NBN: Nothing, But Nothing is happening

NBN: Nothing, But Nothing is happening

Summary: You know the NBN is dead when not even the FttN haters bother to shellac Malcolm Turnbull's blogs. As Telstra reasserts control over the NBN and the Coalition government flounders, can we actually expect anything from the NBN anymore?

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It's a frustrating thing, the weight of possibility and expectation. One day, you think anything is possible – and that an opportunity for is just around the corner. The next, the opportunity is gone and you must satisfy yourself with the scraps of a dream – a consolation prize that is at best a hollow imitation of the original vision.

Just ask Brazil, one of the world's best soccer teams and the host nation for the just-concluded World Cup, which had to satisfy itself with finishing as an also-ran as it was outclassed by a determined Netherlands team in a battle for third place – in front of a home-team crowd, nonetheless.

iiNet-Slovakia
iiNet sums up the state of the NBN today. Screen capture: David Braue/ZDNet Australia

Australia's broadband effort has become a lot like that Brazilian defeat – all full of hope and optimism one day, dashed to pieces the next as things fall horribly apart. There is always next time, the players are telling themselves half-heartedly now – and Australia's broadband community is already starting to do the same as the NBN effort continues to spin its wheels.

There was, of course, the affront of having to pay a $200m penalty to Telstra because of NBN Co's poor performance under its contract with the telco giant. And there's the political defeat as the government failed in a somewhat hostile new Parliament to disband the Labor and Greens-led Senate Select Committee on the NBN.

This failure not only reflects the current government's inability to act with the same conviction with which it was elected, but gives Senator Stephen Conroy – whose new role as shadow defence spokesperson hasn't stopped him from being a twisting thorn in the sole of the Coalition government's floundering NBN effort – considerable leeway to continue raking Malcolm Turnbull's NBN Dream Team over the coals in what has become a regular administration of humility and schadenfreude.

For sheer entertainment value, then, the NBN will likely continue to offer its highlights – especially as we close in on 2015 without a completed cost-benefit analysis (CBA); new reports suggest it will land in August but I doubt many are holding their breaths). The outcome of that CBA will then inform the rewritten NBN Co Corporate Plan, which in turn will also reflect the outcome of NBN Co's renegotiations with Telstra.

You do remember those renegotiations, right? Yes, the ones that Malcolm Turnbull said over a year ago (in a fit of pre-election optimism that now rings more like laughable naiveté) would be completed with “slight adjustments” to the current contract.

The Coalition was elected on a promise of kicking the NBN into gear, but all Turnbull has accomplished so far is to hogtie a slowly-improving fibre rollout and tape a 'kick me' sign to the company's back.

Rather than completing the negotiations quickly, the government has struggled to assert itself at the negotiating table, putting the NBN rollout schedule so far behind that it's not even worth seriously contemplating a real completion date. The Coalition was elected on a promise of kicking the NBN into gear, but all Turnbull has accomplished so far is to hogtie a slowly-improving fibre rollout and tape a 'kick me' sign to the company's back.

Deliverables so far, few and far between, have had little real impact other than to dig further soil from the bottom of the hole in which the government has found itself. Sure, the 9000 people that will get access to 1999-era broadband through the government's newly announced satellite subsidy will be a bit happy about it (I will for now skip the chance to restate the irony of the current government desperately waiting for the delivery of the Ka-band satellites it so vociferously opposed when they were announced).

Then there's the first Vertigan Review report, which promises an era of price discrimination that will deliver bigger discounts to larger players. That review is also setting the stage to kill private-sector infrastructure telco investment completely, by suggesting that companies building networks will be forced to open them to competitors on a wholesale basis. I'm sure that one will have private operators lining up to invest.

Who can forget the government's $150m gift to Telstra in the form of a massive “trial” (read: fibre-to-the-node seeding depoyment) of some 1000 fibre-to-the-node nodes (remember what NBN Co said about them last year?) to deliver services to 206,000 premises.

That generous government investment in Telstra's network will help bring Turnbull's perverse multi-technology mix vision to fruition – and can only end in NBN Co rolling over to Telstra's every whim as the government desperately and unsuccessfully tries to get David Thodey to gift it the company's most strategic asset. The way things are going, Turnbull will need to offer 20 years as Thodey's personal manservant to get that deal across the line.

Sorry, folks, but that's not going to happen and everybody seems to know it but Turnbull. Everything that's going on around the NBN now seems tailor-made less to stimulate the telecommunications industry into a flurry of investment and optimism, and more to play into Telstra's hands by further entrenching the company's dominance over the telecommunications services we all rely on every day.

The greatest indication that the NBN as we know it is dead lies not in Turnbull's predictable number fudging, but at the end of that blog – where there are exactly zero comments about his argument. For a blog that used to be regularly inundated with comments from Australians angry about Turnbull's broadband plan, that's a frightening sign that those same Australians simply do not care anymore. 

So we slip, rather ruefully, back into our quiet shells and watch one country after another pass Australia on broadband rankings (kudos to iiNet for its painful-to-watch-because-it's-so-true Slovakia ad).

We watch Jason Clare (optimistically but not impossibly) shellacking the new government's poor NBN performance in Parliament and predicting the NBN can only resume its proper state once Labor is re-elected in 2016.

And Turnbull? When he's not skewering ever-reliable NBN Luddites Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones or issuing scintillating and out-of-portfolio press releases about child-care benefits, Turnbull has been taking on a “confused and confusing” Clare's numbers in a blog that is no less confused, or confusing.

Yet perhaps the greatest indication that the NBN as we know it is dead lies not in Turnbull's predictable number fudging, but at the end of that blog – where there are exactly zero comments about his argument.

For a blog that used to be regularly inundated with comments from Australians angry about Turnbull's broadband plan, that's a frightening sign that those same Australians simply do not care anymore. They hold no optimism for the new government's NBN and just don't have any more emotional energy to invest in the discussion.

Until Turnbull's chaotic NBN effort begins to deliver some real results – other than throwing good money after bad at Telstra – things aren't likely to get any better. Labor's NBN may have been the soccer equivalent of Australia – pumped up and ready for a tilt at the prize against overwhelming odds – but the Coalition's version looks set to end up like Brazil in this year's World Cup: overwhelmed, overrun, and ultimately languishing as a forgotten also-ran.

What do you think? Is the NBN party over? Or is the best yet to come?

 

 

Topics: NBN, Broadband, Fiber, Government, Government AU, Telcos, Telstra, Australia, IT Policies

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

31 comments
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  • The failed NBN objectives.

    It has become increasingly obvious since the election that the Coalition and its puppet Turnbull have no interest in the two main objectives of the Labour Party's NBN.
    1. Most importantly, to escape the Telstra monopoly that Howard stupidly set up, by buying back the copper that he never should have sold.
    2. To set up a government-controlled modern fibre network and coincidentally to let all wireless networks operate in a more level playing field.
    The only question that remains unanswered is "How are the coalition and its members benefitting from helping Telstra to keep its monopoly?" Is politics really lily-white pure, as we're led to believe, in this increasingly plutocratic world?
    paleoflatus
    • Turnbull is a minister in a Coalition government...

      ...so "puppet" is probably not the right word to characterize is relationship to the Coalition.
      John L. Ries
  • Something is happening around Ningi QLD

    For the past couple of months, they have been installing additional conduit from Caboolture to Ningi and YES, they pulled in the GREEN fibre. But we still are waiting at Sandstone Point which under the previous gov. should have been completed by Feb. 2014. But the whole area has been roped. In the local paper, Turnbull gets ready to trial ( I thought he said it was trialed and test successfully overseas so why waist tax payers money ) for the area of Bribie Island. I'm sure Turnbull has no I.T. knowledge as FTTP has to be the cheaper option. The hubs don't need power to run like a node will. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
    lippy02
    • Something is happening around Ningi QLD

      Sorry, I left out the trial was for FTTN.
      lippy02
    • Dodgey

      You should take photos and send to Conroy and claire
      JasonKent
  • I just connected to FTTP NBN...

    ... on the Central Coast and rather than be pleasantly content (92mbps down, 38mbps up speeds on average) I feel angry, frustrated and disillusioned with Turnbull and the coalition, hopefully just a disgraceful temporary speed bump in Australian communications history
    btone-c5d11
    • Re: I just connected to FTTP NBN...

      Check out Google Fibre, they offer 1gig almost both directions. What you have is similar to the South Brisbane Fibre Upgrade project I worked on. No complaints from these customers.
      lippy02
  • "They hold no optimism for the new government's NBN and just don't have any more emotional energy to invest in the discussion."

    Apparently I'm not the only one it seems. I only occasionally read these articles now, I figured it's a nothing policy that will deliver nothing so nothing needs to be said... well until 2016 anyway when I be saying "I told you so" "I told you so" and "I told you so".

    "What do you think? Is the NBN party over? Or is the best yet to come?"

    If by "the best" you mean more lolz from the coalition clowns in their quest to do nothing then yes the best is yet to come.
    Hubert Cumberdale
    • Confused.

      Hubert have you changed sides now. For years you were a supporter of the Lib's FTTN you were dead against the FTTP idea. So why have you changed sides is it because the Lib's will only give you ADSL speeds and not the FTTP that the rest of us want.
      Mudrat70
      • You're either a troll

        or you haven't actually read any comments from Hubert, ever...
        Tinman_au
      • "Hubert have you changed sides now. For years you were a supporter of the Lib's FTTN you were dead against the FTTP idea. "

        Only logical thing I can think of is that you must be confusing me with someone else perhaps.
        Hubert Cumberdale
      • Saves me time

        Hubert has actually been my greatest ally in these forums. Quite often I read the articles, read the posts, and am about to put my 2c in over Malcolm Turnbull's worthlessness, and lo and behold I scroll down and Hubert has pretty much posted exactly my thoughts. He's a good time saver and has ALWAYS backed FttP, as I have.
        Ramrunner-5dd3e
        • "and has ALWAYS backed FttP"

          As do all sensible people Ram ;)
          Tinman_au
  • Brilliant Turnbull

    He's amazing. He accomplished his mission to feather his mate's nest and kill the NBN. Done it in less than a year. Mission accomplished. More than can be said for Hockey who is still trying to get his 'Destroy Australia' budget together.
    Anyway! What's wrong with peddle radio?
    Dr. Ghostly
    • Pedal radio

      Yes. I chose my spelling of peddle very carefully.
      Dr. Ghostly
  • Sad state of NBN

    It is sad this country can't seem to get its act together to build anything cohesively. It is also sad Turnbull has basically abandoned any logical NBN build and instead the whole process is degenerating into yet another patchwork quilt of infrastructure like Telstra and Optus HFC cable. So once again we will be left with the have's and have-not's.
    Mekhios
  • Zero comments on MT's Blog

    "Yet perhaps the greatest indication that the NBN as we know it is dead lies not in Turnbull's predictable number fudging, but at the end of that blog – where there are exactly zero comments about his argument."

    The reason there is no comments (there is two now), is that they are actively censored by Mr Turnbull (or his office). I've attempted to comment twice on that particular blog, pointing out that Mr Turnbull (or his office) had indeed confirmed 450K premises would be passed (http://www.zdnet.com/au/we-will-pass-more-by-nbn-fibre-than-labor-did-turnbull-7000022966/), and it was some weeks before his CommsDay speech.

    However, both times, my comments were removed, as they demonstrated an inconvenient truth....

    I think people are giving up commenting on there, as they realise that the majority of dissenting views to the blog content gets scrubbed from existence. (Some dissenting views are leftup, as a token gesture it appears.)
    _MW_
  • Sorry state of simple ADSL

    TrueNet published comparisons of ADSL performance in Australia with similar ISPs in NZ. The speed variance between peak and off-peak is similar to NZ ISPs, but the speeds are a completely different story.
    A second publication this week covering Rural broadband in NZ shows comparable speeds with Urban ADSL broadband in Australia - although the NZ Rural variation is way worse the speeds are about the same - 3Mb/s.
    See the articles here - ISP comparisons at www.truenet.com.au
    NZ Rural on www.truenet.co.nz
    truenetau
    • Turnbill loves NZ NBN

      A week or two ago Turnbill was praising the NZ NBN, mind you they are now building their own FTTP as they gave up on FTTN.
      I don't think this Turnbill guy has a clue to be honest and think Abbott needs to sack him and put someone in that has a clue.
      Mudrat70
      • gave up on FTTN?

        I understand from the Chorus website that 80% of copper customers have access to VDSL. i.e. FTTN is substantially complete, although as can be seen from our rural report, the other 20% became part of the "gave up on"
        truenetau