Telstra copper network an 'absolute disgrace': Comms Union

Telstra copper network an 'absolute disgrace': Comms Union

Summary: A communications union official has said that Telstra is 'hiding behind the statistics' for the quality of its copper network, and that the network is much worse than even Telstra knows.

TOPICS: NBN, Government, Telstra

The Communications, Electrical, Plumbing Union (CEPU), which represents Telstra employees and contractors, has said that since the privatisation of Telstra, the company has let the copper network degrade to a state of "absolute disgrace" that would be unfit to form the basis of the fibre-to-the-node National Broadband Network (NBN).

CEPU official Shane Murphy today fronted the new Senate Select inquiry into the National Broadband Network (NBN), demonstrating anecdotal evidence collected from union members into the state of the copper network, with cables exposed in many places and other cables protected by plastic bags.

Telstra's CEO David Thodey and wholesale head Stuart Lee have recently said that the network is in good condition, and is repaired as required, but Murphy said that since the privatisation of Telstra in the late '90s and the turn of the century, Telstra has "driven a culture of quantity over quality", where employees are "band-aiding the network" quickly and moving onto other jobs.

"Telstra can now not even determine the extent of the damage, or how bad it is. [It has] degenerated to an absolute disgrace and nearly beyond repair," he said.

"Telstra relies upon statistics to continually hide from the real problem of how bad the copper network is. What the union relies upon is actual evidence provided by workers ... at job sites around the country."

Murphy's claim that Telstra is unaware of the status of its network comes just days after Telstra's chief risk officer said that the company is reliant on the public to inform the company when they discover pits suspected of containing deadly asbestos material.

The Department of Communications and the Department of Finance first fronted the committee this morning, where the Department of Communications faced heated questioning from former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy over the Coalition government's proposed fibre-to-the-node network.

Department of Communications Deputy Secretary Ian Robinson confirmed that NBN Co could face a larger fall in revenue than currently projected under the existing plan, due to users unable to take up higher-speed plans on a fibre-to-the-node network, as well as through other factors, such as competing networks like Telstra and Optus' HFC networks.

"The overall revenue impact depends where they are rolling out as an alternative to those areas," he said.

"In an area where only fibre to the node is available, they will not be able to access those [higher-speed plans]."

The department is currently undertaking a review of access to broadband in Australia, as directed by Turnbull in one of the key reviews he promised before the election. But the review will be "high level", Robinson said, with the department to only be looking at the access to ADSL, HFC, and other networks, as well as the availability of fibre transit across the country, rather than determining the quality of the copper network down every street.

The Department of Communications is set to return before the committee tomorrow, along with NBN Co executives who have been summonsed to appear before the committee.

The membership of the committee is made up of three Labor senators and one Greens senator. The Coalition is allowed to appoint three of its own to the committee, but it is understood that the government didn't nominate any senators prior to today's hearing.

Topics: NBN, Government, Telstra


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • People should photograph it and make videos of it

    If anyone is having their phone line repaired, they should walk out onto the street and take photos and videos as the repair is taking place.

    Get some shots of the waterlogged holes, and the degraded strands of wire with temporary insulation. Give the photos / videos to your local media organisation.
    • I can send you a photo any time you like?

      There has been telstra wires out the front of my house completely exposed on a box thing, has been like that for years. There was a yellow gate there surrounding it but it kept on blowing onto the driveway so we took it out the back to use for something else. My internet is basically as slow as you can get before they will do something about it (*650kbs) which is hillarious considering its on their ADSL 2+ 24mbs plan. I get they say 24Mbs is the highest it could possibly be and not everyone will get those speeds, but how is 0.6mbs even close? its barely better than dialup
      Joe Demmery
  • This news doesn't surprise me. Don't forget this is the garbage the coalition clowns want to shell out billions of taxpayers money to Telstra for because they dont have the foresight to see beyond 2016... I'm sure they wont have any problem getting every fixed line up to 25mbps in the next 1127 days either.
    Hubert Cumberdale
  • It's been like it for years!

    Some friends 3 years ago had trouble with their landline, eventually after much harrassing Telstra or their contractors came out to sort it out. They laid a temporary line along a fence and through several trees with cable ties. Then our friends were told that there were actually 10 lines to their house and the only neighbours already so they'd have to wait for a proper new line to be laid. The hole at the top of their road remained open with a barrier around it for 2 years and I don't know if it is still the same. This was 1.5klms out of a small North Queensland town. Nearly 18 years ago we knew of somebody that built a new house and applied for a landline to be laid. After many months Telstra responded that they had run out of copper wire for the whole country because the person who used to order it had been made redundant! These debacles have been going on for decades I really believe.
  • but its all good...

    ... as Thodey slashes the number of technicians and support staff, to shore up shareholder returns and his own bonuses...