Where did the NBN go wrong?

Where did the NBN go wrong?

Summary: The National Broadband Network (NBN) is already hitting roadblocks. There's a chance it could all derail. So when did it start to unravel?

TOPICS: NBN, Broadband

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is already hitting roadblocks. There's a chance it could all derail. So when did it start to unravel?

The recent troubles with contractors can be expected. If you run a government monopoly you'll never get the best price from suppliers. They'll always overcharge, particularly if there is high risk involved. This, in itself, could be an argument against a centralised approach to the build of the NBN.

So, what choice did we have? Well, one approach was the government's initial attempt to fund a private build of a Fibre to the Node (FttN) network. If Telstra had played ball and submitted a reasonable tender document, would we now all have faster broadband?

Perhaps, but many argue that any approach is dependent on the structural separation of Telstra. If that need was so obvious, why has it taken so much time and two governments to finally reach that conclusion? What was stopping the Howard government from splitting Telstra up before selling it off?

And what part did Sol Trujillo play in all of this? Is the NBN actually his legacy; a parting gift for Telstra shareholders and Australian taxpayers? Did he create a situation that left the government with very little choice?

You might be a big fan of the government's approach, but you'd have to admit that it would be a different story if Telstra was already separated, Sol Trujillo had stayed at home and Stephen Conroy had been more consultative in his approach.

In this week's program, Liberal MP Paul Fletcher helps us look back at the NBN soap opera, with the help of sound bites from previous editions of Twisted Wire.

Tell us what you think: leave a comment below or record a message on the Twisted Wire feedback line: 02 9304 5198.

Running time: 30 minutes 00 seconds.

Topics: NBN, Broadband


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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  • Sorry Phil, not even going to listen this biased rubbish..
    Try interviewing someone from NBNco or somebody positive for a change.
    Paul Grenfell
    • "Sorry Phil, not even going to listen this biased rubbish.. "

      and this

      "Try interviewing someone from NBNco"

      Is an oxymoron. Interviewing someone from NBNCo would be just as "biased" as interviewing someone from the liberal party

      If you are going to be complain at least don't be a hypocrit
    • Hi Paul,
      If you did listen you might find I blame the Howard government as much as anyone. I'd love to talk to someone from NBNCo, but never had any success getting them to reply.
      • Perhaps they were busy working... like Paul Fletcher should be... for his constituents?
        • Hey Rizz, are you suggesting that the NBN somehow bypasses all of Fletcher's constituents? I mean, seriously, what a bizarre comment to make. Pure trollage, really.
          • Speaking about bizarre and trollage (and not very smart trollage at that). The reference was that, no one at NBN was available (Fletcher was, remember).

            And yes actually, I am NOW, suggesting the NBN will bypass Fletcher's constituents, IF FLETCHER AND HIS PARTY ARE ELECTED, as they ironically, will stop the NBN and Fletcher's constituents will indeed miss out...!

            So please think before you hypocritically post if future... thank you!
        • Or NBNCo doesn't want to risk being embarrassed

          Its an interview taking 5-10 minutes, and they are usually done over the phone
          • Now seriously... with a straight face try to convince us that, that comment wasn't baseless FUD?

            And had they rung through a statement... you would have bluntly ridiculed and not accepted any of it...so!

            Seems while you young Libs and the old Libs all talk ****, NBNCo are getting on with it...

            See bottom of page...!
          • And your comment about Fletcher isn't FUD (the one where you claimed he isn't working?)
          • Do you have no sense of humour at all there at Young Libs, FFS...!

            Do I actually need to spell out LOL...??????

            Strangely you haven't taken me to task when I have made equally facetious comments aimed at Conroy's and his dumb filter... which just demonstrates your complete political bias.

            You also didn't answer your typically naive and WRONG comments about deficits and Future Fund....

            As such, let me please spell out... OMFG...in case that's not obvious too!
          • Yes you are right. Your entire post collection is humorous because they are all massive joke

            Thanks for clearing that up, now at least we know not to take you seriously on anything you say
          • A lot of my comments are indeed intentionally humorous, because I am simply taking the p*** out of egotistical narcissists, who claim things like "the upper house forms government...LOL. You know the type I'm referring to...!

            Those who are so full of their own non-existent, self importance that they are absolutely none the wiser, they are actually being manoeuvred like pawns and played with like mere fools...

            And look Im' doing it again right now...! And what's the bet I'll be doing it again in reply really soon??? LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • As a point of reference, he was previously in charge of infrastructure and development within Optus before moving to Government and Corporate Affairs.
  • What was stopping the Howard government from splitting Telstra up before selling it off?

    Simple, probably a truck load of money. I would expect that if they had separated Telstra they would have got a lot less money for the sale. The vertically integrated business was very valuable.

    A big mistake for some extra money by the Howard Government. The easiest time to separate Telstra would have been while it was government owned.
    • Initially it was due to the shareholders. They wanted Telstra to remain as big as possible due to the fact that Australias future fund was in Telstra, and they thought that splitting Telstra up would do much damage to the value of the company (something we now know isn't really the case)
      • My point was, really the only time it could have been done easily was when there was one shareholder, the federal government. That was the big mistake, but it would have been a hard decision because it would have thrown quite a bit of money away.

        In hindsight much better to have taken the hit on the sale back then though.
        • At the time the liberal government inherited significant debt from the previous outvoted government, this is one of the measures that the liberal government thought they needed to do to bring Australias finances on track

          As I said, at the time, no one politically really thought about separating Telstra. As correctly pointed out in this article, Labor was steadfast against Telstra being privatized, but they were also against Telstra being split (Beazly was dead against it) and Telstra for obvious reasons didn't want to be split. The fact there wasn't bipartisan support, and Telstra didn't want to be split, already implies that it would not have been an easy task

          Of course now things are different, Telstra wants to be split, and both governments support structural seperation
          • LOL... please learn history rather than quoting untruths based on your political biases...

            Here is a URL (even found one to your bible - the Australian, so you can't argue...LOL) - which explains it -


            From within - "In 1983 the Hawke government came to office as Australia was coming out of recession and a drought was about to break. It inherited a very large deficit and made a very large fuss about it. This enabled them to trash their predecessor’s legacy and break a few campaign promises.

            In the late 1980s they started running surpluses—the first in decades, they boasted—but deficits returned with the 1990s recession and stayed until after John Howard’s 1996 victory.

            Now it was Howard and Costello’s turn to be outraged and have to make difficult decisions etc.

            But when Kevin Rudd government came to office in November 2007 he inherited a healthy surplus.

            (((((However, if the election had been held a year later the GFC would have been getting into swing and John Howard would have bequeathed a fiscal deficit to his successor.)))))

            So this timing made the economic story difficult for the current government...{END}.
      • dat ego said in reply to why wasn't Telstra split-

        "Initially it was due to the shareholders. They wanted Telstra to remain as big as possible due to the fact that Australias future fund was in Telstra, and they thought that splitting Telstra up would do much damage to the value of the company (something we now know isn't really the case)"...{END}.

        Dear oh dear, how can one person who actually knows so little, claim to know so much... it's all about dat ego I suppose!

        You do know that Telstra was initially privatised (T1) in 1997 and the Future Fund which was stated (by Peter Costello I believe) to cover the super liabilities of public servants, didn't come to fruition until many years later... (announced in 2004 and started in 2006 I believe)?

        So the fact that Telstra wasn't separated, had "absolutely nothing" to do with the Future Fund... sigh!
  • I am hoping Telstra will get the contract to build the NBN. I don't really care if it is Fibre to the Node (FttN) or the whole 'box and dice' as long as Telstra gets to do the job. I think all Telstra shareholders would think the same.