CeBIT: Victoria NBN opt-in policy ‘short-sighted’: Bartlett


update Former Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett has described the decision by Victoria’s State Government to pursue an ‘opt-in’ policy regarding connecting residents and businesses to the National Broadband Network as “very short-sighted”, arguing for much broader government engagement and focus on the network to maximise its positive outcomes.

In late December last year, Victoria’s new Liberal technology minister Gordon Rich-Phillips confirmed the state would not follow Tasmania in pursuing an ‘opt-out’ model for the NBN. The move will force property owners to actively choose to receive fibre infrastructure in the state when the rollout hits their neighbourhood.

In addition, it is not clear whether the new Liberal State Government in NSW will follow Victoria in choosing a so-called “opt-in” policy, with several requests for clarification on the matter having not produced a concrete position from the government over the past few months since the recent state election.

Speaking at the CeBIT trade fair and conference series in Sydney this week, Bartlett, who left the Tasmanian parliament several weeks ago, said Victoria’s decision was “very short-sighted, frankly”.
“Every state needs to start taking this seriously,” the politician said, arguing that Australia needed to “take the politics out of the NBN”, despite the “patchwork of liberal and labor states” which Australia was currently experiencing.

A spokesperson for Victorian Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips said: “The Victorian Government’s position has not changed with respect to an opt-in approach. We have not received an approach from either the Federal Government nor NBN Co regarding opt-out legislation.”

Bartlett argued that rural and regional areas in Australia were currently facing a variety of obstacles, with “everything against the regions” standing in the way of their economic renewal. The rollout of fast broadband, he said, offered the “brightest hope and light” for regional renewal to occur, and so consequently, every state government should be engaged in the NBN process.

In particular, the politician said he believed local government has a strong role to play in planning for the rollout of the NBN as well.

Appearing to refer to NBN Co’s recent commission of a series of new advertisements espousing the virtues of the network, Bartlett said he was not convinced “in any way, shape or form”, that “a Sydney marketing company” knew how to talk to residents in early stage rollout areas like Smithton in Tasmania or Armidale in NSW.

“Running a big advertising campaign, a centralised grand marketing campaign, will not engage homes,” he said.

In contrast, Bartlett said the way to engage people about the NBN was to do so with local content and local stories, taking a certain approach and having it “re-skinned” for every local community, so that local residents understood what the NBN would mean for them. For example, he noted that in Smithton residents were benefiting from a local service scanning for skin cancer, which sent the scans to experts in the city for analysis, using broadband.

“They would have had to drive 2.5 hours for that, previously,” he said.

In this sense, local community portals, filled with content and stories which could easily be produced cheaply, would benefit and inform residents, Bartlett said. “Don’t just leave it up to Canberra,” he advised local governments. “My message to regional leaders, councils and shires is: Get prepared. The winners of the NBN will not be those who are cabled first. In fact the winners will be those who get prepared with a digital strategy, with a broadband strategy, which underpins renewal in every aspect of their community.”

“Now is the time for local leadership to emerge — now is the time for every part of Australia that wants to benefit from the NBN and wants it to succeed because of it, to start working on those strategies.”

In addition, Bartlett noted that while ICT industry figures could be great champions for the NBN, it was important that those not from the industry get involved in the renewal process. “The more the visible leaders of the narrative come from the ICT community in our region, your town, the more the rest will think this is ‘only for the geeks’,” he said.

Image credit: Delimiter


    • IF someone came knocking on my door, saying “Hi, we are disconnecting your phone line in the near future, we can provide you with a free connection today, or charge you a fee if we have to comeback and hook you up in the future.” I think the overwhelming majority of people would accept those terms, all those in their right mind anyway.

      Unfortunately, this has been a political cash cow for the opposition and I think some of those who refuse connection will be doing so on a political basis.

      I admit that work will need to be done for those with requirements for copper, such as back to base alarms and such, however the security industry should really be preparing itself for the change. They have known about the coming of the NBN for a few years now, and i am sure that there would be similar systems in countries which have already abandoned copper.

      All in all, the general policy and direction set by the government is that we are updating our telecommunications infrastructure. Why should the government then be asking for those who agree (opt-in, the majority), as opposed to asking those who this direction does not suit (opt-out, the minority).

  1. Once again Mr Bartlett is right but unfortunately Ted Baillieu is 3rd in line to the throne of stupidity right after Turnbull and Abbott.

  2. It’s funny how Bartlett ‘saw the light’ on opt out only AFTER seeing the dismal uptake figures in the Tasmanian pilot areas.

    A lot like hindsight utterances from the NBN Co, the poor Tasmania uptake is ‘as expected’, yeah sure it is, pity that we didn’t get to see any uptake figures mentioned BEFORE the rollout started.

    That makes every rollout area in Australia no matter what the figure is ‘as expected’ , stated to the press only after the rollout area has virtually concluded of course – bloody amazing eh?

    • Your unhealthy obsession with the uptake numbers is quite disturbing, actually.

      This is actually a story about the opt-in/opt-out conundrum. It has NOTHING to do with the signing up of users to active services. But naturally, you’re twisting the discussion away from the actual issue, just so you can re-rollout the same rhetoric you insert into almost every thread.

      • Actually opt-out or opt-in has a direct relationship to uptake numbers, you just prefer not to read it as explained in this article on comments at CeBIT in Delimiter.

        I will repeat the pertinent piece on why opt-out was chosen that you have conveniently forgotten.

        “THE State Government is considering an “opt-out” rather than the current “opt-in” system to improve the take-up of the new high-speed internet National Broadband Network.

        Premier David Bartlett admitted yesterday that only half the 4000 houses eligible for the nation’s first NBN rollout in Tasmania had accepted the offer of cable links into their homes.”

        Once again I reiterate, opt-out seems to the best policy AFTER you find out NBN uptake numbers are poor.

        • It bears absolutely zero relationship.

          Just because I have a copper line physically attached to my house, it does not mean that I must have a paid service connected using that copper.

          Similarly, just because someone has an NBN fibre connection attached to their house, does not mean that they have to have a paid service connected using that fibre.

          But naturally, you’re twisting the discussion away from the actual issue, just so you can re-rollout the same rhetoric you insert into almost every thread.

          See? I was right. That was EXACTLY what you did.

          • Not that you responded to any point I made in my post, which I assume is that you approve of opt-out being used to boost ‘brag value’ connection figures when opt-in fails.

          • I responded with “it bears absolutely zero relationship”…that’s my opinion of your “post”.

            It is still hilarious that you get frustrated by people apparently not answering your questions (read: bite at your bait), when you consistently refuse to answer direct questions put to you.

          • Not at all.

            I’ll debate you all day, any day you like when you start applying the same standards to your participation in the discussion as you insist that others apply to theirs.

          • @Micheal Wyres

            Rubbish, you don’t debate, you put forward a point of view, when it is challenged (which is quite often and not just by me) you rapidly try to change topic, usually using the standard ‘shoot the messenger’ approach then exit rapidly to start the routine again in another topic at another time.

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