2GB Sydney Live with Ben Fordham
23 October 2017
Well the Prime
Minister has described the National Broadband Network as a train wreck of a
project. Malcolm Turnbull says it was a big mistake to set up a new government
company nbnco to roll out the NBN. He says there’s a question mark over whether
taxpayers will ever see a return from the project, and predictably, he’s put
the blame squarely on Labor and predictably Labor is blaming the Coalition and
On the line the
federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield.
A train wreck,
it’s not encouraging language for the NBN from the Prime Minister?
Well, what we
inherited was absolutely a failed project. Our predecessors spent the best part
of about $6.5 billion over four years and connected a grand total of 51,000
people. You had contractors who’d downed tools in four states. Essentially the
project had ground to a halt. So we’ve turned that around substantially where
the NBN is now available to more than half the country. It’ll be three quarters
by the middle of next year. Done and dusted 2020. And the good news Ben is that
is six to eight years sooner than would have been the case under Labor and at about
$30 billion less cost.
So under the
Coalition, many, many more people have signed up for the NBN which means there
are many more people who are unimpressed with the results?
Well we do have
a good take up on the NBN, but you’re right Ben there are a number of people
who aren’t having the experience that we would all hope that they would. And
there are a couple of reasons for that. One is the experience actually
migrating on to the network has sometimes been an issue. I guess just to put
that in perspective, this is really a one in 100 year event where everyone is
moving across to a new network. There’s been some big effort put in to
improving that experience. The other sort of issue that we tend to have is
people who don’t have the expectations met that they have when it comes to
speeds. And there can be some straightforward reasons for that. One is, and
this is a common one. The retailers have sent them the wrong modem. They’ve got
the wrong bit of gear. But equally important is retailers have to make sure
that they purchase from NBN the capacity that they need to service their
doesn’t seem to be happening and that’s why you’ve got a lot of people who are
promised upload and download speeds that are sky high and in reality they’re
not getting anywhere near that. What about the argument that Labor wanted a
rolled gold system in place. They wanted fibre to the home and when the Coalition
downgraded that to fibre to the node, that that’s when the rot set in.
essentially doing what they do in the United States and what they do in Europe.
Which is you use a range of technologies. You don’t take a theological approach
to this. You use the technology that makes sense in a given area to see the NBN
rolled out fastest and at lowest cost. And we saw in the papers this morning
that with Labor’s full fibre to the premise approach that there are some
residences where it was costing $91,000 to connect a single residence. Now
that’s one of the reasons why Labor’s approach would have cost about $30
billion more. But here’s the kicker Ben, when the project costs that much more
Labor’s plan was for consumers to pay that. So Labor’s own model, Labor’s own
approach would have seen consumers paying about $500 extra a year for their
now because this thing needs rescuing? But when you hear the kind of language
coming out of the federal government today about train wrecks and mistakes it
doesn’t sound like you guys want to rescue it, but you’ve got no choice do you?
want to rescue it. That’s why we fundamentally changed the rollout approach
compared to Labor. It’s why we’ve now got NBN available to half the nation. But
there are some important things we’ve done to make sure that customers get the
experience they deserve. One is, we have given the ACCC money, as the consumer
cop on the beat, so they can embed 4000 probes in people’s premises. And the
ACCC will publicly report on the speeds people are actually getting by
retailer. The other thing is that the ACCC have given very clear guidance to
the retailers as to how they should advertise. And if retailers don’t follow
that, the ACCC will come down on them like a ton of bricks.
And if people
are still unhappy, just ring the Communications Minister’s office.
As always Ben.
And I know you won’t hesitate.
Well they ring
us all of the time, we’ve become a bit of an Ombudsman as my colleague Ray
Hadley said this morning in regards to the NBN because the moment we mention it
we just get flooded with calls. Anyway, it’s a mess and we’ve got to untangle
it. Thanks for your time.