Thursday, 16 June 2016 13:10

Internet Australia takes Switkowski to task over NBN ‘leaks’ comments Featured

By
Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton

Internet Australia chief Laurie Patton has weighed into the debate about NBN Co chairman Dr Ziggy Switkowski’s newspaper opinion piece on the AFP raids on Labor functionaries over leaks of NBN information, suggesting the broadband network chief is using his comments to create a public distraction from the “very serious flaws” in the NBN's current design strategy.

Labelling the comments as “unhelpful and unfair” and disparaging to the unnamed NBN Co staffers he has made serious accusations about, Patton says Switkowski does this “despite no charges having been laid and therefore no opportunity given for the accused to put forward their side of the story”.

“Internet Australia, the peak NFP body representing Internet users, believes that the alleged actions of these NBN Co employees and questions as to their motives should be left to be dealt with according to the appropriate legal and parliamentary processes.

“This is especially so during an election period in which the NBN is clearly a germane issue for many voters. Whatever their motivations, we cannot allow the actions of two individuals, yet to be tested at law, to be used to create a public distraction from the very serious flaws in NBN's current design strategy.”

According to Patton, the issue is not about NBN Co's performance to date, on which he says there is real and genuine concern in technical circles and in the public arena, but “it's about the fundamental fact that they are building an inferior network at a time when Australia has well justified ambitions to become a leading innovation nation”.

“The use of ageing copper and a decrepit HFC network built 25 years ago for Pay TV is placing our economic future at risk. We've fallen to 60th on global speed rankings, from 30th just a few years ago. This slide relative to our peers will continue even as the NBN is being built so long as we rely on the current technology mix. New Zealand out-performs us and Singapore, arguably our biggest regional competitor, already delivers broadband speeds 100 times faster than ours.”

Referring to Switkowski’s comments that "the assessments of our retail service providers and end users are positive and the various technological platforms are operating to specification", Patton says: "On the contrary, there is widespread dissatisfaction with NBN. Newspaper, radio and television reports confirm this, as do the multitudinous posts on social media platforms that point to complicated delivery processes and unacceptably slow Internet speeds.

“Eighty percent of our members surveyed recently were dissatisfied with the current so-called multi-technology mix (MTM) approach. This includes many of the RSPs to which Dr Switkowski refers.”

Patton reiterates previous comments that Internet Australia believes that only a fibre-based broadband network will provide the Internet speeds and reliability of service needed in the 21st century.

“A recent hearing of the Senate NBN Select Committee was shown new 'skinny fibre' that NBN is using and has been for some time. This was not available when the decision was made to adopt the MTM model, but it does open up the opportunity to change back to an all-fibre network before it is too late and millions of dollars have been lost in ‘sunk costs’ when the copper sections of the network inevitably need to be replaced.

“It has been reported that the cost of deploying a fibre network compared to a copper-based service has narrowed considerably. When the expense and the inconvenience of having to eventually overbuild the copper and HFC networks, in 10 to 15 years or possibly earlier, are fully considered it makes sense to go back to building the NBN with fibre ASAP.”

Patton says the Internet is an essential service that will underpin Australia's social and economic progress and the federal government must ensure we are provided with the best possible national broadband network, “using the most advanced technology and delivering services comparable with world's best practice. In the end, it is about our right to know how the largest infrastructure project in generations is fairing”.

In a further swipe at Switkowski, and referring to his comments that "confidential and commercially sensitive information was unlawfully leaving the company", Patton says: “NBN Co is a government-owned monopoly. It has no direct competitors, so how can it claim that information about the number of premises passed, the amount of revenue it has received and reports on the quality of its service delivery should be seen as 'commercial-in-confidence' and kept from the public?

“Why was it considered secret in the first place? The solution is simple. Whoever wins the upcoming election should hold an independent review of both the strategic technical direction that NBN Co is now pursuing and the relevance and veracity of the reports it is making public.

“No apologies needed Dr Switkowski. Just the facts. And a fibre-based NBN fit-for-purpose thanks,” Patton concludes.

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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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