NBN Co has announced it has achieved its revised end-of year target for the delivery of the National Broadband Network. The figures were revised downwards after much publicised delays and problems with contractors earlier this year.
The NBN has released figures showing how well it is doing. Opposition Communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull has released figures showing how badly it is doing. Funny thing is, they are the same set of figures. Kinda. Sorta.
NBN Co figures show that as at 30 June 2013 the company achieved its ‘revised’ target range of 190,000-220,000 premises passed by fibre optic cable in built-up areas and new housing developments. The total number of fibre premises passed as at 30 June was 207,500. The fibre rollout is the largest component of the NBN build, intended to be delivered to 93% of Australian premises by 2021.
NBN Co boasts that it achieved a more than fourfold increase in the total number of end users over the past 12 months, and a sevenfold increase in fibre users. The total number of families and businesses with NBN services is now 70,100, it reported.
NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley says NBN Co is using the accepted industry definition of ‘premises passed’ – homes and businesses passed by an active telecommunications network. This standard measure includes those complex premises that will receive services over the NBN outside of standard order lead times.
Turnbull begs to differ. He says it is not a standard definition. “To meet its 30 June 30 target – which itself has been revised down twice – the NBN has created a new category of premises it describes as being ‘passed’. Service Class 0 applies when ‘a premises that is not NBN serviceable but is in the footprint of the NBN Co fibre network – in other words, no connection device has been installed.”
Turnbull says this is inconsistent with the definition of ‘premises passed’ in the NBN Corporate Plan, which says ‘premises are passed/covered when the shared network and service elements are installed, accepted, commissioned and ready for service which then enables an end user to order and purchase a broadband service from their choice of retail service provider’.
Turnbull says that is not the case. He says the credibility of the management of the NBN is now shattered, with revelations that a third of existing premises ‘passed’ by fibre can’t actually connect to the network.
“In South Perth, more than nine in ten premises ‘passed’ cannot connect to the network. The NBN must undergo a rigorous audit so that the public knows exactly where the project is up to, and how much it will cost in time and dollars to complete the project under Labor.”
“Between June 22 and June 30, the number of premises ‘passed’ by the NBN increased from 142,000 to 163,500. However, it is clear that the vast majority of these new premises cannot receive a service.
“The NBN Co’s abuse of the English language should not hide the real progress of this project. Meanwhile, global industry figures show that in the first quarter of 2013, there were 12 new fibre-to-the-node and fibre-to-the-basement connections installed for each new fibre-to-the-premise connection.
Labor failed to meet even half its March 2013 target for fixed wireless rollout, says Turnbull. “At the rate of new connections on the interim satellite service, the NBN is on track to meet the cap on users on the interim satellite service in late 2013 or early 2014. Labor must now investigate increasing the interim satellite service cap as a matter of priority.”
The two sides stopped listening to each other a long time ago, and the public not long after that. Turnbull makes some strong points, and his numbers are quite right. The problem he has is that his mantra is well known, as is the Coalition’s policy of a ‘cheaper, slower, sooner’ NBN. FTTN is still anathema to many.
Turnbull will have difficulty convincing anyone who isn’t already convinced, while Labor just might, with a new team to prosecute the case. Whatever the case, it’s no longer a fait accompli. The NBN, overall, is probably still an electoral plus for Labor.