Thursday, 03 August 2017 11:31

NBN woes: ACMA inquiry likely to be a waste of time


Will the inquiry that the Australian Communications and Media Authority has been asked to carry out into the malfunctioning NBN end up doing any good?

If one goes by the comments of Richard Bean, acting chairman of the ACMA, during an interview on Radio National on Wednesday, it will just be a waste of time.

To make it clear, this is no fault of Bean's. He has been tasked with finding out the reason for the dissatisfaction by the government when world+dog seems to be full aware of the reason why slow speeds are the main item on the NBN menu.

Bean cannot refuse – he has no choice in the matter.

But it became clear in his answers to the pugnacious Fran Kelly on the Breakfast programme that he can do nothing to make the problem better.


He can, of course, use statutory powers vested in the ACMA to seek information from companies which are stakeholders in the whole NBN fiasco. There is no means of ensuring that he will be told the truth.

So what if his inquiries reveal that, as suspected by everyone expect NBN chief executive Bill Morrow, the CVC charge is the main reason for people shying away from taking faster connections?

Simply put what if the main reason for people experiencing slow speeds is the that they are cutting their coats according to their cloth and opting for the lower tiers because they cannot pay more?

Well, Bean told Kelly, the ACCC would have to look at a method of solving the issue. Or the government would have to carry the baby.

Essentially, it would devolve back to the government who have taken the neoliberal position that every service that is supplied to citizens - using their own taxes, mind you - has to yield a profit.

But the government has again refused to put the NBN on-budget, insisting that it be kept off and that it should make a profit.

Finance Minister Matthias Cormann was quoted recently as saying: "The government is not considering a writedown of its investment in NBN and there is no basis for such a writedown.

"The government's investment in NBN can only be written down in accordance with the requirements of accounting standards. These standards require there to be evidence that the investment should be written down and do not allow this to be done at the government's discretion.

"NBN has already discounted its prices for retailers by 28% since the beginning of the rollout and is in regular discussion with RSPs (retail service providers) about issues such as data consumption and CVC."

It looks like in the end, Australians will just have to suck it up, curse under their breath and pay more if they want speeds that will be of any use to them.

Photos: courtesy NBN Co.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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