Questions for Albanese

July 1, 2013
Communications & Broadband

Incumbent Broadband Minister Anthony Albanese must urgently explain why a quarter of houses ‘passed’ by the National Broadband Network can’t actually get a service over the new network.

The NBN Co is now a project in crisis.  News that the company is seeking a new CEO only confirms that the dysfunctional revolving door culture of NSW Labor has now infected the NBN Co itself. Mr Quigley’s contract was renewed for three years in March – now the Chairman is seeking to replace him.

It is clear that in its struggle to meet rollout targets that are now just 15 per cent of the original forecast, the NBN is cynically doctoring its numbers to hide the full scale of its failure.

Latest statistics by Point Topic show that there were 12 million new FTTx[1] subscribers in the past quarter compared to less than 1 million new FTTH subscribers.  These numbers show how far divorced from industry best-practice is the NBN rollout.

Last week British Telecom’s Managing Director of Network Investment told CrossTalk that – even for one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated telcos – fibre to the premise had proven to be more expensive and complex than originally thought:

“The last few hundred metres which we’ve got existing copper for, it’s very expensive and not to mention disruptive to the customers or to the businesses, to deploy fibre over that last drop. We found it was significantly more expensive and also took a lot longer – it had a much more complex provision process.”

The new Minister now must urgently answer basic questions about the NBN project:

  • How many houses has the NBN Co passed, for its brownfield fibre rollout, greenfields fibre rollout and fixed wireless rollout as of June 30?
  • How many houses can actually connect to the network? How many active connections does the NBN Co have in its brownfield fibre, greenfields fibre, fixed wireless and interim satellite service networks?
  • Does he have confidence in Mike Quigley as CEO of the NBN Co?
  • Has the Chair of the NBN Co engaged Egon Zehnder to find a new CEO with the support of the Government?
  • If not, why is the Minister allowing in-fighting at the NBN Co overshadow its primary goal of connecting Australian homes to the network?
  • Has the Minister been presented with a revised Corporate Plan for the NBN Co?
  • If so, will it be publicly released before the end of the project? Has the Minister received any advice from the NBN Co in connecting houses which can’t currently access the network, such as using a VDSL solution?
  • Does the Minister still agree with his statement that infrastructure funds should only be “allocated after a rigorous cost-benefit analysis of what each project will contribute to national productivity”[2]? 
  • Why doesn’t this apply to the NBN?  Will the Minister now commit to a cost-benefit analysis of the NBN? 

[1] FTTx is a generic term, including fibre to the node, fibre to the curb and fibre to the basement.

[2] Quoted in The Australian, 23 May 2008, p.4 

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