NBN is a policy vacuum: iiNet

NBN is a policy vacuum: iiNet

Summary: iiNet has slammed both Labor and the Coalition over their handling of the National Broadband Network (NBN) debate.


Labor and the Coalition have both been guilty of focusing on the download speeds of the National Broadband Network (NBN), leading to a policy vacuum for the project, according to Australia's third-largest ISP iiNet.

iiNet, which has over 25,000 customers connected to the NBN across Australia, made the claim in a submission (PDF) to the NBN Senate committee prior to an appearance before the committee today.

iiNet's chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby told the committee that the former Labor and current Coalition government have "struggled to communicate concrete reasons for an investment in the NBN", and debate has been too focused on download speeds for watching movies.

"No 'national objectives' are presented as the drivers for the construction of the NBN as they might be for any other infrastructure project," he said.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull's recently announced panel of experts appointed to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, which is due to the government by June, was also criticised for focusing on costs over benefits.

Dalby said iiNet believes that debate on the NBN should focus on national objectives such as improving productivity, creating jobs, regional development, industry development, and improved competition.

"iiNet does not believe that downloading songs faster or being able to connect multiple televisions should be drivers of national infrastructure projects," he said.

He pointed to iiNet's growing business customer base and the need for faster upload speeds for those businesses to survive, and said that a focus on download speeds has "absolutely failed the Australian community".

While iiNet's comments were largely focused on the way the political parties had handled the NBN policy, NBN Co itself was also accused of having a "take it or leave it" attitude to its retail customers, and Dalby said that the rigid retail products NBN Co offered to ISPs such as iiNet made it difficult for the Perth-based telco to respond to customer demands on the types of products they would like to take up.

"By NBN Co insisting on controlling the design of retail products, retail service providers are unable to respond to customer demands or evolve to meet changing needs. The slow pace of NBN Co's product development is related to its remoteness from the end user, and is unlikely to improve over time," he said.

iiNet is currently holding out on signing a wholesale broadband agreement with NBN Co, despite other telcos including Telstra and Optus already signing on. Dalby told ZDNet that iiNet is concerned that it would be liable to pay customer service guarantee fines in places where NBN Co is at fault.

Dalby also slammed the Coalition's proposed "multi-technology model" for the NBN that would include a mix of fibre to the premises, fibre to the node, and hybrid fibre-coaxial services. He said that the added complexity would require retailers to invest in more business-to-business interfaces at more points of interconnect. This cost would be passed onto consumers.

At today's hearing in Perth, the committee also heard from Communications Union West Australian branch president John McDonnell, who called on Telstra to release its Customer Network Improvement (CNI) database to the public, which he said would detail "down to a GPS location" exactly where the faulty joints or faulty lengths of cable exist in the Telstra copper network.

The exact state of the copper network, which would be used in part for a fibre-to-the-node network, is still up for debate. Anecdotal evidence from members of the union has suggested that the network is an "absolute disgrace", while Telstra and NBN Co have claimed that the network is in a "good condition".

Topic: 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.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • iiNet bereft of marbles.

    So the "movie industry" is not an industry, the gaming industry is not an industry, well iiNet their turnovers are pretty impressive.
    It's amazing the prejudices that some of these right wing intellectuals if that's what you can call them on what the definition of an industry is.
    I don't think I would ever buy an iiNet product if that's the depth of their thought, perhaps they are just trying to preserve their wonky out of date DSLM empire they cant be bothered extending to regional areas like mine that have no competition whatsoever.
    Dinosaurs like these are dead in the water.
    People want competition to Foxtel and the ability to download what they want when they want and not be dictated to by an anachronistic mob bosses like Murdoch's, Telstra's, iiNet's.
    NBN Now! and real retail competition.
    Kevin Cobley
    • Where did iiNet claim the movie industry is not an industry?

      Oh I see you are pd off because they don't provide services in your local area so you can make up what they are saying to fit your own reality.

      If you really wanted NBN you would be supporting what iiNet submitted to the Senate committee in Perth on 29/1/14 because it cuts to the very heart of why we have a telecommunications mess in this Country - political ideology interfering with infrastructure planning and implementation.
    • read the article

      That is not what they were meaning in the article. They were saying the whole politics of winning votes, with Labor focusing on guaranteed speeds etc and liberal focusing on cost benefit analysis. Neither actually ever raised what was good for the country and for productivity. iiNet want the NBN to be rolled out.

      The politics of it are the ridiculous thing and if you remember liberals lost an election on this (well lost the support of conservative independents) and they changed their policy.

      The NBN would drive innovation in the country and create/move jobs around the country. Its a tool that people use for just about everything in their day to day lives, either directly or indirectly. That is what iiNet are essentially saying that the debate wasn't focused on what really mattered.
      Justin Watson
    • Iinet is right. The NBN is not being sold correctly

      If you read the submission iinet are saying that as a national infrastructure service the reporting and benefits being provided relate to personal high bandwidth internet activities which are tainted with the tar of illegality (although in the post NBN world legal options would become far more pervasive). Where the Govt and by extension the media have failed the public is in not showing the vision behind the NBN.

      This vision should include the opportunities in web video conferencing, consulting, training and education, software development, architecture and design to worldwide customers from Australian premises.

      The submission also notes the lack of attention paid to upload capability which is required to support these job creating capabilities. This is glossed over in critical review of the coalitions NBN scheme which provides the same limited upload speeds we have at present with little to no improvement.

      This ultimately means Australia will be cast in the position of being a consumer of world class digital content rather than a revenue taking provider of said content.
  • Australia Could Be Competitive With Reliable Broadband

    I agree that the focus should be on having a broadband infrastructure to improve productivity, creating jobs, workplace flexibility to allow more work from home, being competitive in the global economy. The focus on download speed does not take into account that industry also need just as fast upload speed. As a web developer who works from home, the bottleneck in my work is the abysmal upload speeds (often way less that 256kb). An asynchronous download and upload would allow and expanded range of work options in terms of where people work (home and office), how they work and would open up a whole range of work and industry types.

    And downloading movies, improved gaming experience would benefit with a focus on delivering effective outcomes for business.

    As an aside: Telstra call centre advise that they do not consider the internet connection and 'essential service'. And maybe I should consider an alternative method of delivering data rather than using the internet. The inference was using Australia Post or a courier. I'm not sure YouTube would be receptive to receiving videos for their site in this way. I kid you not, this was the actual response from them after I lodged a complaint with the telecommunications ombudsman. How on earth are we going to get decent broadband in Australia if Telstra has this attitude.
  • Australia will be screwed in the connected world thats coming

    Without decent internet connections in the future, Australia will be "closed for business" apart from digging holes in the ground. I though Tony wanted to be a prime minister that would be remembered as "The Infrustructure Builder"....not much chance with his business as usual plans returing us to 1990 style communications.
  • Who REALLY gives a brass razoo right NOW!?!?

    Libs are looking at it the same way "John Q Public" are looking at it - "cost reduction". Libs were originally puttin gin FTTN and now are in the process of downgrading that (I await, with trepidation, their announcement finding that ADSL1 is all that will ever be needed into the future! ;-}) and so are therefore putting costs that could be paid right now if they went FTTH off for someone to pay later on. The upshot of that idea is that what costs $1 today will be significantly MORE in the future and thus we will have, eventually because it WILL be needed, FTTH that will have cost a BOMB SHELL more than it does now and hurt the wallet JUST as much as that bomb will! So, ultimately the Libs and their idea are costing the tax payer a HELL of a lot more than doing it right first time! However, not TODAY'S tax payer but maybe 10 years from now when the current Govt MPs will likely be sitting at home on their golden handshakes and not worrying about life at all. It will just be those of us that cannot afford the extra burden who will be paying it instead. They laugh all the way to the bank with their payouts and we bleed all the way to the blood bank with our *OUR* payouts! (in case you dont get that, I mean they get money we bleed it).

    So, Libs, dont HALF do a job right. If you really DONT want to pay fibre at all, produce a report that categorically states that dial up over copper wire is INFINITELY better for us all, pay nothing and even possibly look at better golden handshakes as a result. Do it RIGHT first time or just dont DO it at ALL. Just dont BULL**** us! We DO know better! After all, this isnt the 1970s! If we want to know the answer to something, there are search engines that give it to us!

    Wake up Libs!
  • I think they're right...

    ...but it's nearly impossible to get politicians to admit that they're wrong (the ones that do tend not to be reelected), so I think this will fall on deaf ears.
    John L. Ries
  • policy vacuum

    I think there's no other way for the iinet not to sign up on the policy of NBN. Telstra as well as the Optus and other ISPs had already sign the policies. The only thing that ISPs must do is help the NBN in improving the services to the customers. Don't think of politics inside the labor and the coalitions.