Et tu, Internode?

Et tu, Internode?

Summary: Is Hackett the Saruman — the once-good wizard who is seduced by the dark powers of Sauron — of my recent Lord of the Rings scenario? Is something rotten in Renmark — and elsewhere?

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TOPICS: Telcos, Telstra
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If you're a firm believer in coincidence, you might not have made much of the fact that the departure of Telstra COO Greg Winn came during the same week that the NBN expert panel passed in its report to Senator Stephen Conroy.

You certainly would not have questioned the timing of Telstra's late-2008 rural charm offensive, which saw a burst of pre-NBN munificence including but not limited to pay phones for Aboriginal communities, storm relief for Brisbane customers, a tally of its "community spend", its $5.5m investment in southern Queensland, a traditional ceremony to bless its $34 million Arnhem Land trunk, and a technology makeover for rural aged homes.

And that was just over the course of three weeks. But not even the most die-hard optimist can argue that coincidence had any part to play in the curious timing of Internode's announcement, on 26 November. That was the same day that it and its buddies in Terria — the one-time potential telco that is now just another anti-Telstra lobbying group — decided not to submit the bid, letting Optus go it alone while they wave flags from the sidelines.

Simon Hackett
(Credit: Internode)

The quick philosophical turnaround of Internode was followed in close succession by its sudden launch of ADSL2+ services in 46 Tasmanian exchanges and around 1,400 other Telstra exchange areas nationwide.

Can it be a coincidence that the most visible spokespeople of both Internode and iiNet came out slamming the NBN in public, after months in which they had openly supported it and Terria's effort?

In a recent column, one reader, whose parents apparently chose the interesting Christian name "Anonymous" (after some obscure saint perhaps?) used a colourful metaphor to describe my relationship with Simon Hackett, erstwhile CEO and now managing director of Internode.

Yet while Simon and I have talked telco stuff on many occasions before, since the NBN tender was lodged, he has gone to ground. Calls and emails during December were intercepted by his PA, who informed me he was in back-to-back meetings, apparently, every minute of the day and night. No problem: I emailed him a list of questions exploring this issue in mid-December, but am still waiting for even a brief response to one of them.

Through several follow-ups, I have realised that Hackett has apparently been on holidays for what is now approaching six weeks — and still has not found 10 minutes to respond to my emails. Which is surprising, or maybe not, given that some of the last public comments Hackett made were those in which he blasted the whole NBN process.

Is Hackett the Saruman — the once-good wizard who is seduced by the dark powers of Sauron — of my recent Lord of the Rings scenario? Is something rotten in Renmark — and elsewhere?

Call me sceptical, but the timing of all this suggests that Internode's souring on Terria may have come about as a direct result of interference from Telstra. Or, more to the point, that Telstra withheld negotiations on ADSL2+ wholesale until it extracted a pledge that Internode would help poison the well and break up Terria's already-flagging momentum.

Is something rotten in Renmark — and elsewhere?

It's not as significant a step as I contemplated last year, when I wondered whether Telstra might buy a Terria member to disrupt the allegiance. However, it is nonetheless a significant one because it confirms that many Terria members saw the alliance not as an opportunity for real change — but simply as a bargaining tool to further their own position against Telstra.

OK, so that's life in a competitive business world, hurrah, hurrah, clap, clap. But by having one of the country's largest ISPs roll over to Telstra, Internode is not only perpetuating the carrier's stranglehold over ADSL2+ services; it's also tacitly admitting that carriers simply cannot keep up with Telstra in building their own ADSL2+ footprints.

In other words, the implication is that vigorous DSLAM competition is nothing more than a lofty but unrealistic ideal. Internode, after all, had just over 110 exchanges running its own DSLAMs and could never have hoped to compete with Telstra by investing — especially not in this economic climate.

And where does that leave the NBN? In limbo, for now, at least until the minister's pleasure leads to release whatever hybrid strategy he dreams up to get this country broadbanded once and for all. In the meantime, I invite your thoughts on Internode's seeming duplicity and the potential effects of Terria's neutering as we head into this year. And I'll let you know if Hackett ever gets back to me.

Topics: Telcos, Telstra

About

Australia’s first-world economy relies on first-rate IT and telecommunications innovation. David Braue, an award-winning IT journalist and former Macworld editor, covers its challenges, successes and lessons learned as it uses ICT to assert its leadership in the developing Asia-Pacific region – and strengthen its reputation on the world stage.

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Talkback

35 comments
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  • Internode ADSL

    Thought provoking article.

    I'm with Internode, and last year moved to an exchange where we had to go back to ADSL normal (oh man I missed 2+). I was repeatedly told that there were absolutely no plans to upgrade my exchange (Undercliffe).

    A couple of weeks back I perused the Internode site, as you are wont to do, and discovered that I could get an almost-2+ adsl upgrade.

    Sweet candy! An indeed it is. I'm connecting at about 12mps. Which coming from 1500 is truly cool.

    However, after reading your article, I can't help but agree that things are murky.

    What was once "absolutely no plans for near future" is now "here you go kind of".

    Interesting.

    Kudos for the post content. Nice stats and research and opinion :)
    anonymous
  • Hmmm

    As an Internode customer, I will be emailing this little article to our IT Mgr to see what he thinks of it. He doesn't look kindly to people who put a quick profit by leaving people out to dry.
    anonymous
  • You're that important?

    Don't kid yourself that your well-off-the-mark ramblings are important enough to warrant a rapid response. I'm sure Simon will get around to it, but jeez, you've got a pretty high opinion of your own speculations!
    anonymous
  • David seems to have woken from his stupor

    "However, it is nonetheless a significant one because it confirms that many Terria members saw the alliance not as an opportunity for real change - but simply as a bargaining tool to further their own position against Telstra".

    No ***t Sherlock.

    Even poor old Sydney Lawrence who seems to have decided he can no longer put up with the crap he cops here for being Telstra's No.1 supporter, was saying this a year ago and you all laughed at him.
    anonymous
  • The NBN is a lemon

    The NBN is a lemon and should not be built as it is currently envisaged by Senator Secret Conroy. If Internode can achieve positive outcomes for their users while carefully avoiding being sucked into labors utopian fantasies - good luck to them.

    It is interesting to read some of Simons earlier posts on the NBN and competitive issues. In many areas the problems related to backhaul not access.

    My own opinion is that access problems would be better solved by freeing telco regulation and allowing councils to run fibre up existing infrastructure (stormwater, gas, etc).
    anonymous
  • Maybe Internode saw the light

    I'm an internode customer and I, like many of Internodes customers are really benefiting from the high speed internet we can now obtain, without having to have anything to do with Telstra billing, Tech Support or unreliable back end servers.

    Internode probably realised, like most of you should by now, that our new IT minister is hopeless and the worst minister ever, and that if they have of kept waiting for this "national broadband network" we, as Internodes customers would still be on ADSL1 for years and years to come.

    Well done Internode, you've given us the best, without the worst.
    anonymous
  • Fit of pique

    I've seen some amazing hyperbole but this takes a prize.

    Simon hasn't taken a proper holiday in a decade and you having a hissy fit because he won't return your calls while he is away is really sad.

    A Telstra NBN would extinguish all DSLAM based competition in Australia. This isn't idle speculation and if people had paid attention they would understand this.

    The Terria backed Optus NBN bid is a great bid but if it wins it is highly likely to be caught up in years of legal challenges by Telstra.

    Simon is questioning the value of building a FTTN network when the rest of the world if building FTTH.

    Simon spelt this out at the ATNAC 2008 conference and his presentation, including video, is available at www.simonhackett.com

    You are so far from the mark that it's not even wrong.

    jsl
    anonymous
  • Jumping up and down?

    David Braue this article is utter rubbish ...Just because you think you are so important does not mean you are

    Someone MAY get back to you
    anonymous
  • Internode fanbois unite, haha

    This is gold.

    Look at all the *Internode fanbois*, doing just like the *Telstra fanbois* and getting all sulky because someone said something nasty, but obviously factual, about Mr untouchable and the perfect company.

    Rofl at *ALL* fanbois.
    .
    anonymous
  • Internode fanbois unite, haha

    What do you expect-they are like sheep following the shepherd with no questions asked
    Nice backflip by Internode after all the rhetoric.
    Thanks for leaving all Australians at the mercy of Telstra.
    Maybe rename the company "Intertelstra"
    anonymous
  • Holidays

    I'm a managing director and I understand Simon not answering your questions. I certainly don't do anything work related on holidays if I can in any way reasonably avoid it.

    I take a mobile phone with me but not my work one and I only check my personal email address not my work ones.

    My PA checks my work emails and forwards to me a filtered selection of them. I trust her to only pass on anything that can't be handled by staff still at work and only those that are important to the company (and that wouldn't include journalists enquires as a rule) and to shield me from everything else.

    That's one of the main functions she's paid for... to act as that buffer between the rest of the world and me.

    Without that buffer I'd be much less productive at work and much less relaxed on holidays (which would lead to me being less productive at work).

    I find it refreshing that Simon has his work/life balance some where near balance, unlike so many other managers and directors I run across!
    anonymous
  • Great we've found our MD

    Oh look, seems as though we've found our *internode fanboi MD* welcome aboard.

    How utterly refreshing.
    anonymous
  • Some history

    Perhaps the author should read through Simon's blog- if they do, they'll find that Simon has ALWAYS questioned the value of FTTN in Australia, here is an example from 2006: http://web.mac.com/simon_hackett/Site/Technology/Entries/2006/8/10_The_Myth_of_FTTN.html

    I think you've drawn rather a long bow, and that perhaps the Telstra-based ADSL2+ services offerred by Internode are nothing more then another option for their customers in areas where the backhaul cost isn't sane enough to allow competitive services & in areas where Telstra refuses to allow them to access the copper (for instance, pair gain systems).
    anonymous
  • David Braue

    I thought you only capable of spoon feeding us press releases? kudos.
    anonymous
  • And here are the simpletons

    Tell us then how many emails you respond to whilst on holidays then?

    You simpleton.

    Trash journalism at its best.
    anonymous
  • And here are those too dumb to even make simpleton

    Q. "Tell us how many emails you respond to when on holidays"

    A. None

    However brainiac, I am unfortunately not the MD of my own multi million dollar company. If so, I'd be answering all emails, pronto.

    Q. When David puts the boot into Telstra, which is more often than not, are you here screaming 'trash journalism'?

    A. No

    Like the Telstra fanbois, it's time for you to wake up Internode fanboi. Internode aren't perfect either.
    anonymous
  • From the "No NBN" Fanboi

    No because there are far more interesting things to read about other than Internet services in Australia.

    Labelling people fanboi is the simpleton way so I forgive your ass-umption.

    This obession the minority have on Internet services is selfish and it wasn't suprising the government fooled so many into believing things would be different after the election.

    I would much prefer my hard earned taxes go to health and education in Australia way before the NBN. Not to the likes of Telstra, Optus or yes even Internode.

    Sorry but there are far more essential services that need funding.
    anonymous
  • No and yes.

    No, labelling somone fanboi in this case is simply an ironic oxymoron.

    You see, for years one side/group were labelled fanboi by the opposing group(s), but in this thread, the boot is snuggly on the other foot and the previous accusers, now don't seem to like being the acusees one iota. LOL.

    So although it is perhaps all a little bit much for you to comprehend in one go, I forgive you too, for taking offence and being so naive in doing so, with your childlike analysis of my, obviously 'tongue-in-cheek' and snidely playful frivolity/remarks.

    However like you, I too believe there are many more pressing issues than an NBN. So as such, although coming at it from different angles and although we seem to have gotten off on the 'wrong foot', perhaps we are on the same team after all?
    anonymous
  • ..

    Calling people fanbois how childish.....
    anonymous
  • Full disclosure...

    It is important for Internode staff (and indeed other interested parties) to disclose their employer when commenting on articles such as these.

    I note at least one Internode employee apart from JSL.
    anonymous