Monday, September 10, 2012

Complacent Monopoly Unlikely to Innovate


Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull says a monopoly service provider would not push itself to improve its effectiveness and efficiency for customers.

Mr Turnbull responded to a speech on Monday by NBN Co chairman Harrison Young, who said a natural monopoly could serve the entire market at a lower cost than at least two suppliers.

This thesis denied the "dynamic, creative forces" that only competition could deliver in the market, Mr Turnbull said.

"A monopoly is always likely to be complacent - there is nothing to stir it to innovate, to improve its efficiency," he said in his blog on Monday.

Mr Turnbull said the opposition supported all Australians having access to very fast broadband but it preferred the private sector to deliver that aim in a competitive environment rather than by a government-owned monopoly provider.

The coalition has criticised Labor's $37.4 billion national broadband network (NBN) as too slow and too costly.

Under Labor's plan, NBN Co will deliver high-speed fibre-optic cable to 93 per cent of homes, schools and businesses by 2021, with fixed wireless and satellite technology to provide the rest of Australia by 2015.

Mr Turnbull opposes the NBN's plan to roll out fibre to the home in Australia, preferring a mix of technologies including fibre, cable, wireless and copper.

Mr Young said ongoing analysis of NBN's plan was "good".

"We are spending a lot of the public's money," he said in his speech at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia event in Sydney on Monday.

"There ought to be scrutiny of our plans and performance."

He said the potential cost savings of a fibre-to-the-node network would depend on how far ahead planners looked.

The coalition has said it prefers a mix of technologies to provide broadband services as quickly and as cost effectively as possible.

As part of the coalition's policy, fibre-to-the-node (or corner) would underpin a significant part of its plan to provide broadband across Australia.

Mr Young said maintaining the copper that connected the nodes to the premises and coping with inherited information technology systems were both dear.

"The apparent cost advantage of fibre to the node decreases as you lengthen the time frame you look at," he said.