Should NBN Co be reporting more frequently?

The outside disclosure of the number of premises that NBN Co has passed with fibre has revealed that NBN Co isn't being completely transparent.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Devoted NBN's rollout figures have shown that NBN Co is providing more information to the industry than it is to the public at a time when it said it would be too difficult to provide more frequent updates on how many premises have been passed by the National Broadband Network (NBN) fibre.

The figures do not paint the rollout in a good light, with just over 1,400 brownfields premises passed between the end of December 2012 and March 12 this year. It calls into question whether NBN Co would be able to ramp up from 47,511 to its target of 286,000 brownfields premises passed by the end of June.

Devoted NBN pulled down the figures on Monday afternoon. ZDNet has learned that this wasn't at the request of NBN Co itself, but from Nextgen Networks, which is Devoted NBN's wholesale provider.

NBN Co told ZDNet that "customers and their resellers all have a responsibility to treat confidential information accordingly".

But the release shows that NBN Co's claim to the Senate Estimates committee in questions on notice in February did not provide the whole picture. In response to a question on how many had signed up in Tasmania in the last 12 months, NBN Co said:

"Now that NBN Co has reached volume rollout, it is impractical for NBN Co to provide ad hoc updates on financial and deployment metrics to a level of granularity not already provided for in public releases, parliamentary reporting processes, and regular rollout information provided on our website for the use of access seekers."

The data provided to the retailers is fairly granular, and not something that is available to the public, in contrast to the company's assertions that it couldn't provide this sort of information now.

Many have questioned whether more frequent construction updates are required, but the fact that retailers are given more information about the status of the government's project than the general public is not a good look for a government-owned company that has defended its claims of being as transparent as possible with the public.

When NBN Co begins to hit peak rollout, and — as outlined in the corporate plan — is passing thousands of premises per day with fibre, the weekly or monthly updates will become less important. But while NBN Co continues to lag behind schedule, the company really ought to take ownership of the delays and be transparent as to the reasoning behind them.

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