NBN opt-out: Tassie slams Coalition states’ ‘politicking’


news Tasmania’s Labor Premier has praised NBN Co for adopting a universal ‘opt-out’ model for the deployment of its fibre to premises around Australia, and sharply criticised what she said was the “politically motivated” opposition of Coalition-dominated State Governments to the plan.

NBN Co’s approach to its infrastructure deployment around Australia has so far consisted of two different methods. In states such as Tasmania, the company has been connecting home and business premises to its NBN fibre by default when it deploys infrastructure in their street; at no cost to the premise owner. The premise owner must actively choose not to receive the infrastructure if they don’t want it. This is known as an ‘opt-out’ approach.

However, in some other areas, the company has been pursuing a so-called ‘opt-in’ approach, where premise owners must actively choose to have infrastructure connected to their premises. This has been the approach preferred, for example, in Victoria, where the Coalition State Government has repeatedly stated that it doesn’t want premises connected to the NBN by default.

Last week, NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley revealed the company had standardised its approach nationally and moved toward what he described as a “build drop” system, where it will connect premises by default to its fibre as it rolls out its infrastructure down streets. The move was immediately reportedly challenged by the Coalition Governments of Australia’s three largest states, with the Financial Review reporting that Queensland Campbell Newman, NSW’s Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner and Victorian Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips had all called for the opt-out model to be abandoned and replaced with the opt-in model.

In a statement released on Friday, Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings, whose state pioneered the opt-out model under previous Premier David Bartlett, criticised the rejection of the opt-out system by the Coalition State Governments on the mainland. “I note that Liberal Premiers interstate have indicated their opposition to opt-out provisions,” Giddings said. “I would urge them to cease their politically motivated opposition to this nation-building reform and embrace the opportunities that a broad take-up of the NBN will provide.”

Giddings welcomed NBN Co’s decision to focus on an opt-out model, and said she anticipated that it would assist in the take-up of the NBN’s “revolutionary” new technology. The Tasmanian Premier said Tasmania was determined to make the most of its first-mover advantage — with the state being a key first rollout zone for the NBN.

“By 2015 all Tasmanian households and businesses will have access to either optic fibre of high speed wireless – a full five years before the rest of the country,” Giddings said. “The $300 million contract for the final stage of the roll-out will see the creation of up to 800 new jobs in the construction phase, not to mention the broader economic opportunities that will be created.”
Giddings’ comments echo previous criticism of the Coalition states’ preference for an NBN opt-in model.

In June 2011, former Tasmanian Premier Bartlett described the decision by Victoria’s State Government earlier that year to pursue an ‘opt-in’ policy regarding connecting residents and businesses to the NBN as “very short-sighted”, arguing for much broader government engagement and focus on the network to maximise its positive outcomes. “Every state needs to start taking this seriously,” Bartlett said 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.

In addition, an extensive survey of broadband users by online forum Whirlpool published in April 2011 found that most supported the ‘opt-out’ approach to rolling out the National Broadband Network, and that overall sentiment towards the NBN policy as a whole had rapidly improved over the previous several years.

Whirlpool’s survey was taken by some 23,513 individuals, most of whom rated themselves as either a guru, power user or at least ‘confident’ when it came to technology. Many of them worked in the technology sector, either as an IT manager, admin, developer or support agent. According to the survey results, 45 percent of the respondents noted they supported the opt-out policy, with 20.1 percent against, and the rest either undecided (17.7 percent) or not knowing what the policy was (17.2 percent). In addition, just 3.5 percent of respondents said they would ensure their house was opted out of the NBN when it was rolled out to their area.

Australia’s peak technology industry representative group has also previously sharply criticised Victoria’s Coalition Government for its decision to reject an ‘opt-out’ approach to rolling out the National Broadband Network in the state in favour of requiring residents and businesses to ‘opt-in’.

“An opt-in approach to NBN take-up will almost certainly delay the broader community, and ultimately the national benefits that can be delivered by ubiquitous take up of high speed broadband,” then-Australian Information Industry Association chief Ian Birks said in December 2010. “Arguably, those who are least informed and most disconnected will be disadvantaged the most – and everyone will be subject to unnecessary administrative red tape, which is itself a disincentive to take-up.”

Last week’s divided opinions regarding NBN Co’s new ‘opt-out’ national policy could not have given a clearer indication that the current NBN debate in Government is based along political lines — and not what is actually the right telecommunications solution technically or the best solution for residents and business owners in each respective state.

It strikes me as hilarious (in a very sad way) that the Coalition States are so strongly critical of the NBN while the Labor States are so strongly for it. The truth of what is better for Australia or more popular amongst the general population doesn’t seem to matter to these politicians — instead, it seems to be all about how much they can criticise their rival parties to continue to ensure their control over their respective government. I call upon all concerned to start looking at the situation objectively and not along party lines.

Why, after all, would anyone in their right mind reject a free fibre-optic broadband connection to their home or business premise, when it’s being deployed at no cost to them, even if they don’t plan to use it? The answer is, as the Whirlpool survey clearly showed, that they wouldn’t.

Image credit: NBN Co


    • Maybe a copy of the blog should be sent to each state premier opposing the “opt out” approach.

  1. State governments playing politics with the national broadband network?

    Easily fixed. Any state that deliberately hinders NBN Co should go to the bottom of the delivery schedule. The people would soon let their state government know what they thought about their meddling politics!

  2. Politicking at its worst.

    Opt out makes every sense for. NATIONAL network that EVERYONE (bar the last 7% and the few on wireless only) will use. Under that guideline, opt in makes no sense as it is a waste of time and money.

    Of course an opt in system does cull down passed premises….exactly what the Coalition want to try and completely unravel it if they get in….

    I wonder why they’re choosing to protest….

    • I also don’t get it. It is a free service and you could be 100% opposed but it won’t hurt anything anyway. On the other hand I did meet someone the other day who has given up on the fixed copper line and gone solid mobile. Even then it wasn’t raised but I’d be pretty sure they would have allowed the connection even if they were never going to use it.

      • @Nothern Blue

        “…but it won’t hurt anything anyway.”

        Have you seen the stuff they want to put in your house? It’s butt ugly. It won’t look out of place in your garage (although that will present other problems), but it is not a suitable decoration for the feature wall in your loungeroom.

        • I haven’t but this is interesting as it could be an asthetic thing. I guess the problem with this argument goes to how many that opted out did so because of this?

          • At this point, they probably had no idea until the tech was screwing it to the wall. I doubt Joe Public would be going through the documentation on NBN Co’s web site to understand the technology. Like many, they would have been dazzled by the promises of blistering speed without looking at all of the other aspects.

    • Standard political stonwalling and delaying…

      Basically an opt-out approach would speed up roll outs significantly as every premises would be connected on default unless there was an opposition.

      An opt-in would require additional resources to canvas the area first for people opting in before they can proceed w/ connecting.

      Any delay is more ammo on the FUD department…

      Unless of course your listening to their official “market” reasoning that an “opt-out” scheme removes a homewoners “choice” on which services to have and not to have on their premises ie. if I don’t want Optus then I don’t pay for it. Which pretty much boils to what i mentioned ages back…

      How do you look at the NBN? A luxury/service or infrastucture? As an infrastructure project opt-out would make sense as everyone will want/need it. A luxury service means you see it as a dreadful “waste” and rather not have money spent on it…

      • At various points in time, having a phone line, a sewage line, or an electricity line was also considered a luxury. As EmmetB says below, there was a time they rolled out sewage connections on an eforced basis, collecting the cost through rates and the like for recalcitrant home owners.

        We’re at the dawn of a digital era. For generations to come, our information is going to flow digitally in more and more ways, and any steps to slow that down is only detrimental to the population in general.

        If the feelings of a small minority are hurt protecting that future, then so be it. If that minority is limited to Liberal politicians, all the better :)

  3. Sometimes I’m very proud to live in Tasmania and of our premier. She’s really leading the country with her progressive agenda at the moment and I love it.

    The thing is we don’t just want the NBN down here, we need it. It’s no secret that Tassie’s economy isn’t exactly booming (particularly with forestry and other industries shedding jobs by the bucketloads) and the amount of new industries and jobs that will be created by the NBN will inject much needed funds into our economy, as well as open up a whole new generation of remote work-from-home opportunities to people like science graduates, many of whom leave the state to get a higher paid job on the mainland.

    Opt out is by far the most logical and economical way of rolling out the NBN. State leaders know this, and by rejecting this model they are trying to deny their citizens the opportunity to be part of something they may not fully understand they need yet, but over the course of the decade, they will have no choice but to eventually use, unless they want to be stuck with no landline and a crappy wireless broadband connection. It’s political stupidity at its finest.

  4. Victoria’s opt-in approach ironically deprives choice from tenants and future buyers. On the other hand, the Victorian Government is perfectly happy to make smart meters compulsory.

    • My thoughts exactly. if they dont have the FTTH, they they dont have the choice of chosing the awesome speeds and plans that go with it, they are stuck with wireless or paying a huge fee to get FTTH connected. Politicking at its finest (or worst)

    • Not only that they were the ones that howled the loudest when the 3 year roll out plan was released. Apparently Victoria isn’t getting their fair share of the NBN despite their contradictory claims that FttH is “not needed” and a “waste”.

    • And when they are confronted with rising rentals for the copper (rising maintenance costs and reduced customer base to pay for it and provide a profit on top), they will be facing the reality they passed up the free opportunity. Remember the customer will NEVER blame themselves, but they will be looking for someone to blame, I wonder who will be blamed ???

      • Be careful about swallowing the whole ‘aging copper’ line. I am not saying that there is no rubbish out there, but a huge proportion of the problem is caused by idiots with backhoes where one mistake can knock off thousands of homes. Just because you replace copper with fibre doesn’t mean those idiots will go away.

        • The problem is when the half arsed fix on copper is done after those idiot break the line with the backhoe. The difference between copper and fiber is a a half arsed fix on copper will “work”.

        • That is paid for by the guy with the backhoe.

          The rising maintenance budget is not caused by backhoes.

          • It’s not a matter of who pays for it. It is not a matter of how well it is fixed.

            The issue is that much of the alleged unreliability of the copper network is caused by factors that will not go away when it is replaced by fibre. The argument that the copper network is ‘wearing out’ and needs to be replaced is fundamentally flawed. Sure, there are non-backhoe induced faults in the copper network as there will be on fibre.

          • What PeterA is saying (and correct me if I’m wrong here PeterA) is that the number of “backhoe” issues hasnt increased by any large proportion over time, while the cost of maintaining the copper has.

            Its still expensive for Telstra to pay for what Telstra has to, and its an expense out of THEIR pocket that increases every year. Thats after taking out what Mr Backhoe has to pay for, just for being Mr Backhoe.

            Its a maintenance cost you wont have with fibre because its not subject to the same wear and tear issues that copper is. Dont quote me, but I think someone (Seven_Tech perhaps) said that yearly cost to Telstra was $1b just for the copper portion of lines.

            That doesnt remove Mr Backhoe from the equation, he’ll still be there as you say. But it does remove most of the other costs in maintaining everything that Mr Backhoe isnt responsible for. And as someone with numerous friends that fix those Telstra copper lines, including family, I know plenty of it is in poor condition.

  5. I saw the opposition to that part of the NBN Co plan and thought it was strange. Aren’t the coalition calling out for the NBN Co to stop the ‘waste’? An opt-out policy stops exactly that! With opt-in, if someone on a street can’t get permission from their real estate agent/landlord (trust me as a tenant, trying to communicate with either is like talking to a brick wall) they’re probably going to be subjected to a fee because NBN Co has to come back just to do their house. With the new method, they’re going to the premise, although they’re not actually doing it into the premise itself, which I think is a pretty smart method. Only when the customer wants a service, then it goes into the premise.

    Either way, I’d say currently the worst government in Australia would be the victorian government. For not just things about the NBN, although there is that, turning around after saying a waste then whinging they’re not getting a fair share is frankly moronic, but things happening with TAFE funding etc.

  6. “By 2015 all Tasmanian households and businesses will have access to either optic fibre of high speed wireless – a full five years before the rest of the country,”

    So no Satellite NBN for Tasmanians what wonderful news , Oh wait .. ……

      • Tip for the Pro :They don’t run wires for fibre access either.

        Lets truly muddy the waters and refer to the entire NBN as wireless.

        • I still fail to see the point of either of your comment.

          you were disputing the accuracy of a comment from a politician.

          implying that the nbn should run fibre or erect towers to service 100% of tasmanians with a service other than satellite.

          Yes, I realise you didn’t actually say that, but what do you actually mean by your comment if not that?

          I was being facetious sure, but you weren’t saying anything. Your follow up said even less.

          • You dont see his point with the second one?

            Its not a hard point to see – fibre optic connections have no wire in them, so if you want to be pedantic, the NBN fixed line is technically wireless as well – because there is no wire.

            He wasnt making a big point, he was making a silly point.

            No real need to get c aught up looking for shadows when there arent any :)

          • I see his point. He was just picking on a typo that really should have been picked up by the editor :P

  7. What actually constitutes “opt-out” what work is actually done compared to the “opt-in” method?

    As a Tasmanian already connected to the NBN (100/40) when I wanted to be connected no actual infrastructure work had been done to get the fibre to my home. Both myself and my neighbour needed to wait for dig teams to boar a conduit to the house, run cables from the cabinet to the pit outside and then run the cables from the pit to the house (along witht he internal equipment installation of course)

    “connecting home and business premises to its NBN fibre by default when it deploys infrastructure in their street; at no cost to the premise owner”

    While it didn’t cost anything my home was never connected to the NBN at the time they did the street rollout, I had to request a service before this work was done.

    • “What actually constitutes “opt-out” what work is actually done compared to the “opt-in” method? ”

      It’s a basic illusion of “choice”. Basically w/ an opt-in scheme the NBN is only obliged to draw the lines on your street. You must then “opt-in” to have them do further work to connect your premises to the actual line itself so you have access to the fibre

      On an “opt-out” NBN is obligated to not only lay down the line BUT CONNECT ALL THE PREMISES to the line *UNLESS* said premises has elected to opt-out.

      The crux of the argument is the FUD that it will cost “thousands” to wire your home and connect to the fibre. So if you don’t want to “pay” this fee you “opt out”. So as the FUD would have you believe and “opt-out” scheme unfairly puts every johnny tax payer this “unseen and probably expensive connection fee” Hence the calls for opt-out being “bad”. Of course the reality of the situation is and has been said hundreds of times over THERE IS NO COST TO CONNECTING THE PREMISES TO THE FIBRE DURING ROLL OUT!

      So while roll-out is going on any home that “opt-in” get their premises connected to the fibre free of charge. Seeing as its a “free” connection to the fibre line itself the whole FUD about opt-out removing “choice” is rather disingenious. With an opt-in scheme the NBN has to collect people opting in in an area of roll out before they can build. So its up to the homeowner to ask to be connected so if they forget they miss out on the roll out. The amusing part is once rollout is completed then it is up to the homeowner to *PAY* for the line connection if they decide at a future date that they do want the service…. so in a sense the supposed savings you get on an “opt in” scheme is a bit of a sham.

      So to reference in your case basically if you hadn’t “opted in” for the NBN then once they got all the physical fibre rolled out in your area then the onus is on *YOU* to pay for that cabling and pit digging. Which obviously would cost you more had you not opted in while roll out was on.

      At the end of the day it boils down to basic political stonewalling.

      Disclaimer: I’m also well aware of the other “market” argument of opt-in vs opt-out on its supposedly forcing a service on you that you don’t want to pay.. but I find that largely irrelevant since that feeds off the “it’ll cost you money” FUD i explained.

      • “So to reference in your case basically if you hadn’t “opted in” for the NBN then once they got all the physical fibre rolled out in your area then the onus is on *YOU* to pay for that cabling and pit digging. Which obviously would cost you more had you not opted in while roll out was on.”


        “On an “opt-out” NBN is obligated to not only lay down the line BUT CONNECT ALL THE PREMISES to the line *UNLESS* said premises has elected to opt-out.”


        “Tasmania, the company has been connecting home and business premises to its NBN fibre by default when it deploys infrastructure in their street; at no cost to the premise owner.”

        Which is what I was getting at, I’m in Tasmania (Sorell – Stage 2) and I was under the impression we had an “opt out” system (so lines to the house would be done unless you opted out) yet I had to sign to a service to get fibre connected to the premises (cable to the pit, dig a conduit to the house, run the line from the pit to the house) , no users who have signed up in my area have automatically had the connection to the premises done unless they have signed to a service which I though would be consider “opt-in”, which of course cost nothing.

        • @Brock
          I’d consider Tassie to be the special case here Brock. Being the key pilot region, there were procedures that wont be repeated on the mainland, such as you’re effective Opt In process. They didnt know WHAT the rules were at the time, so went halfway between Opt Out and Opt In – get you to sign a form but not really giving you the choice.

          The Opt In idea gives you the choice. But its an active choice, meaning YOU have to do something to initiate it. Even if you’re 100% in favor of the connection, YOU have to make that phone call, fill out that form, put a candle in the window, or something to indicate approval. So the reverse argument to not giving choice is true as well – people wanting the connection will, for one reason or another, be missed when the rollout goes past.

          Then get lumped with a bill when they have to come back and do the job.


          There IS a cost. If they just roll the line past the houses, and connect to the premises as people sign on, then the major cost is simply rolling the line down the street. If its Opt Out, then there is the extra parts and labor cost of connecting to the premise.

          It might not be a cost the homeowner has to pay, but its still extra cost to the project. And on a project of this scale, you’re talking billions.

          If the argument for Opt In was based on overal cost of the project, then the argument would have merit. It would still be the weaker argument, but it would be a much better one than the “freedom of choice” argument being put forward.

  8. Renai’s conclusion is right.
    You’d be crazy to reject any infrastructure being installed free to your door, whether it’s gas, electricity, sewerage or the NBN.

    • Speaking of sewerage, I’m old enogh to remember when the sewer came to the north shore of Sydney, replacing the backyard dunnys and their twice-weekly pan collections by the “dirt man”.

      People complained at the time that they were not permitted to “opt out”, as having the sewer connected was compulsary. Not only that, it carried quite a large cost that the home owner had to pay. (around 1500~2000 pounds, back in the 50s and 60s)

      If the home-owner couldn’t or wouldn’t pay, then the council paid, and the money was added to the rates in installments until the debt was paid.

      Can you imagine our 21st century society today if there were homes spread all over our cities that still had weekly visits from the dirt man?? Can you imagine (remember) the stink it caused. Can you consider how backwards and ridiculous it would be in today’s world, if the sewer had been “opt-in” as many people wanted it to be back then???

      Sure makes a “free” fibre connection look like a luxury IMO. How anyone could oppose this concept is beyond me.

  9. “The truth of what is better for Australia or more popular amongst the general population doesn’t seem to matter to these politicians — instead, it seems to be all about how much they can criticise their rival parties to continue to ensure their control over their respective government.”

    You have hit the nail on the head Renai.

    It is this attitude by politicians of all persuasions that is one of the biggest problems that Australia has to overcome. We desperately need politicians who have the vision to see what Australia needs to be doing for the next twenty years. It seems that at the moment none of them are capable of seeing beyond the next election or, if they exist, they are being gagged by their own party machines.

    Regardless of what opinion polls are saying now, if they don’t start taking notice of the people the next election is inevitably going to be very close and a minority Government is a real possibility in my opinion.

  10. So, is connection up to the PCD only or do they go all of the way through to the NTD?

    If they only connect to the PCD, they are going to need access to the property but not inside the house. Not withstanding issues with locked gates and dogs, they can do this without the occupant being present in which case opt-out is reasonably viable.

    If connection goes through to the NTD, they need someone home so they can get inside. They need to know where to put the NTD, although that decision will be driven largely by the technician’s convenience more than any aesthetic or usability concerns by the occupant. According to NBN Co “…at least one installation option will be available at no charge for your premises.” (source: http://www.nbnco.com.au/assets/documents/preparing-for-the-nbn.pdf). You can bet that if you want something even a little more complicated, you will pay.

    Another question – what happens for rental properties? The tenant will be the one on-site during the installation, but surely the landlord is the one with the long -term interest in where the equipment goes. Will all tenants accurately reflect the desire of the landlord? If the technician deems the location nominated by the landlord is inappropriate or can be accommodated at an additional fee, who does the negotiation? The tenant being the one on site or does NBN Co have to go back to the landlord?

    Finally, if you read the documentation from NBN Co you will realise that the connection location is oriented around the current entry point for the existing copper. In many properties, this is the garage at the front of the house. Given the general ugliness of the NTD, PSU, and fibre wall outlet, the garage is an appropriate place. Unfortunately, it is not a great place to distribute a WiFi signal. The question is how to get the data from the garage to the WiFi router. Some have suggested powerline adapters, but these can be very flakey. I have one that is pretty good but will not cross between the three power circuits in the house. They are also susceptable to interference from electric motors such as that running the compressor in your refrigerator. Although WiFi often reports impressive speeds, it is fairly common to be able to achieve no more than 1MB/s across diametrically opposite corners of the house. Running Cat 6 as a house is being built is straight forward, but doing it in an existing house can be prohibitively expensive. Of course, you could try to get the NBN Co tech to locate the NTD in a more central place, but that will probably cost the same if not more than running a long Cat 6 line to a central WiFi router. Keep in mind that the tech will most likely have a quota of premises to get through and will probably use price to discourage lengthy installations.

  11. In a conveniently timed relase, Deloitte’s has done a commissioned report about the NBN rollout and its effect in Victoria.


    ZDNet story on it:basically has Victoria whining that its not fast enough for their needs…


    And they want to slow things down even more by creating a passive lockout system…

    • From that Deloitte report:
      [emphasis added]
      or in the case of premises where dial-up at 256kbps is the present technology level, higher..
      I didn’t even get very far. Why cant my useless victorian government just get off their politicking arse and sign up for the NBN properly.

      But the best part of this report, appears to be: “heaps of money in the Internet business, I wish someone would build a network to soak up this money“. Good news for the NBN?

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