Rated R for 'real': Labor considering NBN name change

The federal opposition party has flagged it might change the name of its NBN policy to the 'real NBN' to differentiate it from the project now being rolled out.
Written by Corinne Reichert on

Labor has announced its intention to look into retitling its National Broadband Network (NBN) policy, in order to differentiate it from the project now being rolled out by the Coalition government.

The current opposition party said that the NBN is now vastly different to the one it had planned while in government. The issue was flagged within the caucus on Tuesday, with one Labor MP putting forward the name "real NBN".

Upon election in September 2013, the Coalition government made the decision to move away from Labor's full fibre-to-the-premises NBN rollout to the present so-called multi-technology mix (MTM) network, which incorporates a mixture of fibre to the node, fibre to the building, and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC).

In December last year, the government consequently entered into a revised AU$11 billion deal allowing NBN to take ownership of Telstra's copper and HFC network assets, and a AU$800 million deal with Optus to acquire its HFC assets.

In September 2014, Turnbull began consultation to modify the migration process after the original May 2014 deadline to get residents off the legacy copper had failed. Three months after that deadline had passed, there were premises in the first 15 regions "still subject to the migration process" as a result of poor coordination and communication between NBN and retail service providers (RSPs), and inadequate construction that prevented premises that had been passed by the NBN to actually connect to it.

As a result, the government last month released its draft Migration Assurance Policy detailing the process for customers to be migrated from Telstra's legacy copper network to the fixed-line NBN.

This was followed soon after by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) granting draft approval for a revised agreement covering the transition of Optus' HFC customers onto the NBN, and the progressive integration of parts of the telco's network with the NBN.

At the end of July, however, Telstra and the Department of Communications argued that a draft decision by the ACCC to slash Telstra's wholesale fixed-line prices by 9.6 percent could hamper customer migration, as retailers would "have a profit motive to keep their customers on the higher-margin copper network for as long as possible".

"This would make migration to the NBN even harder to achieve, and put important revenue to NBN Co at risk. In this way, a cut to prices on the legacy network poses a serious danger to the success of the NBN policy," Telstra warned in a blog post.

The federal government mirrored this perspective, saying, "The department is concerned that the proposed price decrease for fixed-line services will discourage migration throughout the migration window, and could lead to a significant number of customers remaining on the old network in the lead-up to the disconnection date."

Telcos Optus and TPG, along with the Competitive Carriers' Coalition (CCC), soon after slammed the department's decision to involve itself in an independent review, especially when recommending that consumers should pay more.

"The Department of Communications' intervention in the ACCC's independent price-determination process to advance the interests of Telstra is extraordinary, unwelcome, unwarranted, and sets a dangerous precedent," the CCC (made up of Vodafone, Macquarie Telecom, iiNet, Nextgen Networks, and MyNetFone) said.

"For a government department to be calling for higher prices for ordinary consumers, and against the interests of competition, is surely a first at the federal level... For it to be doing so in the context of fixed-line communications services, where we Australia has (sic) the national disgrace of the highest prices in the developed world, beggars belief."

Telstra had previously argued in October that it should conversely be permitted to increase its wholesale fixed-line prices, because it will lose the economies of scale and face higher costs to maintain its network as it progressively hands over ownership to NBN.

An estimated 3.27 million premises could be serviced by the HFC networks being taken over from Telstra and Optus, with customers beginning to be connected from March 2016.

Last week, Turnbull took to his blog to defend the Coalition's NBN model, after the Australian Financial Review printed claims by MyRepublic co-founder Malcolm Rodrigues that the network model is "s***".

"The NBN is hardly the only company in the world rolling out a multi-technology mix," Turnbull wrote. "In Germany, Deutsche Telekom has recently announced an expansion of its fibre-to-the-node network, to cover 80 percent of its fixed-line footprint by 2018, while there have also been mass deployments by BT Openreach in the UK, AT&T in the US, and many others."

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) in May reported that it had received 1,635 NBN-related complaints in January to March 2015, a 15.6 percent increase compared to the previous quarter. Connection complaints made up 44.8 percent of these.

With AAP


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