Don't make the NBN a sideshow

Don't make the NBN a sideshow

Summary: It's understandable that the government would want to show off its achievements for the National Broadband Network (NBN), no matter how minor, but going over the top could risk making people more cynical about the $35.9 billion project.


It's understandable that the government would want to show off its achievements for the National Broadband Network (NBN), no matter how minor, but going over the top could risk making people more cynical about the $35.9 billion project.

A report in The Australian today suggests that NBN Co is close to signing a deal with Thiess-Siemens joint venture Silcar for construction at the second release sites; however, the article said that the revelation of that deal is going to be held off until the government announces the finalisation of the $11 billion deal with Telstra, expected in mid-June.

It wouldn't surprise me if the government wanted to announce all of its good news in an announcement extravaganza. It seems to fit the government's pattern of doing everything in an exaggerated "this is a nation-building project" fashion.

Last Wednesday, we had Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, Independent MP Tony Windsor and NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley all on hand at the Presbyterian Ladies College in Armidale to officially launch NBN services on the mainland. The big yellow-ish button was pushed, and an animation of fibre exploding across the regional town played on the screen.

The only problem was that the service was still on a trial basis, with only seven customers from four retail service providers currently connected to test the network, at no cost to the customer.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy was terribly offended when publications pointed out that only seven customers were using the "turned on" service in Armidale. He's right that there will be many more customers to come; there's no denying that launching in Armidale is a big deal — close to 90 per cent of the owners of the 2900 premises are passed by the fibre, and the University of New England has opted to have the fibre connected to its premises. I wouldn't be surprised if we see hundreds — if not thousands — of Armidale customers jumping onboard for services in September when commercial services actually come online.

But don't get upset at publications telling the truth. Why make a big "Armidale is live" announcement when we could have heard what was really happening — that is, that services were being tested on the newly completed portion of the network?

I can accept that in the face of unrelenting criticism from the opposition, the government would want to get some runs on the board for the NBN. But that's the difficulty with a 10-year massive infrastructure project — the big milestones are few and far between, and don't generally fall in the first few years. So to prematurely pat yourselves on the back for just seven trial customers is just inviting people to be cynical.

The hooplah, singing school children and giant animations at the event just reminded me exactly of the kind of thing that former Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner warned of in his new book Sideshow: the government needing to look like it's doing something, announcing first and getting the work done later.

There are plenty of reasons that the government and NBN Co should be proud in embarking on a massive infrastructure project — and they have achieved so much to date — but give us the full story. We promise we can take it.

Topics: Government, Broadband, Government AU, NBN


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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  • Do you really trust ANYTHING in the Australian written about the NBN?
  • Bob does!
    Knowledge Expert
  • Good piece Josh, problem is some don't realise the difficulty and enormity of this proposed roll-out. So far so good and Senator Conroy must be congratulated for maintaining his sanity under such an intense work load.

    How it ends up only time will tell but let's hope that the restrictive, oppressive and unfair regulation heaped on Telstra before the Telstra split will be a thing of the past and every competitor will be allowed equal regulation.
  • Well done Josh,

    Some proper reporting on how this thing is a total 'cluster'. Even the people working there know it is, but obviously can't say publically.

    And with 'Jedi Knight' Quigley, who is using 'the force' to control his environment, it is a total joke. As I said beofre, number have been crunched and true cost $80-$100 billion by the big T before the NBN. That is why they favoured FTTN.

    They are spending money 'hand over fist' to try and make it look like the project is working. With no construction company, this project should have been on hold "full stop"!

    But with Labor in such a panic mode and Conroy, the will leave the ultimate mess should the libs get back in, only to find this to be and endless money pit for the taxpayer and the government....
    • Can you please supply those numbers from "the big T" for our perusal... thank you.
    • Ooh also Theguy....

      I'm sure Josh has been "doing well', in relation to his articles for quite sometime...

      Thing is, one needs to look at all articles objectively. Not simply laud the writer when he/she writes what your already pre-conceived biased says is correct and call him/her a hack when they don't...!

      Keep up the great impartial work Josh! Because as an NBN supporter, I like to hear the info warts and all and to keep the b^st^rds honest (after all these are mostly politicians, we are dealing with)!

      With that in mind, although I didn't see the Armidale opening, it sounds as though it was more akin to a half time American Super Bowl/football show, than Aussie comms!

      As such I bet Quigley (the one who I was referring to as the exception, when saying mostly politicians, above ) thought WTF am I doing here...LOL!
  • Wasn't there a line in the immortal Yes, Minister series something like... "Politicians need activity, it's their substitute for achievement"?
    • True, we can expect many more politician opportunistic photo shoots in NBN hard hats and safety vests for any conceivable excuse to help push this expensive turkey onto the sucker taxpayers who pay through the nose to have it built then pay through the nose again to use it.
  • And have it pay itself off by 2034 and then be able to be sold for many $bs advocate!

    Yes the sucker taxpayers [sic], then having the best comms network available and paying to access it (EXACTLY AS WE DO NOW...FFS, for sub-standard BS) are really gonna hurt [sic]...

    Please no more of your absolute rubbish, FUDster
    • 2034 LOL - BTW this Saturday Nights Tattslotto numbers are not in the NBN Co documented predictions by any chance?
      • Oh... so the business case YOU demanded and YOU received is now BS...

        Well, I use this as my evidence, so please, now supply YOUR evidence to suggest this is not so...

        We are waiting FUDboy...!
        • The evidence is simple Fizzer it is not 2034 yet.
          • Now demand a CBA...

            Sorry, it must be said, you really are a clown elaine/advocate...!
          • Ooh, I see most aptly, you replied to FUDboy!
  • Rizz,

    All I can say is some of us are deeply (work, live and breath) imbedded in this industry, and are not just 'users' or 'ethusiasts' of telecommunications.

    To request the information what you have asked, is just silly.

    Some believe in the NBN, others have to work with the facts.
    • Indeed ravsta...
    • No, no, no Theguy...

      YOU said said Telstra did the figures and claimed the NBN will cost $80B-$100B...

      As you rattle these figures off, it must therefore be easy for you to show us where you got the info from and show us all...

      So, again I ask you to supply your claimed figures OR be deemed a FOS/liar...!
  • Guy,
    I guess you also expect us to believe your so called "knowledge" of the communications industry is somewhat superior to the grammar & spelling you display when promoting your anti-NBN FUD.
  • I notice some pretty extreme comments made for and against the implementation of the upgrade of Australia's telecommunications network yet no one has made known a viable alternative. Is there no one who can build FTTH cheaper so these so called FUDsters will shut the hell up ?
  • ravsta by Government demand no opponent is allowed to be in competition with the NBN. Therefore your call for other possible builders to come forward is without possibility. Surely you have witnessed the threat and blackmail that was directed at Telstra to force them from competing with the NBN?