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.
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]