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Is Australia’s Government Network “Broken Beyond Repair”?

March 16, 2017

The Coalition for the New Economy has argued repeatedly that one of the reasons government-owned Internet Service Providers (ISPs) run into trouble is that municipal officials rarely have the expertise to build and manage a complex communications network that require regular (and costly) upgrades.

We’re seeing this problem play out in Australia. Internet Australia Executive Chair Anne Hurley wrote in an opinion piece that the National Broadband Network (NBN) is “broken beyond repair” and accused government officials of focusing on outdated technology.

Originally, Hurley worked with NBN “on the implementation of the original fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) strategy.” Now NBN has switched strategies, and Hurley argues that it isn’t working. Writing recently in the Australian Business Review, Hurley explained, “Highly regarded technical experts are speaking out and saying that this major infrastructure project is fundamentally flawed — for many reasons, but mainly because of the Government’s dogged commitment to persisting with already-obsolete copper-based technology.”

Hurley said she has watched NBN’s current fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) strategy “with dismay” and noted that consumers have expressed concern about an “extremely dysfunctional sign-up process” and “missed appointments and general confusion.” Hurley also said “consumers are being lumbered with a network delivering internet speeds that doom them to lag behind the rest of the world and are subjected to installation procedures that seemingly have little or no ‘customer service’ component in them.” Indeed, the outdated strategy has harmed Australia’s global rankings for internet speed and penetration already, Hurley says.

Despite the clear need to change course, Hurley says NBN’s leaders “defend the indefensible,” even taking to its blog to argue that Australians “should all be happy with our slow speed Internet …”

Hurley concludes, “Australia needs broadband infrastructure built on technologies that deliver the internet of today and tomorrow. Not one using old copper wires that will need to be replaced just as the demand for very fast broadband really kicks in.”