Daily Telegraph repeatedly wrong in NBN reports

news The Australian Press Council has expressed concern about the Daily Telegraph’s coverage of the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network project, backing a local critic’s complaint that three articles in a short period of time had contained “inaccurate or misleading assertions” about the NBN.

In a statement, the Press Council noted that it had taken notice of a complaint made about three articles published by The Daily Telegraph on 9 June, 17 June and 6 July 2011 about aspects of the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The first article in The Daily Telegraph, headlined “Australian taxpayers’ latest NBN horror show”, was also published in other News Ltd newspapers under a different headline. The plaintiff, local Jamie Benaud, complained that this article overstated the ratio of NBN staff to customers by understating the number of customers who had taken up NBN offers. He also pointed out the inaccuracy of the article’s claim that customers and internet service providers (ISPs) were accessing NBN services without charge in Tasmania. The Council regarded the wrong assertion about the staff/customer ratio as misleading and unfair since the NBN was still at a very early start-up stage.

The Daily Telegraph claimed that the customer figures were based on up-to-date available data at the time of publication, and that free access applied in all the mainland States. The Council however, deemed that the newspaper should have tried harder to obtain the latest customer figures even though the mistake did not significantly affect the point being made. The Council admitted that the errors by themselves could have been considered minor ones, but that the forceful nature of the headline necessitated upholding the complaints about the article.

Benaud’s complaint targeted an unfair and inaccurate implication in another article headlined “Join the NBN or you’ll be digging deep”. The impression created was that customers not signing up for NBN at the beginning would have to pay an “estimated” $900 per day to have the cable laid to their home at a later date and then up to $140 a month to get an ISP connection. Benaud indicated NBN Co’s statement that later cable-laying would still be free of cost for “standard installation” and that ISP connection costs could be as reasonable as $30 a month.

The Daily Telegraph agreed that its statement regarding cable-laying costs might have been misread and had therefore published a clarification, but it upheld its mention of only the upper ISP price as fair and a common practice. The Council disagreed about the statement related to the cable-laying cost, calling it seriously inaccurate, while noting the newspaper’s attempts to clarify the matter.

However, the Council said the article implied that $900 would have to be paid to an ISP. With the actual ISP connection fee range being as wide as $30-140 and the minimum fees also being well known, the Council described as unfair and misleading the newspaper’s description of the fee as “up to $140”.

Benaud complained about the comparison in the article titled “Low interest in high speed internet” of a certain customer’s current internet costs of $39 per month with what it claimed would be between $53 and more than $130 a month on signing up for NBN services.

Benaud said that this should have taken into account that the customer’s phone service would cost much more than $39 totally for internet and phone, since the price range of $53 to $130, in reality, included a combination of internet and phone services, and not internet alone. The Daily Telegraph stated that the consumer himself did not have a problem with the portrayal or accuracy of his statements.

Since the newspaper omitted the costs of combined phone and internet services, the Council upheld the complaint, calling the comparison misleading. The Council also expressed its concern that the three articles had been published in a short space of time containing erroneous and misleading assertions. It stated that the sequence of mistakes should not have occurred and should have been addressed sufficiently and promptly when brought to the newspaper’s attention.

It’s not the first time that a major News Ltd newspaper in Australia has been criticised for its coverage of the NBN. In a war of words in October 2010, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy had asked Coalition senators not to believe what they read in newspapers such as The Australian and in other publications by News Ltd, after The Australian published a string of articles about the NBN which Conroy perceived to be unnecessarily negative.


  1. So what, this rag is just another propaganda wing of the Owner and his Liberal party – this is the junk that gives Journalists their low standing in the community (even prostitutes and used car salesman have some dignity). So what is the Press Council doing about these toadies?

  2. Yes, the NBN project is going perfectly. They can’t possibly have any schedule or budget problems. :-)

    Over a ten year period they need to average 3000 customer connections per working day. So far, they have only 3000 customer connections.

    For how long are the NBN fans going to say “It’s just early days, this is to be expected.” ???

    The NBN is a great idea. This nation needs this project to succeed. Unless people start pushing NBNCo to perform, it isn’t going to happen.

    Stop cheering. Start yelling. Get angry.

    • Even if what you’ve written is true, it doesn’t change the fact that these three articles were factually incorrect.

      Like it or not, the fact is that it’s early days for the NBN. Yes, they’re slightly behind on the brownfields rollout, but that’s really a factor of the Telstra delay. That’s done now, and construction contracts have been signed. The volume rollout hasn’t even started yet, so of course there’s no way they would be doing anywhere near 3,000 connections per day. They aren’t supposed to be doing that sort of volume for a few years, according to the corporate plan.

    • It isn’t this junction I remind you that businesses building infrastructure do not start rolling out all infrastructure at a consistent rate from the day the proposal is ratified. They undergo a trail period, where they get comfortable with the technical requirements of the rollout (the stage the NBN is exiting apparently), then a roll up stage where they secure contracts for material and workers (the stage the NBN is entering right now), then a peak but sustained rollout (NBNCo estimates at this point they will be rolling out 6000 premises a day during this point) and then a roll down as they devolve the workforce down to the level they require for maintenance.

      But hey, let’s completely over-state the problem. They are behind the original schedule, yes, but the schedule was not “3000 houses a day for the life of the project” as you’re implying here.

    • Fact is, despite a few recent hurdles – (getting the Telstra deal finally over the line) – they are actually slightly ahead of schedule.

      Despair all you like.

      • That’ s because they keep extending the finish date, that way you are always ahead of schedule.


          • The fact is the NBN end date has gone from 2018 to 2020 and is now 2022, I think what MW meant to say was not ‘rolls the eyes’ but ‘shut the eyes’, then you don’t have to read all the awkward stuff, a denial method good NBN true blue apologists use quite regularly.

          • The fact is that the only true delay from the Corporate plan was due to Telstra dragging their feet. Everything that the NBN is responsible for is on or ahead of schedule.
            Trying to invent fear or assign blame beyond that is nothing but FUD…

          • BTW, inventing FUD is exactly what this thread is all about, so thanks for being on topic (or possibly a source?) :)

          • I didn’t mention the reasons for the delay at all only that they existed, you decided to fill it in for me so you could dismiss it as ‘fud’, nice.

          • Which part of this, which proves your claims incorrect, do you not understand?

            “A parliamentary committee has been informed recently that despite the various delays experienced with the National Broadband Network in Australia, the network is still set to meet its targets with regards to completion”.

          • So that’s a no, you don’t understand that. Well what about this?

            “Speaking to a joint committee inquiring into the NBN in Canberra, Quigley said: “We have not changed our end date (2021) for the program and that means we have to work a little bit harder towards the back end of that’”

  3. The Daily Telegraph must be beside themselves with worry, after all “The Australian Press Council” is a self-regulatory body.
    Rest assure general public, this self regulating media industry body will uphold truth and honesty in the media industry, even if it means less profit.


  4. This article is strangely lacking the normal, imperiously, bigoted anti NBN correspondents. How curious.

  5. So far the NBN has destroyed the hybrid cable internet and reduced the rate of speed increase from 1,000 fold per decade to 10 fold per decade. Wasted $10b buying Telstras ducts and poles instead of swapping access to NBN ducts and poles. Local councils should focus on commission of any able private contractor to connect optical fiber customer access network from interconnect to building users willing to pay the greatest percentage of the cost. Leave the backbone to commercial private providers, ISPs and customers.

    • So we were going to get 100,000 megabits in 10 years with private enterprise?

      My god man, I want your future internet!! Praytell, what technology would you be rolling out right now that will give us access to that speed in 10 years time.

      • (* 100,000 megabits as HFC cable right now is capable of a maximum [shared by a neighborhood] bandwidth downstream rate of 100 megabits per second over Docsis 3.0)
        10 years from now, according to Loris, we would have been seeing 100,000 megabits per second (1000 fold for 10 years!!)

        PS. I put it to Loris, that the only technology even capable of these speeds would be a non GPON-based fibre network, where we lay a single (or multiple) fibre (probably pair) to every home in Australia. No 32:1 splitters… certainly no copper anywhere in sight.

        So seriously, if Loris knows of another way, (or a way we could do this) for similar (or even better!) money than the NBN. Love to hear it.

    • Oh Loris, surely you jest?

      The private sector in Australia stopped rolling out HFC a decade ago, have installed effectively no FTTP, and no FTTN. Technologies that are continually being installed overseas. In the few areas where they have installed FTTP, the retail pricing is far in excess of NBN pricing.

      Why on earth do you expect they would suddenly reverse this trend?

      The NBN haven’t bought Telstras ducts, they are leasing them. The $11bn in payments is a combination of lease payments for ducts and dark fibre, and customer migration.

      Time to come back to reality mate.

      • ‘The NBN haven’t bought Telstras ducts, they are leasing them.’

        Except where they have to run new ones because is there is no room.

        • @alain – “Except where they have to run new ones because is there is no room”
          Do you have any indication as to if/how much that is happening? Is it on one street in the middle of Sydney, or is it happening in every neighborhood?
          Considering how small a fibre cable is, I would have thought that this was a VERY rare occurence indeed…

          • Determining the ratio is important to know why? – the fact is the NBN Co have made allowances in their budget for new ducts.

          • Nice off topic rant alain (or is that alian, refer to your previous comments above).

            Not a mention of the Murdoch press proven biased.

            Gee what a surprise.

          • “the fact is the NBN Co have made allowances in their budget for new ducts”

            How many? 1, 2, more than that? Is this a problem or an attempt to spin more fear and doubt?
            What’s the cost?

          • wow you are getting a bit over excited here, I just pointed that the NBN Co has made allowances for building new ducts where necessary, they probably don’t know which areas require this until they hit a area to do a rollout and inspect the existing Telstra ducting.

          • So why point it out if you don’t think it’s a big deal?

            I mean, it seems like a very sensible thing to include to me…

          • alain,

            You have now successfully argued both for and against the importance of knowing the ratio of “new” versus “existing” ducts.


            Neither is relevant, to the topic in hand, as either build will have a “new” component to it.

    • Cable is dead. No-one is deploying it. Telstra and Optus stopped when they realised there was no chance either would win a big enough market share. It’s being upgraded, occasionally, primarily to keep people from going elsewhere.

      Don’t blame the NBN for two companies deciding going broke was less agreeable than trying to continue to outdo each other.

      The rest of the tirade over physics-breaking speeds probably doesn’t need a response.

  6. I am in Canada for the holidays. Bell Aliant is installing FIBOP to homes for $30 a month! (intro price 3 months, then 90 after t3 months). No data lints, 30mps up and down! Get home phone and TV addend for 99! No govt, just a company offering a product. Australia is getting ripped of, but that is what happens when a social application is applied to business and such….$40B plus when private industry can so it without govt monopolies…NBN is a waste of public monies.

    • @Andrew…
      Let’s look at those numbers.
      $90/month for 30/30 unlimited. Of course a large portion of that is that they don’t have to pay for massive undersea cables to connect to the US, so that should take care of the unlimited part (no scarcity means no real cost).
      Since they are charging $90/month for 30/30, and you can get 100/40 starting at $49.50 here, I would say that it’s the Canadians who are getting ripped off…


  8. I find it strange that a friendly news article for the government comes out on a day when people will be relaxing and have enough time on their hands to read a newspaper. Who makes press releases to the newspapers on Christmas day ready for Boxing day papers? This reeks of neo-communist propaganda at it’s worst! This is 1984!

    • actually the australian press council released their findings on the 22nd of december.

      it was delimiter who released it on christmas eve.

    • @Chas. (as opposed to Chas without the full stop)
      It is obvious (and the Press Council agreed) that the “errors” could hardly have been made by mistake. Maybe one, but certainly not all 3 at the same time. In addition, they refused to correct the errors until Boxing Day (their slowest publication day).
      If you can please find a “pro-NBN” article that is also this blatantly false and attempts to mislead the public, I will happily help you write the complaint myself!
      The press have a duty to print the unbiased truth to the best of their ability, that’s why they enjoy the special priveledges that they do. When a “Newspaper” seeks to abuse it’s position of trust by flat-out lying to it’s readers in order to generate a political outcome, that publication needs to be spanked hard! I don’t think criminal action is too strong a recourse, and I would certainly vote for a law that would enforce truth in that trus position.

  9. We have never bought the Smellygraph since 1973 when they hired b bunch of blokes to pretend to be builders Labourers and photographed them pushing over a new built wall buring a strike. I knew ony of the blokes payed by them.

  10. Yes but what do we get for $30 a month how many Mbytes inAmerica you don,t pay down loads’.we wont value for money we don’t speed when we have to pay for down loads.

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