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Labor condemns NBN installation success rate sitting at 90 percent

If there was a one in 10 chance your food would make you sick, you wouldn't call that a success, Stephen Jones has said.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Shadow Minister for Regional Communications Stephen Jones has hit out at claims that the National Broadband Network (NBN) is seeing a 90 percent success rate the first time equipment is due to be installed, saying the figure is not good enough.

"Can you imagine if my local fish-and-chip shop was selling hamburgers, and one out of 10 of them was creating food poisoning? Do you think that would be OK? The answer is clearly no," Jones told the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) National Conference on Thursday.

"Why should it be any different for an essential service?"

Speaking to the ABC over the weekend, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield had said NBN gets nine out of 10 connections "right the first time", and that the government and NBN are working on ways to improve this number.

"Firstly, we want to improve and are improving the migration process," he said on Sunday.

"Secondly, when it comes to the experience that people actually have on the network, one of the issues is retail service providers -- Telstra, Optus, TPG -- whether they purchase enough capacity to service their customers. Now, we have instructed the ACCC to undertake performance monitoring, speed monitoring, where there will be 4,000 probes embedded in premises around the country and people will have visibility of the service that's actually being provided.

"The ACCC has also issued fresh guidance to retailers to make sure that their advertising is clear for consumers -- something that it hasn't always been."

Speaking on Thursday, Jones said that if the rollout is progressing as well as the government claims, the monthly report from NBN to government should be published.

"If things are going so well, you have to ask yourself: 'Why not publish the report?'," he said.

Mirroring comments made by Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland to the same event on Wednesday, Jones called for changes to allow the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) to bind NBN to a dispute resolution process.

"If the problem was just the initial connection, you say: 'Complex, big rollout. That's OK, we get it.' But when there is not a sufficient process to deal with fault rectification, and they bounce it between service provider and the NBN, nobody taking responsibility, then we've got a significant problem," he said.

Jones said Labor would be taking policies to the next election that would handle the dispute resolution and blame "ping pong" surrounding the NBN, but that this would not be enough to deal with a divide between customers on different technologies.

"We are still not going to resolve the issue of the inbuilt digital divide which exists between the technology rich and the technology poor, between those that have access to the best technology and those that are relegated to technology that will simply not be fit for purpose for the remainder of this century," Jones said.

"We cannot wait until next election; we need to hear from the NBN about what their upgrade plan is for those parts of the network which we know today are not fit for purpose.

"It is simply not good enough to have a network which has been built, which ensures that a digital divide has been built in to every neighbourhood in the country, and that's what copper provides."

Speaking earlier in the day, NBN chief strategy officer JB Rousselot defended the company's network, stating that few retail applications need speeds of over 50Mbps.

"The network that we are building today -- that delivers 25Mbps to everybody and 50Mbps to most, and up to 100Mbps to many of the premises -- definitely caters for the applications of today," Rousselot told the ACCAN conference.

"So the network that we are building today definitely answers the needs of the community today, and probably well into 2020 and beyond."

Rousselot reiterated NBN's approach to upgrading its technology mix, stating that the company will upgrade when it sees demand for faster speeds.

"Ultimately, there is no resisting the fact that the speed and the demand for speed will come, and our challenge will become in the future to be able to bring where and when it is needed."

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