NBN tender turns into bloodsport

NBN tender turns into bloodsport

Summary: Fair is not what the National Broadband Network tender is about; it's bloodsport, and a fight for survival, and a challenge of the wills, and all the other sorts of superlatives you might expect from an Olympics announcer.


With the Olympics over, reports say that many residents of Beijing are wandering around the city, suffering something akin to loss as they realise the hundreds of thousands of tourists are gone.

I reckon hundreds of thousands of Australians aren't feeling much better, finally over their hangovers and facing months of actual work until the silly season kicks in.

To those looking for amusement in the meantime, might I suggest they turn their attention to the national broadband network (NBN) bid, which stepped into full swing last week as the deadline for submitting network maps passed.

With any luck, Senator Stephen Conroy will soon raise the starting gun to signal that NBN contenders have just 12 weeks to submit the bids that will determine the future of Australia's broadband. During this time, technical staff at all leading carriers will have their heads down, trying to figure out the bid that will call Telstra's bluff.

Of course, this has become harder because your friendly incumbent has been feeding so much misinformation to the market that nobody really knows how much the company actually believes the NBN will really cost.

This ambiguity, in turn, leaves competitors to work out their own costings for the network, which I am led to believe is actually expected to cost around $10 billion to $12 billion, or around half what Telstra is telling everybody it believes the network will cost.

If watching technical engineers wrestle with AutoCAD doesn't sound like your idea of a replacement for the women's hurdles, perhaps you should give David Quilty a try. As the incoming head of rhetoric to replace departed human megaphone Phil Burgess, I had hopes that Quilty would attach to the job a more measured, productive tone. After all there is $4.7 billion on the line, right?

Telstra's Phil Burgess
(Credit: Telstra)

Fat chance. Quilty was quick to weigh in on Terria's recent advertising market debut: a viral marketing campaign in which it has taken out a billboard advertisement at Canberra Airport, then waited for media outlets to reprint the billboard from one side of the country to the other in the inevitable onslaught of coverage.

Quilty's appraisal was tart enough to prove that although Dr Phil may be physically leaving Australia, he will still very much be here in spirit. "Telstra invests in networks like Next G and Next IP while Terria [described as an $8 shelf company] invests in airport billboards," Quilty responded in a fashion that can only be described as smart-arsed.

Actually, Telstra buys plenty of billboards itself, as part of a nine-figure marketing budget. The criticism comes from the telco that also recently won the mantle of being Canberra's most intensive tech lobbyist. So, attacking Terria for taking out a billboard hardly seems fair.

But fair is not what this tender is about; it's bloodsport, and a fight for survival, and a challenge of the wills, and all the other sorts of superlatives you might expect from an Olympics announcer. The past months have seen personal attacks, union fights with unions that are hardly likely to speed NBN construction, and a steady stream of sarcasm from Telstra's competitors and anti-Telstra lobbying organisations.

All seem determined to come up with the smartest retort, the wittiest sound byte, the insult to end all insults. David Foreman, executive director of anti-Telstra lobbyist group the Competitive Carriers' Coalition, likened Telstra's "aggressive conduct" to "trench warfare" in an address to the recent Australian Telecommunications Summit 2008.

Forecasting a pending "crisis" in telecommunications competition, Foreman made the predictable calls for operational separation, calling on the government to stop Telstra's "gaming" and take a harder line in the lead-up to the NBN.

Whether or not this happens over the next 12-and-so weeks is anybody's guess, but it is certain to be interesting. For now, this war of words is becoming background noise to the real business at hand.

For now, I say we settle the tender by putting Sol Trujillo, Paul O'Sullivan, and Michael Egan in a room together, then make them read telecommunications legislation to each other until one or the other cries uncle from sheer mental agony.

Topics: Broadband, Telcos, Telstra, NBN


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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  • Lets get serious!!

    The following paragraph pretty much sums it up. Good to see Dr Phil replaced with another straight shooter!!!

    "Telstra invests in networks like Next G and Next IP while Terria [described as an $8 shelf company] invests in airport billboards,"

    Lets hope Conroy considers this for the good of ALL Australians
  • Blog or Blab

    Often people use references to professional publications or reliable sources to support their argument, it doesn't work when a bias bigot uses one bias publication to support his case.

    Once again I leave myself one question; why is David Brainless even being allowed to publish garbage that makes Phil Burgess' comments look fair and balanced?

    If he wasn't so determined to focus on everything anti-Telstra he may be able to retain some level of credibility but then again he is "only writing a blog" and as such it doesn't have to be fair or even factual.
  • Very serious

    Straight shooter or professional bullsh*t artist because if it's Phil Burgess you're referring to then he certainly was anything but a straight shooter.

    "Lets hope Conroy considers this for the good of ALL Australians"

    Yes not just employees and shareholders
  • The Blabber from Phil is about to leave

    Phil's arguments can't be used for anything fair or balanced (unless used in the Fox News context). One can only hope with his absence Telstra will ultimately become a better company, although due to his legacy of propoganda and xenophobic comments I would expect this to take some time.

    Phil will be missed by very few in this country. Good riddance.
  • Take the blinkers off!

    or people who are paid to make Anti-Telstra comments like yourself....
  • One good thing from him leaving

    Your employer will not have to pay you as much to write comments on all of these web sites Mr Bell. How are you paid? is it by the hour, the number of words or simply a flat per comment fee?
  • So why do you torture yourself?

    if you don't like what David writes, why do you read his articles? Surely, such an intellectual giant as yourself has better things to do with your time?
    btw David gets paid to write this stuff because people read it. Its people like you who ensure David's carreer continues.
  • Well put, Simon

    And am I being naive here or do the pro telstra people believe that the only reason anti telstra comments go up are because they're being paid to write them?? Not because of their hatred of the current monopoly or apparent bad service, no it couldn't possibly be because of that.
  • pay to write

    hell I'd pay to have my thoughts on telstra heard if it was by the right people, Dr (of what im not sure) Phil, was the master of rhetoric, captain of mud-slinging, and telstra loved him for it... I for 1 am glad to see him gone... Anti-Telstra i am, and am quite proud of it, Reading Telstras internal staff communications always has me a little worried about the size of the propoganda machine telstra has churning away in the shadows, and Dr Phil was the head of this machine, when he left, i could only pray that with the head cut off the monster would die, but alas, the monster seems to have regenerative capabilities... telstra loves to be heard on what ever may concern it, thats undisputable, so is it that hard to believe that telstra may hire people to spread the gospel of telstra?
  • wel put pfft

    no on the contrary simon and affle, you telstra hating brain surgeons believe you have a god given right to spread your stupid thoughts and blind hatred, while telstra supporters are supposed to just sit back and cop it - sorry to disappoint you kids.
  • ah that's funny coming from the anti clone

    funny we have or had phil burgess on the telstra side and his exact anti clone on the non telstra side - james bell. only their mother can tell them apart, haha
  • such an angry, angry anon.

    Hahaha I don't hate telstra!! I just love reading the banter between supporters and non-supporters and find it unbelievable that neither of the two actually listen to what they're saying. Like people are just yelling on top of each other until their voice is louder than the person that's disagreeing with them.

    And how does it get so personal as well? Calling people brain surgeons (very sarcastically) talking about a god given right, and telstra supporters copping it... honestly!

    My comment was regarding the multiple messages I had read from telstra supporters not even suggesting, just accusing people writing anti telstra comments about being paid to write them! Do people actually do this??

    And what do you mean telstra supporters have to cop it, pretty sure everyone with a conflicting opinion on here has to cop it. Don't play the victim
  • Strange isn't it?

    Love your work Cassimah! Couldn't agree more...
  • such an angry angry cassimah

    and cassimah did you also read the anonymous comment above *pay to write*?

    strangely no mention from you on the wealth of knowledge displayed there (very sarcastically).

    but you do mention your comment? which comment was that, i can't seem to find it, or were you also james bell, simon or anonymous in a previous life? perhaps all these anti telstra comments are all coming from you - rotfl

    i love your work too, haven't laughed so much for years. honestly, some people
  • Yes I am actually the collected voices of all those people

    Well Anon, you got me. I am actually the only other person that writes on here other than you. I just keep up the pretense of different names to keep you entertained... but now that you've found me out I don't know if I can go on...

    Let me just say it's been fun unintentionally and apparently offending you. Even though I have previously stated, I don't hate telstra, I don't care about telstra, I just enjoy reading the banter (which you have been providing me with)
  • @yes

    you have not offended me, you have simply embarrassed yourself.
  • @such an angry angry cassimah

    lol, no, unfortunately theres more than one person who hates telstra in this world anon (although of course i to am anon, ah brothers we must be! :P)...I'm not sure what you mean by the wealth of knowledge been sarcastic...I could post the links though i dont know if they work through telstras intranet if you needed?
  • @such

    anon2 or rather michael, sorry to lift the lid, that's very funny telstras intranet.

    but with such obvious wit youve made your concealed identity most clear. youre michael egan, no one else who supports terria would have enough brains to think that one up.

    keep up the good work eggers.
  • nagh not eggars

    rofl, no not eggers, but thank you for the most kind comment placing me in the higher echelon of anti-telstrarians >.<