How Our Government Broke The NBN: Mike Quigley

Image: NBNco

NBN Co's first CEO, Mike Quigley, has published a scathing attack on the Liberal government's handling of the NBN rollout. In a detailed view of his time as CEO, he discusses how the Australian public was short-changed in one of the nation's biggest infrastructure projects.

Quigley's systematic deconstruction of coalition broadband policy, published in The Monthly, starts at the beginning of the project with the deployment of the first 100Mbps connections at three rural towns on Tasmania.

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I was at the press conference that day and, notwithstanding one journo's question about why the NBN was going to three towns full of "bogans", it seemed like we were on the road to fast internet access for almost everyone.

Below are some of the more interesting grabs from the article, which I think makes fascinating, if not somewhat one-sided, reading. It's important to note that Quigley doesn't pay much attention to the failings of NBN Co when it comes to a lack of understanding that this is a civil engineering project and not a technology one, as well as a failure to work cohesively with its government benefactors.

Here are a few interesting titbits from Quigley's op ed.

On the decision to abandon the FTTP plan and move to the multi-technology mix (MTM):

Tony Abbott’s government replaced the largely fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) model initiated by the Labor government with a Multi Technology Mix (MTM) model, which is still being deployed today. The MTM, which uses a range of fixed-line architectures and technologies including fibre-to-the-node, fibre-to-the-curb and Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC), will end up costing Australian taxpayers billions of dollars more than if the original deep-fibre NBN had been allowed to continue. It will also result in a network that is considerably less capable of meeting the nation’s future broadband needs.

How some sections of the media continued to report incorrect information:

in mid August 2010 a young reporter from The Australian contacted NBN Co’s communications department. He was writing a story after hearing somewhere that every home connected to the NBN would need to be rewired, at a cost of up to $3000. I spent 45 minutes on the phone with him, explaining that there was absolutely no need for any household to upgrade their internal wiring when connecting to the NBN.

I rather naively assumed that the 45 minutes on the phone was time well spent in averting the creation of an erroneous article. However, when published a day or two later, the article repeated the same claim of $3000 wiring cost

On the need to build a fixed network when the world is going wireless:

The reality is that both fixed and mobile networks will be needed long into the future, a view held by almost every telecommunications professional. This is supported by Australian Bureau of Statistics information on the amount of data that Australians are downloading

On the NBN's road to positive cashflow:

Unfortunately, the potential to generate revenue and reduce operating costs has been significantly degraded by the move to the MTM, so it will be a serious challenge for NBN Co to achieve a positive cash flow and long-term financial viability.

Whether you think the original FTTP NBN is a good idea or not, the reality is that the project has been dogged by political and ideological rhetoric and interference. Initial cost estimates by Labor were too low and the promises of the Coalition were too optimistic, particularly once the decision to use the HFC networks came into play, slowing the project down and requiring lots of remediation.

Quigley's perspective on the events of the first four years of NBN Co's life are interesting. I wonder what his successors will say once their time has passed and they can reflect on the experience.

[Via The Monthly]


    This is why im voting labor, the libs have screwed up all infrastructure in my area(rail/roads/internet/stadiums/hospitals), not to say labor will do much better but the fact that they(liberals) have hamstrung the NBN this badly deserves a voting out. That is even putting aside all other policy failings. I akin it to screwing up the snowy mountains scheme one point 0 for my generation. *also looks pointedly at snowy hydro 2.0*

      It is as clear as day that eventually NBNCo will, as originally planned, be sold to the highest bidder, almost certain to be Telstra's InfraCo.

      The sale will likely be by the next Coalition term (8 years away) so they can blame Labor for the dire state that required the sale at an incredibly discounted value, ignoring the fact that what was a good idea was right royally destroyed by the Coalition with the MTM fiasco. Even if Labor tried to right the ship they would be hammered for throwing good money after bad and it will be sold anyway.

      We will have come full circle with Telstra taking over the core of Australia's network with absolutely no motivation upgrade or expand anywhere other than where a profit can be made - unless of course funded by the Government as it still does in under programs such as the Black -Spot campaigns.

      I feel sorry for those that missed out on a once in a lifetime opportunity to be on a level playing field with rich, dense, profitable suburbs.

    Turnbull and Abbot announced their shitty NBN plan at FOX STUDIOS way back in the day. Makes things pretty clear.

    Kevin Rudd has called out Murdoch on the whole thing.

      FTTP would have made Foxtel's infrastructure entirely worthless leading to the possibility of competition from startups. Murdoch couldn't have any of that.

      We can not blame the Government. Australian's are incapable of voting wisely. We do not have a news media (only gossip mags), nor are we educated enough to know how to select a candidate.

      So what we are left with is people in power who change set plans to suit their wallets. Change the Murray Darling rules, change the NBN nodes to street corners, Change Snowy Hydro. You know the list goes on. But with no proper elections (ever) our politicians do what they please. So What has changed since the convict days.

        We can not blame the GovernmentWhat now?
        Whilst I agree that education these days is atrocious and therefore we as a nation are becoming more ignorant. the Government and for the most part, the Liberals are the ones who have eroded it. We have doggedly followed the US model of stupidity and we will end up just like them if nothing is done to stop it.

    Someone comes up with a good idea, then the politicians get involved. Rinse. Repeat.

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