Notes from 2022
This is Part 6, where we wax polemic against the crooks and charlatans
in the Liberal Party of Australia, the final bosses of kleptocracy.
Part 1 focuses on the cultural deficiencies
Part 2 focuses on the failings of FTTN.
Part 3 deals with the HFC network and ways
in which it can be salvaged
Part 4 explains why the LTE network was poorly
thought out from the start.
Part 5 briefly touches on the economics
of the NBN.
An NBN retrospective - Part 6.
Someone has to take the fall for this. Well, not someone, but a group of someones.
And over the last eight thousand words, it should be pretty obvious to all which
group of someones has to cop it.
The government has, with reckless abandon, neglected the needs of Australia for
the last ten years. What should have had bipartisan support from day one as a
necessary Government intervention (depending on your economic sensibilities, a
regrettable one) in a failed private market was instead attacked relentlessly by
an opposition fuelled by pure vitriol and hatred, and then dismantled piece by
piece by a vindictive Government intent on doing nothing more than erasing the
legacy of its predecessor.
For ten years, the Liberal Party has been vehemently opposed to the NBN not
because of any technical or economic reason. It has been opposed to the NBN because
it was Red Team policy, and under the leadership of Tony Abbott, had become obsessed
not with holding the Government to account, but with attempting to undermine and
destroy it by any means necessary. If the Australian public become collateral
to that, then so be it.
The destruction of the NBN has been, from day one, primarily self-serving.
It has long been said that success in Australian politics is predicated on
“kissing the hand” of one Rupert Murdoch, Australia’s own exported oligarch.
Not only did Tony Abbott kiss the hand, he led Murdoch to the bathroom and
gave him a happy ending, in return for a happy ending of his own. It’s no
secret that Murdoch felt threatened by the NBN due to the rise of streaming
services and access to media outlets beyond his control. In exchange for a
free ride to the Lodge, the Liberal Party agreed to gimp and destroy the
NBN by any means necessary. So begins this Government’s long and proven
record of wanton corruption.
The corporate reshuffle at NBNCo in the months following the 2013 election
was of course nothing more than a wealth transfer exercise from the Treasury
to Liberal Party supporters. Gone was the original board, stacked with international
telecommunications experts such as Dr Quigley, and here to stay was a board
stacked with Telstra executives of the Sol Trujillo era – the Telstra era
immediately following privatisation. It was during this time that numerous
contracts with third party rollout partners were cancelled, and contracts
with Telstra renegotiated and expanded to include asset transfers, larger
cash payments, spectrum licensing agreements, and maintenance contracts in perpetuity.
Dr Ziggy Switkowski, chairman of the NBNCo board, was once CEO of Telstra
and a board member of Foxtel. Once a vocal critic of Telstra’s copper network,
now he champions FTTN and HFC as cheaper alternatives to FTTP.
The one exception to this rule is Simon Hackett, founder of Internode.
Once extremely opposed to the Liberal Party’s plan for the NBN, he was
appointed to NBNCo’s board by the Government in November 2013. While this
obviously wasn’t a decision made to reward Hackett, it was done instead to
silence a very high profile critic of its plan, one who was very influential
in the telco industry. Hackett took the position thinking he could perhaps
influence NBNCo from within, however resigned when it became apparent to
him that the organisation had been thoroughly politicised, and no amount
of influencing would change either the Government or NBNCo’s mind on how
best to proceed with the rollout. Hackett resigned in 2016 and was replaced
with Michael Malone, founder of iiNet. Mr Malone stated in 2017 that if he
were managing the rollout, he would penalise critics of NBNCo by moving their
connections to the “back of the queue” if they complained to the media.
These are the people the Liberal Party sees fit to be running a public utility.
It should have been apparent very, very early into the post-2013 rollout
that the new plan was a total dud. In fact, it was apparent. Rather than admit a
mistake and assume responsibility by quietly returning to an FTTP-based rollout,
the NBNCo was more than content to help the Government save face by wasting
undisclosed billions of taxpayer dollars on technological dead-ends like HFC.
We haven’t really discussed Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) yet. I deliberately left
that for this section. Fibre to the Curb doesn’t technically exist. After the
unmitigated disaster that was the Optus HFC trial and the eventual unmitigated
disaster that was the Telstra HFC rollout, NBNCo were faced with a dilemma.
Either move un-fixable Telstra and Optus Cable connections to the inferior FTTN
(and face the complaints that come with that), or bite the bullet and deploy FTTP.
NBNCo chose neither of these options, instead quietly enlisting networking
hardware provider Netcomm to invent a new technology - FTTC.
FTTC involves rolling out a GPON network to the street, much like FTTP.
Unlike FTTP, however, a box known as a DPU is installed in the pit. The
GPON signal is fed into this box, and it outputs four VDSL signals to service
homes using their existing copper line.
Take a couple of minutes to really contemplate the significance of this. NBNCo,
and by extension the Liberal Government, wasted billions and billions of taxpayer
dollars in an effort to do no more than salvage what few morsels remain of the
Liberal Party’s reputation. FTTC is perfectly indicative of this. For the sake
of a few metres of fibre optic cable up a driveway, NBNCo has spent hundreds of
millions of taxpayer dollars developing FTTC not for some technical or economic
reason but simply to avoid the brief political awkwardness that would come with
pushing that few metres of cable up the driveway.
If the argument of FTTP being significantly more expensive were true, then this wouldn’t
matter as much. However, when you take into account the public money that has gone
into developing FTTC, the cost of each DPU, the training of technicians and the
commissioning of backend systems, FTTC ends up costing about the same as FTTP.
And that’s based on NBNCo’s post-2013 FTTP costs, which in their 2013 Strategic
Review (conducted externally by Deloitte and KordaMentha) magically seemed to
double for no apparent reason, with FTTP OPEX being classed as CAPEX again for
no apparent reason.
Make no mistake, what the Liberal Party have done to the NBN is simply
unforgivable, and is indicative of their wider open contempt for the
Australian electorate, its money and its intelligence.
Rather than offer Labor bipartisan support on objectively positive legislation,
they elected to obstruct and attack the NBN on every possible turn, aided by
Rupert Murdoch and Telstra.
Rather than accept that FTTP is vastly superior in literally every aspect
to their own policy, they chose to simply lie about the cost of FTTP, and
then obfuscate or redact every single available document that made reference
to the cost of FTTP prior to December 2013. This deception continues today;
where FTTP costs around the world are plummeting, NBNCo’s internal documents
for some reason show costs increasing. NBNCo continues to be accused of
artificially inflating the costs of FTTP by industry experts and economists
the world over.
Rather than admit that they fucked up with FTTN when it was apparent,
they forged ahead with it until the situation was so bad that even the
Murdoch press were beating up on the Government for it.
Rather than quietly go back to FTTP, they spent billions of taxpayer dollars -
your taxpayer dollars - on short-term distractions like HFC and FTTC for no
reason other than to avoid having to admit that Labor was right about something.
The Internet has become a public utility on the same level of necessity as electricity.
Greece, a nation known mostly for the corruption and inefficacy of its government,
acknowledges Internet access as a basic human right. Australia, ostensibly a free,
first-world nation, has a government that has for the last 10 years actively frustrated
efforts to bring forth ubiquitous and reliable Internet access; and for what? For
some old cunt in New York to sell more newspapers.
Should we elect a government that actually cares about the common good more than
it cares about its donors and reputation, it is my hope that at least some of
the recommendations made here be acted upon as soon as humanly possible, lest
Australia be relegated to economic backwater status in an age increasingly defined
by the Internet. The fixes outlined here represent a realistic, achievable and
cost-effective way to give Australia a fighting chance at achieving universal
broadband access. Sure, it’s not 93% FTTP as was originally envisioned, however
the days of that being achievable in the short term are sadly long gone. With
these proposed upgrades being a realistically achievable interim goal, hopefully
one day soon that dream will indeed be realised.
If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?