Thursday, 14 December 2017 23:25

NBN Co capitulates on pricing, Govt to blame: Rowland Featured


Labor’s Shadow Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, is keeping up the political pressure on the Government over the NBN ahead of this weekend’s Bennalong by-election, and in the wake of an announcement by NBN Co, operators of the National Broadband Network, that it is planning to slash wholesale prices of its services to retailers.

In her second attack on the Government over the NBN in two days, Rowland is now claiming the broadband network’s multi-technology mix is further deteriorating with NBN Co's announcement of plans to reduce wholesale prices.

Her attack came after NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow sad that the company is negotiating with ISPs to reduce the wholesale price of some of its plans, in a move deigned to encourage more users to adopt high speed plans. Currently more than 80% of NBN users subscribe to services of 25 megabits per second or less.

NBN Co has described its proposed wholesale discount prices as "dramatic", coming on top of its top-tier internet access plans in a move designed to deliver significant savings for its wholesale customers and allow them to improve broadband speeds and service for end users.

The changes – which apply to NBN's fixed line access network are slated to come into effect in the second quarter of 2018 - with NBN Co saying that for the first time it will bundle together access and bandwidth charges for its higher speed plans under a simple pricing structure.

NBN Co says the new plans – including nearly double the current average capacity being purchased by retailers across all NBN fixed line services today – will help entice retailers and end users to move up the speed chain, reposition the NBN 50 service as the company’s flagship plan and "unleash the potential" of the NBN access network.

Only yesterday Rowland launched an attack on the Government, claiming it is unthinkable that Malcolm Turnbull is spending $50 billion on a “second-rate” NBN that could be leaving residents on the HFC network with 50 times more network downtime when compared to those on fibre.

And, also yesterday the pre-Bennelong political pressure over the NBN was ramped up when the Greens called for action by the Government, NBN Co and retail providers to address what they say is a serious lack of honesty, transparency and accountability at all levels on the rollout of the National Broadband Network.

According to the Greens its concerns must be addressed to restore public trust and meet Australia’s current and future digital needs.

“In a troubling sign that confidence in Turnbull’s multi-technology mix is further deteriorating, NBNCo has reduced its wholesale prices,” Rowland says in her Thursday broadside at the Federal Government.

“Let's face it: if you have a second-rate product in which consumers have little confidence, you may as well discount it,” Rowland says.

“Whilst the price discounts appear to be a modest step towards addressing poor experience during peak hours, this is just one of the many frustrations being experienced by consumers on Turnbull’s second-rate NBN.

“And after years of the Australian public being lectured to by NBNCo about why they don't need faster internet speeds, it is somewhat ironic that these pricing discounts are designed to encourage just that.

“This development also suggests the Government has given up on its 2020 NBN revenue targets,” Rowland says.

And, keeping it personal, Rowland says that “while he is at it, Turnbull should complete his capitulation by abandoning copper and at a minimum taking fibre to the curb, where it remains feasible”.

“It is incredible that NBNCo continues to pretend that copper is cheaper than fibre. The sooner this charade ends, the better off the Australian public will be.
“Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison now need to come clean, and explain what impact these pricing changes will have on the value of the NBN, the cost to the taxpayer, and the increased fiscal exposure to the federal budget.

“Australian taxpayers own the NBN and will not tolerate the project being run like some secret society.”

In a political aside to the NBN, Rowland said on Thursday that, "Well over a year after the Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, asked his Department to begin work on a communications policy roadmap, there’s still no sign of it".

"In response to Questions on Notice just released, the Department of Communications and the Arts confirmed the roadmap is still ‘under development’; that ‘discussions with the Minister continue’; and the roadmap hasn’t even been referred to the ACMA for consideration," Rowland claimed.

"It is now more than six years since the Australian Communications and Media Authority first released the Broken Concepts report, outlining the legislative concepts that are broken or under strain as a result of convergence, and there’s still no indication that the Turnbull Government is prepared to grapple with them.

"When asked what he is doing to address the many broken concepts that persist in Australian communications law and regulation, during Senate Estimates in October, the Minister said he’d be happy to take that on notice, even offering to provide a point-by-point response to the Broken Concepts document.

"His response, over a month later, was to ask the Department.

"On the eve of 2018, a good half of the bills in the Communications Portfolio, now before the Parliament, have been proposed by minority parties, rather than the Government. It is clear that the Turnbull Government has no vision for communications in Australia and no roadmap to guide the sector, the Department or the ACMA.

"Just as 12 years of the Howard Government saw Australia become a broadband backwater, so too will the inaction of the Turnbull Government see the world pass Australia by – to the detriment of consumers and the economy," Rowland concluded.



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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).



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