Tasmanian NBN a shambolic, abysmal failure: TasICT

TasICT has labelled the NBN deployment in Tasmania as a shambles, and said in a submission to the NBN senate committee that argument over which technology is used to rollout the NBN is now less relevant than the need to get customers onto the network.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The self-labelled peak body for Tasmania's information, communications, and technology sector, TasICT, has rebuked both sides of politics in a submission (PDF) to the Labor and Greens-led Senate Select Committee charged with reviewing the Coalition's changes to the NBN and its governance.

TasICT said that the NBN has been used as a political tool by all major parties at both the federal and state level, and that the real issues concerning the network had been dealt with in a shallow manner, or ignored entirely.

The rollout in Tasmania, which was originally slated to be the first state to have a complete network in 2015, is so far behind, that TasICT said on current run rates, it would take until 2028 for the remainder of Tasmania's 190,000 premises contracted to receive fibre to the premise to be connected to the network.

"Tasmanians now wonder if they will ever get the NBN," TasICT said. "Business has lost enthusiasm for the project and RSPs have lost confidence in the product they want to provide."

"Tasmania, already dealing with an inadequate communications infrastructure, faces lengthy delays to ever see the project completed."

The immediate issue for Tasmania, TasICT said, was not which technology was best, but to get the rollout progressing.

"A debate about what policy would see the greatest number of new connections to NBN infrastructure in the shortest period of time would be more relevant than one about proposed changes to the NBN technology mix," the submission said.

While the body remained supportive of a FttP network and encouraged a trial of fibre delivery via Aurora's power poles, it acknowledged that issues with Visionstream, the company contracted to deploy the network in Tasmania, plagued the rollout.

TasICT slammed Labor's push to legislate a FttP network in Tasmania, saying it was politically motivated and would not solve any of the network's problems.

"Even if it was successful, it would be farcical to shackle an incumbent government to an infrastructure policy it did not want to implement." The touted economic reform and health benefits long promised with a complete FttP rollout have the potential to transform Tasmania, but TasICT said that hinged on full delivery of the network.

"Existing broadband infrastructure is often inadequate or too unreliable to use the sort of technology that could result in better service delivery," the submission said.

"The NBN — through any of the current technology options — could solve this problem." Earlier this year, NBN Co chairman Ziggy Switkowski revealed that Tasmania's NBN rollout would be completed with fibre-to-the-node (FttN).

Switkowski said that pure FttP work would continue until the end of 2014, after which the NBN would transfer over to its multi-technology approach.

"We've now agreed on a multi-technology mode, where we will seek to use existing copper network where we can," he said.

Earlier this month, NBN Co announced that it would add built-in compensation to retail service providers in its wholesale broadband agreement in cases where NBN Co misses an appointment to connect a customer to the NBN.

In its submission, TasICT said it estimated that up to 50 percent of appointments were missed.

"There is anecdotal evidence that some of these appointments are being ignored because contractors arrive at the appointment, identify a difficult or time consuming job and make an assessment it is not worth the rate being offered."

TasICT said that poor experiences for customers was pushing down NBN take-up rates.

Since NBN Co has made state-based rollout numbers available, the number of brownfields premises passed has risen from 32271 at the start of December, to 36117 in the latest statistics available as of April 21, an increase of 3846 premises in almost five months. Throughout the same period, the number of premises able to receive an NBN service in Tasmania has risen by 4464 premises to 30396 in total.

"Without urgent political intervention, the project will continue to fail Tasmania," TasICT said.

"The first-mover NBN advantage once trumpeted as an economic saviour for Tasmania, is gone."

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