Conroy ignored industry on NBN: Slattery

Conroy ignored industry on NBN: Slattery

Summary: Three of the members of the newly formed Alliance for Affordable Broadband have said that there was no discussion with the telecommunications industry as a whole about whether the National Broadband Network should exist.

TOPICS: NBN, Broadband

Three of the members of the newly formed Alliance for Affordable Broadband have said that there was never any discussion with the telecommunications industry as a whole about whether the National Broadband Network should exist.

"The vast majority of carriers have received zero contact with the government," Paul Wallace, Polyfone CEO, told ZDNet Australia.

"Not a sausage. Not an email."

In fact, according to Pipe Networks founder Bevan Slattery, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy formed its fibre-to-the-home plan on a metaphorical island consisting of the minister, the department and consultants.

He said the proposal was created in a "closed loop of people who have to have little-to-no experience in deploying networks".

Only the larger end of the telco town, which publicly supported the NBN view, were consulted, Slattery said.

Although there had been a lot of communication with the government after the fibre-to-the-home proposal was decided on to talk about technical aspects, Vocus CEO James Spenceley said that there wasn't a general reach out to industry on costing and architecture.

"If we're the only country looking at 93 per cent and have the least dense population, why are we missing a costing?" he asked. "The absence of costing has to be an absolute red flag." He believed there should have been open forums that ran over a long time where every carrier was involved.

"I was never consulted on it," he said.

Spenceley said that if the government was going to completely revolutionise the industry, an open forum discussion in public over a long time was necessary.

Slattery described the process towards fibre to the home as a kind of comedy of errors.

"The real situation was that the government had promised under NBN to deliver a fibre-to-the-node network by the end of their term," he said.

For this to occur, he said, it was necessary for Telstra to play ball. When Telstra didn't, the government was "left in the situation where they couldn't deliver their election promise".

It couldn't talk to industry about the situation, Slattery said, because if the government did, everyone would have known what a cock-up it was.

So it took a suggestion out of the expert panel's report and found another way to strong-arm Telstra — fibre to the home.

It has now been over a year since that decision was made, and in Slattery's eyes, Telstra has won the boxing match with the government. "It's done really well," he said.

The consequences

Slattery was concerned that the NBN could widen the digital divide between those who can afford to pay for broadband and those who can't. Whether this turns out to be true will depend on what access prices are placed on the network, a figure that has not yet been set.

He also feared that innovation will be stifled by NBN Co's monopoly.

"NBN Co will have no competitive reason to provide competitive products for retail providers," he said.

Wallace said that the industry had already suffered in the innovation stakes, with venture capital funds turning off the tap until certainty returns.

"Since they announced this thing, [venture capitals] totally and utterly stopped investing in this space," he said.

Wallace thought that the NBN was a business killer for many of those in the telco market.

"Here we are, a regular carrier, with the NBN about to compete as another wholesale provider," he said.

In communism, governments take your business and gave you a job, he said. In medieval times, rulers took your business and axed your brains, he continued. What was happening with the NBN was somewhere in between, he believed.

In response to comments that the Alliance for Affordable Broadband was created out of self-interest rather than those of the nation to say no to the NBN, Wallace said only: "Yes, it's in our self interests. To stay alive."

Topics: NBN, Broadband

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • Wow, these company's actually want to keep being monopolized and ripped off by Telstra then blaming them for service delivery issues, They also have not even come close to providing the quality or level of broadband service the NBN will do for everyone in the country and not just some rich suburbs.
  • I think you will find Pipe Networks (Wholesale backhaul provider) might find the NBN a bit threatening...they wont need to exist.

    Whats good for consumers is not good for everyone in this case. Not good for Telstra, Pipe, or any other group with significant investment in backhaul fiber.
  • What 'level of broadband service the NBN will do for everyone', it hasn't even been built yet?
  • Why am I surprised Conroy didn't consult with anyone credible whilst dreaming up this scheme.

    NBN shouldn't be about fibre or WiFi, or any specific technology. The NBN should be about delivering a service....via the most appropriate means. This means different regions, customers may be better served with different technologies.

    Do we need an NBN? Only in that it would more effective to ensure Australia has a robust, high capacity communications backbone, which is delivered to the end user via the most appropriate technologies to suit their needs.
    Scott W-ef9ad
  • Slattery - your parent company was consulted I think...TPG?

    And calling the govt communists does not help your cause. Oh and how does covering 93% of the country, and 100% of the telephone network cause a divide exactly?

    C'mon mate - tell us the wanted to build fibre networks in the CBD's of Australia, and the govt beat you to it. Get over it and get on board :)
  • The Government (if it stays in) is headed for a big fall and will take down Australia down with it. The Australian public and most of the IT community have been blinded by NBN's 1Gbps worth of flashing lights and pretty packaging. The 1 Gbps argument is not sustainable. Why ?
    In terms of Internet Australia is a nation of eyeballers ie we pull and view traffic from overseas - predominately the US. The 43 billion committed by the Governement does not include any money to build the necessary submarine cable capacity, backhaul & peering infrastructure required to carry the volume of Internet traffic (if everyone had access to 1 Gbps) nor does the technology exist today. The current design capacity of submarine systems are 1 -2 Tbps making use of DWDM technology and 10G wavelengths. The cost to build these systems are huge. The solution is what happens today - contention. To make it cost effective all users share the available bandwidth. The 1 Gbps suddenly becomes 2 - 5 Mbps ... I wish someone in the Government will start listening to the Telsecommunications Industry ...
  • LOL... a few have had their feelings hurt because they weren't consulted...

    The "vast majority of carriers received zero"! So some, if not a few, if not many... were actually consulted?

    Now this is not intended as being personal in any way, it is a simple analogy only! So let's face it, when you are building kennels, you consult the masters, not the dogs.
  • Yes RS when you build a kennel you do talk to the masters and not the dogs. thats cause dogs can't talk human. Industry experts on the other hand are able to talk and some actually know what there talking about. Also if the dog won't use the kennel why build it
  • Oh, very deep and very droll always61.

    But in your excitement and sheer wisdom [sic], all you have done is highlight my exact point...the dogs can't talk human, so why even bother talking with them...LOL!

    Go to those who know and whom you will get sense from...!

    You'll catch on eventually... maybe Bev, Paul or wake up Jeff - the Wiggle, can explain it to you!
  • Amongst the tirade of debate from the industry and political rhetoric coming about this topic it is difficult to establish who is being objective and who is just looking out for their own commercial or political interests. All of the industry pundits are either looking to feather their own nests or protect their interests. eg: David Teoh's PIPE networks is claiming unfair as is TPG via the recently announced wireless consortium. Clearly he doesnt want an NBN to level the playing field.

    The right solution to the lack of transparency is to have an objective commercial consultancy build a business case with inputs and review from industry players and the business case assumptions be tested to ensure it is competitive and meets the appropriate benchmarks to not stifle investment or innovation in the sector.

    The real issue here for transparency and accountability is government incompetence to deliver any large project as they are bureaucrats not business people. We need governmental reform such that our politicians have real, commercial business credentials like in Singapore where all polly's are MBA and business qualified.

    I doubt that this will happen any time soon though so I hold my breath and wait for an over priced, horribly expensive network that cannot deliver the 1Gb speeds everyone is claiming as per the astute point identified by flezzkk.
  • "NBN Co will have no competitive reason to provide competitive products for retail providers," - what competitive policy did Telstra use? Holding the industry to ransom seems about the only ploy & since the NBN came into view their status has changed significantly. They're still a bunch of thieving a-holes but at least they can't just screw the telecommunications industry the way they were.

    "It has now been over a year since that decision was made, and in Slattery's eyes, Telstra has won the boxing match with the government." I'd like to know how. Just saying something doesn't make it so. Telstra have had to play ball or become a small organisation competing with a stronger one. Here in Tasmania for example we had 2 fibre-optic cables but only one was being used. It was costing more top send data via Telstra's cable from the mainland to here than from Oz to the USA. No-one was offering ADSL2 or higher because of this. That has changed because of the NBN. Okay, TAS is not the biggest player around but Telstra has screwed with so many smaller zones that something needed to be done. It needed to look legit & hopefully it will become something worthwhile.

    We were being held to ransom by Telstra & businesses & private households paid an extremely high cost for access via Telstra. They were choked into submission & thankfully Telstra have become an untrusted but at least no longer a monopoly player here. They needed this kick-in-the-butt & we needed Telstra to be kicked. Whether the NBN finishes & offers us something better is really an issue that requires a lot more time to develop but to tame Telstra was a huge issue issue & the Gov't came up with something that worked on that one at least.

    Slattery's ideas are no better than Telstra's old ways. You're not playing by my rules so I'm taking my bat & ball & going home. Well guess what Slattery, they've got their own bat & ball & they don't need yours.
  • Rex - you need to find a new argument. The second cable to Tasmania had nothing to do with NBN Co, and was well underway before the NBN Co started - it was turned on and operating well before Tasmania was selected for trials. I am sure it has been very useful in helping with bandwidth for the RSPs participating in the trials - but it is not evidence of NBN innovation.