Orthodox dominance.

I noticed that there is a Internet Engineering Committee Meeting coming up on April 20. Would that be an appropriate place to discuss this topic?

The terms of reference for the Internet Engineering Committee read:

The Internet Engineering Committee (IEC) is established in order to provide a formal framework to respond to the ever-changing nature of Internet protocols and web standards. The IEC provides a response to efforts to undermine the security of the Internet and weaken core web standards.

Telecommunications infrastructure might be a bit out of scope.

Something else we haven’t really touched on, that relates to both NBN and telecomms more generally - peering.

I’m sure a number of us saw this post at the time:

Australia is the most expensive region in which we operate, but for an interesting reason. We peer with virtually every ISP in the region except one: Telstra. Telstra, which controls approximately 50% of the market, and was traditionally the monopoly telecom provider, charges some of the highest transit pricing in the world — 20x the benchmark ($200/Mbps). Given that we are able to peer approximately half of our traffic, the effective bandwidth benchmark price is $100/Mbps.
To give you some sense of how out-of-whack Australia is, at CloudFlare we pay about as much every month for bandwidth to serve all of Europe as we do to for Australia. That’s in spite of the fact that approximately 33x the number of people live in Europe (750 million) versus Australia (22 million).

There’s apparently some fun history here with the ACCC forcing the big ISPs to peer at all (but, unfortunately, not with everyone).

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An appropriate place to discuss this would be a Policy Development Committee Working Group, which they create on a case-by-case basis. Email policydev@pirateparty.org.au.