Turnbull’s right: ‘Under construction’ NBN stats are worthless


opinion Malcolm Turnbull is absolutely correct in his claim that NBN Co’s focus on nebulous statistics regarding the number of premises where it has commenced or completed construction are “complete nonsense”. The company should stop using this figure as a benchmark of its progress, and focus only on areas where it has actually finished building the NBN.

If you were up past most people’s bedtime last night, you would have witnessed on the ABC’s Lateline program (full transcript and video available online) a spectacle which those of us who follow events in Australia’s telecommunications industry have come to regard as a semi-regular event: Communications Minister and Stephen Conroy facing off against his opposite, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Like most Australians, I enjoy a good tussle, and last night’s was a corker. Over the past decade I’ve come to enjoy Conroy’s performances, in parliament and out. The good Senator is peerless in Australia’s Federal Parliament when it comes to the sheer contempt with which he holds his opponents and the aggressive way in which he bites off every last insult and hurls it at whoever he’s facing. Conroy’s acerbic manner, which earned him so much enmnity when he was on the shaky ground of the Internet filter debate, serves him well now that he has Labor’s NBN project in his corner; an initiative which he knows has the support of most Australians and the unabated approval of most technologists.

But then, I’m also a fan of Malcolm Turnbull. Where the soccer-loving common man Conroy is often very little more than a blunt instrument – if a glorious one – Turnbull is always silky smooth in his debates. Sometimes you’d think butter wouldn’t melt in the Earl of Wentworth’s mouth; and I often feel as though generations of aristocrats are smiling fondly at me through Turnbull’s eyes as he gently needles his opponents. Both men can laugh, but Conroy’s laugh is more often raucous and divisive, while Turnbull likes to give little chuckles at his own superb wit. When Turnbull chuckles, you know that he’s just slid the needle in between your ribs; the joke is that you probably haven’t even felt it yet.

Last night both gentlemen were in fine form; both know the National Broadband Network debate very well by this point, and all of their arguments have become so well-polished and honed that at times, they appear to be dancing, rather than arguing. To borrow an analogy from the excellent Wheel of Time fantasy series, Conroy’s line of reasoning about the merits of fibre to the node sliced towards Turnbull, only to be deflected by the Liberal MP’s riposte about the cost of Labor’s fibre to the home-based NBN and the speed of its rollout. Details of network design were batted aside by questions about the credibility of NBN Co’s management.

At this point, we need not really detail precisely what each parliamentarian talked about; we could instead insert a set of placeholders to detail their exchanges. You know what I’m talking about here: Conroy’s argument about the technical superiority of fibre to the home could be labelled ‘Technology Template 1’, while Turnbull’s inevitable reply about the delays in Labor’s NBN implementation could be coded as ‘Arthritic Snail Template 2’. Perhaps codifying the pair’s repetitive arguments in this manner could get a little confusing for the casual onlooker, but then again it might save oxygen, which is always a valuable aim in today’s political environment.

Yes, I wax a little lyrical. Because, like many who follow the NBN debate, I tire of seeing the Government and Opposition continue to repeat the same time-worn arguments about the project. Like most, after five years of this kind of debate, I’d prefer to see them settle their differences and just focus on getting on with the job.

However, in last night’s debate there was one point which I want to examine a little more closely, and it’s one which Turnbull has been banging on for a while about: The question of how to measure NBN Co’s progress on actually rolling out its fibre, satellite and wireless network.

If you consider network deployment from the perspective of the common Australian citizen, there are probably only two real ways to measure the progress of NBN’s deployment, both fairly easily to understand. The first is how many premises NBN Co has reached with its rollout: In short, how many buildings have had the NBN infrastructure rolled to their door, and could connect to that infrastructure if they so desired? The second measure is that of how many active connections NBN Co actually has on its network. Sure, its network may run past many premises, but how many businesspeople and residents in those premises have actually chosen to start using the NBN infrastructure?

Of these two measures, the first is clearly the prime statistic which the Opposition, the media and everyday Australians should be holding NBN Co to account for. This is because this is the only measure over which NBN Co has complete control. Its primary role is to build the NBN and maintain it: And that is what we should be holding the company accountable for.

The second statistic gives a good indicator of usage of the NBN infrastructure, but ultimately it’s somewhat misleading, because it is dependent upon too many factors outside NBN Co’s control. For starters, it is retail ISPs like Telstra, Optus, TPG and iiNet that sign up real-world customers, not NBN Co. In addition, eventually most customers in its rollout zones will connect to its infrastructure anyway, as existing copper and HFC cable networks are shut down. It doesn’t really matter how many people connect to the NBN as it is rolled out; eventually, almost everyone will.

Last night, however, Turnbull and Conroy argued for much of their debate about the validity of a third statistic which NBN Co and the Government have injected into the debate over the past year: The highly nebulous number of premises where NBN Co has commenced or completed construction of its network. NBN Co chief marketing officer Kieren Cooney defined this statistic as follows, in a Senate Estimates session in October (PDF): “When we say ‘commenced’, that is exactly what we mean—that is, the first time construction crews go out into the community to begin rodding and roping and to begin the actual construction process in the community, often closing off streets as part of it.”

It is also this figure which the Government and NBN Co have set themselves as a key performance indicator for the network’s progress in being rolled out this year. In August this year, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy published NBN Co’s latest corporate report and pledged that the company would have commenced or completed construction at 758,000 premises around Australia by the end of 2012.

Last night, as he has done consistently since NBN Co first introduced this new statistic, Turnbull heavily questioned its use as a public benchmark of NBN Co’s progress. “I have never taken seriously his figure of “premises where construction has commenced or been completed”,” Turnbull told Lateline host Emma Alberici. “It is a complete nonsense, so what he put to you at the outset, those figures – that 758,000 figure – is nonsense. It is designed to mislead people into thinking the NBN is making progress when it is not … The confusion is that he uses this figure of 758,000 premises “under construction” which means … well who knows what that means …”

Turnbull’s contention – and it’s a valid one – is that the Government and NBN Co cooked up the figure of “premises commenced or completed construction” as an alternative to its existing premises completed and active connections statistics to change the nature of the debate over the company’s progress – to, as Turnbull put it last night, “create the impression that is there is real progress being made”. “It’s a nonsense figure and it’s calculated to mislead people,” Turnbull said last night.

I wholeheartedly agree. The problem with this statistic is that while it gives some ‘flavour’ of what level of activity is going on in NBN Co’s deployment, its definition is nebulous enough that NBN Co and the Government can include almost anything within its bounds.

Last night, for example Conroy himself attempted to define what the statistic means, and his definition differed markedly from that of Cooney’s given at Senate Estimates last month. Like Cooney, Conroy described the figure as referring to premises where NBN Co contractors were out in the streets working, but also included in his definition the number of “construction contracts issued by NBN Co”, leaving out of his definition any explanation of whether he was referring to the multi-billion dollar construction contracts signed by NBN Co or just the concrete construction orders it gives its contractors.

Then, too, neither Conroy’s definition nor Cooney’s definition accurately represents NBN Co’s construction process, which is believed to actually start with a request to Telstra for the telco to get its ducts – used for NBN Co’s fibre under the pair’s $11 billion contract – in certain areas in order. NBN Co then does more detailed design work, including mapping geographical address data to the actual physical layout on the ground, and only then hands off physical work to subcontractors.

What this means is that when NBN Co starts focusing on a certain area for construction is that the time when physical work on that area may commence can actually be markedly different from the time when it’s actually marked as technically being under construction. In short, if you surveyed all of the areas which NBN Co currently has marked ‘under construction’, it would become clear that not all have construction crews actually laying fibre.

To my mind, the fact that NBN Co says it has certain areas ‘under construction’ may mean at times very little more than that it has started actively planning to roll out fibre in that area, and that it has started talking to Telstra and its construction contractors about it – not that there are workmen with big boots getting muddy as they pull fibre through Telstra’s ducts and lay it on power poles and to houses and business premises.

Now, it is true that this statistic is an important one. Australians have a right to know how frenzied NBN Co’s activity is at any given time, and it is very important for the NBN debate that we know how many areas NBN Co is actively working on at any given time. This directly plays into the Coalition’s ability to substantially change the NBN project, say to a fibre to the node model, as it should not simply halt construction in areas where it has begun, should a Coalition Government take power. But equally, we should not allow this kind of nebulous statistic – which can so easily be abused to paint NBN Co’s rollout and adoption progress in whatever light NBN Co and the Government wishes to paint it – to become the dominant statistic which we rely on in judging that progress.

The statistic that the NBN debate must rely on is the premises passed statistic – this is where NBN Co has actually finished deploying its network in a certain area. NBN Co’s targets on this statistic are as below (from its latest corporate plan in PDF format).

The secondary statistic which the NBN debate must rely on is the premises with active service statistic. This is where customers have actually started using an NBN service. NBN Co’s targets on this statistic are as follows:

The only time when the nebulous ‘premises completed or commenced’ statistic should be used is when commentators on the NBN are trying to show overall activity which the company is carrying out. But at all times such commentators must remember that this is not a concrete measure with a hard definition which we can benchmark NBN Co on. It’s a soft statistic – and it can be prone to manipulation.

From today, on Delimiter, we will be using this approach: Primarily, we will benchmark NBN Co’s progress against its targets on the premises passed statistic. In all normal articles, we will use only this statistic to hold NBN Co accountable. When we’re discussing retail ISPs and their interaction with NBN Co, or if there is some other overriding reason why another statistic may be useful, we will use the secondary ‘premises with active service’ statistic as a complement to the premises passed statistic.

At all times we will avoid using the premises completed or commenced statistic, as we consider it misleading and open to manipulation. As an alternative, we will ask NBN Co to give more regular updates on how many premises it has passed (completed), as we consider this the prime benchmark by how the company’s progress should be judged. On the first of each calendar month, starting this Saturday 1st December, Delimiter will query NBN Co’s public relations spokespeople or management and ask for an updated figure for this statistic. Taken over time, this should be the best way to judge NBN Co’s rollout speed; after 3-4 months, it should be easy to see the company’s rollout ramping up on this benchmark.

If NBN Co declines to provide this figure on a monthly basis, that will only give credence to Malcolm Turnbull’s argument that the company has the transparency of “the Kremlin”. Fair?

Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull


  1. This Renai guy is total bias and is only trying to provide “false balance” into the debate. It’s ridiculous that he would take this approach when clearly Turnbull has no validity and the NBN is the one and only holy grail policy that can do no wrong. I mean seriously … calling NBN Co every month to ask how many premises it has finished deploying fibre to? What kind of jackass “journalist” is this guy? What a n00b.

    I’m going to call his editor and demand that he be sacked.

        • Please note that this is an evidence based site. Could you please provide evidence showing beyond reasonable doubt that you do, indeed, have an ass thats both shiny AND metal.

        • You should start criticising all Renai’s posts Renai. Personsally if I were you, I’d fire myself for publicly attacking your own posts. You really need to let that Renai guy go.

        • I mean where does this Renai dude get off, expressing his opinions so brazenly, and in such a public fashion? To strike up debate? Pah!

          I shall write to The Editor, immediately!


          • “I mean where does this Renai dude get off, expressing his opinions so brazenly, and in such a public fashion? To strike up debate? Pah!”

            The fact of the matter is that he’s just trolling for page impressions so he can more advertiser moolah.

          • You should write to both editors immediately. I’m thinking though that perhaps Renai might actually have an advanced case of multiple personality disorder, in which case we should do the right thing and get him permanently admitted to a psych ward ASAP. He could still write, just with crayons, and the medical staff could photograph and upload his drawings work to the site. #justsaying :)

          • Um.

            How do you know I’m not already in the psych ward??

            It’s distraction-free normally, apart from the occasional screams as the electro-shock therapy sessions happen every day. Thankfully one of the orderlies slips me enough LSD to get through those every morning.

          • Really? So which Twilight Zone have we crossed over into now. I am losing track of all the Universes we have been visited by in this whole NBN debate. Though I must say some of the Trolls we’ve met along the way have been so entertaining.

    • I’m inclined to agree with you regarding the validity of the ‘under construction’ metric as a measure of the progress of the NBN. The actual premises connected would be a lot more accurate in providing a long term measure of work accomplished.
      Having said that, I do have a couple of proviso’s.
      1. The NBN is still in ramp up mode. As such the ‘premises connected’ is not an accurate reflection of the work being accomplished. It’s still very much in the preparation phase. As an analogy, it’s like measuring the performance of a marathon runner by the first 200 metres of the race. It ignores the training and preparation expended just to get to start line and run that first kilometre.
      2. As can be seen, the debate is very political charged. And Turnbull continues to willfully ignore that preparation, establishment phase when making judgements as to NBNCo’s performance, to it’s detriment. As such it is no wonder (and in my mind acceptable) that attempts should be made to acknowledge the groundwork to promote the gains made thus far.
      3. When the roll out is hit it’s stride (to continue the analogy) then the metric of ‘premises connected’ will become a lot more valid and credible and it would be a reasonable expectation that that criteria becomes the accepted measure of work. Until then, that criteria remains a biased and misleading measure.

      In summation …. Give us a break. NBNCo and the Minister are fighting against a very long ramp up time and political pressure. As such they can use whatever criteria they like to promote the project. When, and only when, the premises connected figures become a meaningful measure of the work being accomplished should it be insisted on as metric.

  2. FWIW, this is about the only thing I agree with Turnbull about, but Conroy isn’t entirely wrong either.

    Turnbull has promised to honour all existing contracts, should the Liberals come to power. Any FSAM that has commenced construction at that point is therefore under contract and will have to be completed, should Turnbull keep the promise.

    So while it is bending the truth somewhat to count the under construction numbers, it is still the number Malcolm will have to deal with, as the FSAM will necessarily be completed.

    Given the number of FSAMs commenced in the last 12 months, the number of passed premises is going to rise rapidly. Turnbull is trying to cast doubt over what these statistics will mean in the end.

    • Fair point, but “premises commenced or constructed” doesn’t just mean FSAMs where fibre has commenced construction in terms of physical infrastructure being laid down. The definition is a whole lot more vague than that.

      • I have to agree, that it is the definition that is giving the Coalition ammunition with which to muddy the waters. It needs to be broken down further.
        Local Planning
        It really wouldn’t be too hard and whilst giving the Coalition more ammo for their own arguements, it would, as you say, show how fast the rollout is going when done on a month by month basis. And give those communities in which there is activity happening, a clue as to WHAT activity is happening.
        In my area, Planning must have started in April, but it wasnt until October we got the notice that the pits etc were going to be accessed, cleaned up etc. And likely not until June next year when it is completed.

      • “The statistic that the NBN debate must rely on is the premises passed statistic “

        I think even the most pro NBN supporters (self included) can agree to this – after all this is what every other rollout uses eg Verizon’s FiOS!

    • *Turnbull has promised to honour all existing contracts, should the Liberals come to power*

      It really doesn’t matter one jot what Malcolm has promised. He is not the opposition leader, and will not be Prime Minister if the coalition wins power at the next election.

      Tony Abbott will not hesitate to honour his own promise if he becomes PM, and kill the NBN stone dead.

      What Malcolm says today has no meaning or relevence. In fact, I believe TA would take mild pleasure in making MT look like he lied to the public.

      MT is the one who would look bad, because TA has always maintained that ther NBN was unnecessary and too expensive, and has always stated that he would stop the project if elected.

          • “Turnbull has promised to honour all existing contracts,” this is the quote from your comment that I was referring to. Michael Wyres.

            I was making a humorous comparison between your belief that you can believe that what Malcolm said is a promise that means anything (ie forms actual coalition policy) and EmmettB’s belief that the coalition intends to kill the NBN stone dead.

            Obviously; being an attempt at humour meant that I – for maximum effect – had to completely equate the accuracy of both of your positions, but surely you can see the parallels between the statements that you have both made.

            Spelling it out; your belief that they will honor contracts, is misguided (though I too believe it is likely!),
            EmmettB’s belief it will be cancelled is also misguided.
            You do at least have more recent off the cuff comments from Turnbull that better the odds on your belief, but ultimately you are both still quoting things that aren’t coalition policy as if they were.

      • So instead of reading those documents, you basically got trapped by Turnbull’s rants!

        Monthly Ready For Service Rollout Plan – Construction commenced to end of October 2012 – Brownfields

        How hard is it ?

      • “Yes, I know, but those documents contain a little too much detail to take in easily …”

        Yeah, I guess it’s much easier to claim stats are worthless because they’re too vague… then turn around and say they’re too detailed. It’d take all of an hour or two to parse than into properties started per month, and est. properties completed. Man, I wonder where one could find a bunch of willing tech people to undertake such a grand task?

        Yes, this message contains sarcasm – but it’s also a valid criticism and a constructive one.

        • “Yes, this message contains sarcasm – but it’s also a valid criticism and a constructive one.”

          +1 Spot on.

        • Agreed NPSF.

          Tailgator over on Whirlpool does a month by month look at the FSAMs forecast to be started compared to the FSAMs actually started on a month by month basis based on the Monthly Ready for Service report.

          It really doesn’t take long.

          I don’t think it’s entirely fair to be criticising NBNCo. for being TOO detailed….when all Turnbull does is complain their numbers are “Kremlin” truths….

        • “Isn’t that your job? read the Stats and then interpret them for Plebs Like ME”

          Um, no. My job is to do whatever the hell I feel like doing. And what I feel like doing is not wading through an extremely detailed spreadsheet every month when NBN Co is far more qualified to do that.

          If you want to interpret the spreadsheet, be my guest.

          • “They don’t give me enough detail.”
            “Actually they give you more than enough detail.”
            “They give me too much detail.”

            As I’ve said before, construction commenced is simply premises passed offset by a year or so: the former is an optimistic figure, the latter is (relatively) a pessimistic figure. If we’re talking about rollout /speed/ you could use one or the other, depending on whether you’re taking an optimistic or pessimistic viewpoint; both are valid.

            Actually, the ratio of these two figures kind of indicates the rate of change of the speed of the rollout. The fact that construction commenced is so much larger than premises passed is showing that the rollout speed is getting so much faster, which is, I’m sure you’ll agree, a good thing.

            HAVING SAID THAT, as far as the excel document that was linked goes, there were only construction commenced AND NOT COMPLETED (to date) figures [commenced Jul-2011 to Oct-2012], no construction completed figures (earliest “ready for service” projection was the end of this month; [ready for service Nov-2012 to Nov-2013]). So it indicates the roll-out PLAN (as the name of the document suggests), but not any of the numbers that the Government and the Opposition would find worthy of debating or the media find worthy of reporting or the average Australian find worthy of attention. It shows that there is definite progress being made and the roll-out is far from slow, but doesn’t give those concrete numbers that are so useful for making a point, political or otherwise. Basically, it just shows the number of premises that are actively being worked on by NBNCo, at various stages in their planning/design/construction.

            Actually I can summarise the document for you pretty easily.
            Taking the sum of the P column [=SUM(P:P)], I can conclude that there are approximately 565600 brownfields premises currently being worked on by NBNCo. Looking at the latest date in the T column (taking the maximum [=MAX(T:T)]) I can conclude that AT LEAST* an additional 565600 brownfields premises are expected to be completed by November 2013, on top of the premises already completed to date. *It is not inconcievable that additional regions will be started after November 2012 and completed by November 2013. I don’t see any other valuable conclusions that can be made from the data given, at least for brownfields fibre installation. It’s just basic (very basic) data interpretation, it wasn’t hard or time-consuming.

    • From the spreadsheet you linked:

      “The Rollout Plans do not include areas where construction has already completed.”

      They might have more detail than you care for about about “areas where construction has commenced”, but they do not contain the one number that matters – premises passed.

  3. Fine article Renai, and I can’t disagree with anything you’ve said.

    At the end of the day, while as a technologist I like FTTH and think it is absolutely the right way to go forward, I am very very distrustful of big government projects. As a tax payer in this country I view myself as a shareholder in NBN Co (at least while it’s government owned), and need to know what kind of return I am getting on my investment, no matter how indirect this investment is.

    Looking forward to those actual numbers month by month. Please don’t let go if they don’t provide them initially. This is important, and worth a fight.

    • Cheers! Much appreciated :)

      If I don’t get these stats every month, each month I will write a new article entitled “NBN Co declines to provide updated rollout stats for November/December/January” etc :)

      I can be pesky like that :D

      • Again, to be fair Renai, they ALREADY provide this.

        If you choose not to go through the details, that’s your choice and I can understand that. But to say that “NBNCo. declines to provide updated rollout stats” or an article similar, would be disingenuous in my eyes in that case.

    • “As a tax payer in this country I view myself as a shareholder in NBN Co (at least while it’s government owned), and need to know what kind of return I am getting on my investment, no matter how indirect this investment is.”

      My little pet peeve – as a taxpayer you own squat and you are owed squat.

      However, as a citizen

  4. I agree ‘premises completed or commenced’ is rather meaningless.
    If this was broken into ‘planning and design commenced’ and ‘construction commenced’ numbers, we could judge the progress much better.

    • No because that would be ignoring the monthly rollout plans which are clearly construction commenced.

      All Renai has to do is draw a table up of different data types.

      Construction Commenced
      Construction Completed
      Construction Waiting

      And so on.

      He can update these by using the monthly rollout plans that NBNCo can be used as a guidance.

    • Interesting number.

      Given that an FSAM covers – (generally) – about 3000 premises, with 66 commencing construction in September 2012, means that with 66 completing construction in September, approximately 198,000 premises will join the “passed” list at that time.

      Thirty days in September is 6600 a day.

      6600 passed in a day? That sounds suspiciously like the NBN Co business plan.

  5. Good choice. Putting the figures out in the public in an easy to see format will do wonders. Wonders for both sides of the argument. It will hopefully make Conroy stop using the commenced figure and stop Turnbull using it as a bludgeon and ignoring the other figures.

  6. Good on you Renai. The Joint Oversight Committee on the NBN agrees with you and so do I. They refer in the third report to …

    “… the two main KPIs used in measuring NBN rollout performance- those of ‘premises passed’ and ‘premises activated’.”

    • Yes one of my concerns is
      “The Opposition spokesman on Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, says that in government the coalition will continue the NBN in a reduced, privatised form rather than destroying it as previously promised.”

      Privatised, a disaster in the making. The government of course will wash their hands and just hand over Billions in taxpayer funds, the Private Company has but one goal profit, usually by providing minimum service for maximum dollar.

      Then add in
      “MALCOLM TURNBULL: For the bulk of the brown field built-up residential areas of Australia, what we will do is take the fibre further into the field, but not to the customer’s premises.

      MATT PEACOCK: For those last metres to the home, the Coalition will negotiate to use Telstra’s existing copper wire – unless you’re rich enough to pay for more.

      MALCOLM TURNBULL: You can have a fibre service area of a couple of hundred households getting the fibre node connected to the copper, but there might be one person – perhaps it’s a business – that needs to have very, very high speed connectivity, and you can selectively run fibre optic cable to that premise. Of course they’d have to pay more for it.”

      No longer an Essential National Utility, but now a commodity available at a cost.
      A complete Negation of what the NBN is all about and a negative for our Nation and future economy

      • This is my main concern. I believe that all the comments from the Opposition point towards this being their policy. If elected, they will hold a fire-sale of NBN assets to Telstra, who, let’s be honest is likely to be the only buyer (and I’m sure that could be “fixed” if there was any fear they weren’t!). They will then throw some money at Telstra to do ‘something’ This is likely to be some form of FTTN as Telstra own the copper – and we know from overseas experience that it is in their interest (and their competitors dis-interest!) to create fibre nodes. Of course, as Turnbull claims, if you want FTTH, you will pay for it. And, knowing Telstra HOW you will pay!!! I’m sure it would be close to some $5000.00 per connection.

        But, you see, all this will allow the LNP to claim they are doing it ‘faster, and cheaper’. The fact that it will no longer be a ubiquitous network, and will increase the digital divide is of little consequence to the wreckers in the Liberal party. Another downside (as if you need more) of this piecemeal, privatised approach will be that the costs for existing fibre subscribers is likely to go through the roof, as there will no longer be the increasing ARPU from high-speed connections that FTTN doesn’t support.

        In short, it won’t just be the Telstra copper network that is rooted. It will be ALL Australian subscribers!

      • If it is anything like other service utilities, you might find that if you want FTTP you may need to pay the full price to run it from the node to your house.

        In doing so it would be in the private entities best interest to make provisions for each premises along the way to join at a later date. When your neighbors do decide they want FTTP, they will simply have to pay a small connection fee.

        The burden for this type of work is often on the first person who wants/need the connection point.

  7. I’m still of the opinion that both of them are right. Passed and Under Construction both serve useful purposes, and for each of them portray the project in the way they want it to.

    The general public expect there to be “millions” able to connect to the NBN by now, not understanding (or willing to recognise) that it hasnt been so simple. On the flipside, as has been mentioned several times, commenced SHOULD mean commited, so is just as valid a reference point.

    Its each persons job to make the others position look bad, and thats all this tit-for-tat debate is – efforts to discredit the other.

    Both numbers are reported, its just the two different sides emphasise one number over the other.

    • “Both numbers are reported, its just the two different sides emphasise one number over the other.”

      That’s it in a nutshell. You should teach political science, because this argument is entirely political.

      • Indeed. It’s just unfortunate that this kind of political football lends itself nicely to the “easy reporting” for slow news days (as in allowing headlines like “Turnbull’s right”, “Controy’s right”, alternating between the two as needed).

        Should we be informed about the progress of construction, including the number of properties that are “under construction” as well as those that have active connections? Yes we should. Are we being informed about those numbers? Yes we are.

        Do we absolutely have to be bombarded with minutiae of construction details on daily, weekly or monthly basis, especially considering the early stages of the overall project? No we don’t.

        When a new freeway is being constructed, the public doesn’t care about the exact number of square meters of asphalt that has been laid every day. Quarterly updates are surely enough for any project on these scales.

        The only reason this completely unnecessary discussion about the construction metrics is present in the media is because Turnbull and the Opposition in general are trying to use the early active connection numbers as a “proof” of NBN and/or Labor incompetence, with very pliant media… which Conroy then attempts to address by focusing on the larger of the metrics available. Responsible journalism would be to ignore both, or to criticise both as being meaningless. Not to alternate in the praise of either.

  8. You rightly highlight Conroy’s use of a potentially misleading figure, but it’s a shame you don’t highlight the 2 outright lies Turnbull told in that interview, those being when he was talking about FttN he said “we know it would cost $15bn to do the whole job,” and “the NBN Co is going to result in Australians paying more for broadband.”

    It’s quite easy to say those things are just the same old soundbites we keep hearing in this debate, but are you really comfortable with a position where we’re so used to the lies that we just let them slide? I know I’m not.

      • It might get old after a while, but it’s still important to call them out when they tell lies.

        Otherwise, you’re just mutely accepting the lie, and a spectator might think, “Hey, Turnbull said ‘X’, and none of the media commentators said it was wrong, so it *must* be true!”

        “A lie told often enough becomes truth” – both Lenin & Goebbels were fond of that saying.

        The Wikipedia article on that quote is amusing:
        This fallacy is sometimes used as a form of rhetoric by politicians, or during a debate as a filibuster. In its extreme form, it can also be a form of brainwashing.[citation needed] Modern politics contains many examples of proof by assertions. This practice can be observed in the use of political slogans, and the distribution of “talking points”, which are collections of short phrases that are issued to members of modern political parties for recitation to achieve maximum message repetition. The technique is also sometimes used in advertising.

    • $15bn… that figure sounds familiar…. isn’t it the figure the NBN Mk1 was thought it cost in total? And it was also before compensating Telstra/buying copper?

      • @crenn

        Yes, Turnbull admitted that it was Telstra’s original costing.

        He was strangely silent on the cost to Telstra though, though it shouldn’t really be much more than the current agreement.

  9. As soon as the 758,000 figure for the FTTH part of the network was released I knew it was a stupid move, you can’t shift the goal-posts like that and expect to get away with it.

    The only figure that matters here is how many homes are connected to the NBN, not even actual subscribers, but how many homes can access services if they wish, that is to say ‘premises passed’ by the NBN.

    Any other figure is meaningless and I feel it was a major PR blunder to put the 758,000 number into the market because it made it look like there was some sleight of hand going on by Conroy and NBN Co.

    As things stand, if we go to an election in the middle of next year and NBN Co, has actually passed 286,000 premises (meaning these homes can actually access NBN services) then that will be enough to provide some credibility and political cover.

    • Exactly.

      That’s one of the biggest problems Labor have had, selling their plans.

      I agree also with an earlier poster, I’m a technologist and like the idea of the NBN, but I’m also fiscally conservative and wouldn’t trust Labor as far as I can throw them.

      When they indulge in propaganda to boost their stats on one of the most closely watched projects in the history of the country, what sort of confidence does that inspire? Do they assume that interested parties are all just slack jawed yokels with the IQ of a potato? Further, actions like that play right in to the hands of people who would be critical no matter what, reinforcing the perception that Labor/NBNco have something to hide.

      If the project is doing as well as predicted, why is there any need to invent new metrics to make it look like it’s doing as well as predicted? Why give ammunition to the “naysayers”?

      I’ve never questioned Renai’s impartiality even if a lot of his articles are handing out a (mostly much deserved) bollocking to the Libs, but it’s telling that a few die hards just can’t let even one article critical of an error of judgement by Labor re: the NBN go.

  10. Two more key statistics to track is the financial costs.

    Expenditure spent as against forecast
    Revenues received as against forecast

    Both are very much key figures because it’ll affect the cost of NBNCo service over the long run (as in NBNCo will raise prices if it has to)

    • That’s very true, but it will only really be worth looking at these figures when/if the network reaches a sizeable number of premises, until then they won’t mean much.

      One senses that is where a ‘second front’ will be opened up by opponents of the network.

  11. I agree with a lot of things you say, Renai, but on this one I’ll respectfully disagree.

    If you’re building a new motorway, you don’t judge progress by the number of cars that drive down it. That doesn’t happen until you’ve finished building each section.

    While Conroy is using the “commenced” figures to try and shore up support for the NBN, the recent surge in those numbers is, as you’re no doubt aware, a strong indicator of a ramping up in the rollout. Assuming it takes a year from commencement to completion for each FSAM (that’s the NBN estimate, isn’t it?), then you’d expect the “number of premises serviced” to stay relatively low for that year, with a sudden surge at the end as you bring entire FSAMs online.

    Just because you don’t have 750,000 premises online right now doesn’t mean NBNCo is sitting around twiddling it’s thumbs. On the other hand, having 750,000 premises in the “construction commenced” category is a strong indicator that, in a year’s time, we can expect to see at least that many premises in the “service available” category.

    It’s NOT a figure cooked up to “create the impression that is there is real progress being made”. It’s a figure that demonstrates that real progress is being made, even if the service isn’t ready yet.

    • “It’s NOT a figure cooked up to “create the impression that is there is real progress being made”. It’s a figure that demonstrates that real progress is being made, even if the service isn’t ready yet.”


      Exactly, and Renai has been informed of this before.

      • Perhaps Delimiter should ask NBNco to write an article that explains why they use that metric and how it is the best gauge for them?

        I think it will go something like this… (mere speculation on my part)

        The design work must be carried out by NBNco. Errors in the assumptions during this process are what will blow out the project budget exponentially, so a lot of care must be taken. This takes time. I have been told of examples where the geo-data is wrong enough that if blindly trusting it various pits and poles etc would have been in middle of a creek instead of roadside. This stuff needs to be scrubbed.

        Also planning permits (for fixed wireless towers etc) have been sorted, they have to be for the design work to be finalised. This is also significant.

        Once the design work is complete the build can be handed off to contractors, there are many contractors, it is possible to train up labour to allow for many work teams per contractor.

        This is where the build forks, multiple build teams can proceed from here and NBNco can move on to next design.

        The contractors are engaged at this point and I suspect that a change of government wouldn’t have any impact as cancelling the module build wouldn’t save anything.

        If the above is close to reality (I have no idea how close it is) the NBNco metric makes sense, it measures the progress of NBNco (rather than NBNco & contractor) and captures a pretty significant milestone. It appears to be the point of no return for the individual premises in the build module.

        While I will be happy if/when I can finally connect to the NBN via FTTH the key milestone for me is when my property transitions to “in build” status.

        Once it is in build, it is only a matter of time until I can connect.

        • @Cameron

          Well said. I would be MORE than happy to know my premises was in the “premises commenced” section, because then I’d be basically guaranteed a service in the next 12-15 months.

          And I’m sure most Australians, if they realised this is what this metric is, would be more than happy as well.

    • @bern


      This figure has merit. It isn’t the figure Turnbull wants to discuss, nor the figure many Australians will be interested in, because they only have a passing interest (ie. Can I get it yet???). But it IS a relevant and interesting metric.

      • I’m a case in point. Putting aside the fact I live in an MDU, I’m very much interested in being one of the “commenced” numbers, because I now know that I WILL get to be one of the “passed” figures at some point before this time next year.

        I dont know when I’ll be a christmas light (thanks Brendan), but I at least know I’m scheduled to be on the tree soon.

  12. “that 758,000 figure – is nonsense. It is designed to mislead people into thinking the NBN is making progress when it is not”

    This is a lie. This is indication that the NBN is making progress. That is the only thing this statistic shows.

    This statistic is completely useless in every way EXCEPT for showing that progress is being made. It doesn’t show how many potential customers, it doesn’t show how far ahead or behind schedule. It tells you nothing about financials. It only tells you that something is happening..

    Otherwise; I find the statistic useful for showing that progress is being made, and gives an indication on the feasibility of hitting targets. (doesn’t tell you if they will, just if they can). It should be published along side revised estimates of completed; and what the completed figure will be in for the coming months.

    • +1

      Progress is exactly what this number tells us.

      To dangerously propose an analogy, Turnbull’s equivalently saying that a woman has made zero progress towards having a child despite being 37 weeks pregnant.

  13. Ultimately both numbers have meaning. Choosing to ignore one, because it’s a bigger number (Turnbull is simply taking advantage of the difference in statistics) and is thus irrelevant doesn’t make it cease to be.

    Because of the deployment methodology and cycle, the numbers will ‘kick’ up each time an FSAM comes online (and all the connected houses light up like veritable christmas tries) it’s disingenuous to not take the number into account.

    It’s not just intent; it’s actual deployment numbers. The Fibre rollout and GPON installs don’t just magically pop into existence. :)

    Both numbers should be considered in unison. Because they are inter-related and provide context to each other. You can make numbers mean anything, otherwise.

    All of which gets lost in the typical Turnbull soundbite which is “too expensive” or “not covering enough” or “too slow”; he happily ignores or downplays numbers, because it’s politically expedient to do so.

    • +1

      And that’s what a fair and reasonable analysis looks like, as opposed to quoting bombastic sound bites and helping spread political memes.

  14. I have to, as several posters have, respectfully disagree Renai.

    It DOES have legitimate merit. Should NBNCo. push their “Premises Passed” and “Premises Connected” more? Perhaps, yes. But this is as much about Turnbull taking the lowest number possible (always going to be Premises Connected) and calling it unacceptable, as it is about valid metrics of construction process.

    You would not report the amount of people living in an apartment complex as 20/120 when it is only 1/3 constructed. But you WOULD report how many apartments have been started/are already constructed this month. This is the same metric. Using the “number of people in apartments” is disingenuous.

    Surely you have to see this?

  15. Good call Renai, the “Commenced or completed” stats always bugged me.

    At the end of the day, it’s just the “premises completed” that’s actually important. The other numbers (“Commenced” and “Signed up”) are nice to know (as separate numbers) so you can see when the NBN is having a good/bad month and what the take-up rate is, but people having the ability to actually get a service is what everyone is really looking at.

  16. Why do they join commenced and completed statistics together?

    A measure of commenced sites as Renai states is a good indicator of the speed of the rollout while completed sites is a measure of the current progress. They are separate concepts so why does Conroy want to join the two measures together (If not to mislead)?

    • Because it is a relevant metric as an overall indicator.

      They release numbers of Completed AND they release numbers of connected AND they release numbers of commenced. ALL separately.

      If Conroy wants to use the total figure to be commenced or completed, I have no issue with that, because it indicates how many premises in TOTAL, within 12 months, will have a connection to the NBN. That is a RELEVANT metric. For most people THE MOST RELEVANT metric- how many premises will have an NBN connection within 12 months.

      • Personally I would rather know how many premises have a completed at any one point in time, that is how I measure the progress of the network. Contracts have been signed but they do not necessarily represent work started, just work promised. If I was going to have an NBN connection in the next 12-24 months would be relevant knowledge (to limit fixed contracts with RSP etc) but otherwise it is not as relevant to me.

        • @Michael

          If I was going to have an NBN connection in the next 12-24 months would be relevant knowledge (to limit fixed contracts with RSP etc) but otherwise it is not as relevant to me.

          That’s EXACTLY what this metric is. It is the time at which an FSAM is considered to be “commenced” and as you may know, an FSAM will take, on average, 12 months to complete from construction to full service. Some will take 9 months. Some will take 15 or even 18 months. This metric, once you are included in it, means you WILL get a service within 12-18 months of being included in it.

          How is that not relevant?

          • Yes, but why do you need the cumulative form? Why do you need to combine it with premises completed and turn it into a form where it can be easily misleading and indicate that you have a 0-18 month wait.

            Why not just use the premises started statistic to show the same thing as something much simpler?

          • I don’t begrudge Conroy for using the best case scenario right now, which is the “premises commenced and passed” metric, because while Turnbull REFUSES to even admit the new CP is the one he should be taking his numbers from, instead saying NBNCo. had said 128 000 premise should be passed by now (according to CP 2010), he needs all the ammo he can get.

            This has become a political game, as much as it is ridiculous that it has. And unless you play the game like the other players (in this case, dirty) you WILL NOT WIN.

            Nice guys ALWAYS finish last in politics. I know.

          • “Yes, but why do you need the cumulative form? ”

            Cause it gives a quick overall picture of the situation. Particularly today where the amount under construction is an order of magnitude greater than the amount completed.

          • It is even more misleading when as you state the number of premises commenced is an order of magnitude greater than those passed. The statistic does not represent the dynamic nature of the rollout in its current phase, that it is currently ramping up.

            @ Seven_Tech, I expect it from both sides, but I would much prefer accurate useful statistics.

          • @Michael

            The statistics are available- All 3 of the metrics (Premises passed, premises connected and premises commenced or completed) are available month by month from NBNCo, or often more regularly.

            It is only Conroy and Turnbull who harp on about “commenced or completed”.

            They are simply using the best (in Labor’s case) or worst (in LNP’s case) to spruik their separate sides of politics. The information is publicly available for other metrics.

          • The debate is definitely too politicised and we will probable just have to agree to disagree on this issue, but I feel that including “commenced” statistics is not a valid measure of progress.

            There will be an interesting point where this metric of passed or commenced would should the NBN completed (having reached all premises) but that would be at a minimum of 12 months from having all premises passed.

            From that point onwards the statistic would be useless, while premises passed would still retain its value.

            I just think that it is being incorrectly applied (although I can definitely understand the political reasons to do so.)

            I don’t know if it helps but from my maths background, I see premises passed as similar to distance (how much of the project is left) and premises commenced as similar to velocity (how quickly it is completing the project). They are both valid statistics but the are not exactly the same thing.

          • @Michael

            I don’t know if it helps but from my maths background, I see premises passed as similar to distance (how much of the project is left) and premises commenced as similar to velocity (how quickly it is completing the project). They are both valid statistics but the are not exactly the same thing.

            I’d agree with that. I still think it is a valid metric as an indicator of the overall progress that can be measured in cumulative terms. To find out how many premises are commenced, all you do is subtract the number of completed from that “commenced or completed” number. Then you’ve got 2 valid, useful statistics. As a measure in and of itself, it gives a good approximation of the ramp up and how much work is actually being completed at any one time.

  17. So the government uses the biggest number and the opposition uses the smallest number.

    WOW – who would have thought of that ?


  18. So the 758,000 is the number of services under contract before Turnbull cans the Labor government’s NBN.

    Well that is probably the most useful number to me.

  19. Turnbull right? Won’t bother reading any further because you know it must be bullshit.

  20. How many times can we split the hair? Is this what the whole discussion on the NBN is to become? The argument is really pointless when it comes down to the fact that technology really is moving into the realm of a new media for communication and that media is fibre. It is far more efficient to distribute information over that medium in a more robust, lower maintenance cost with the benefit of lower power costs. If we are to cut the pollution and treat carbon as an environmental pollutant that we have learnt it is, and deal with it with caution as we do with Nuclear, then Fibre is the choice as it saves energy.
    Safety is a point often forgotten in this debate. Electrical isolation is a big safety factor in parts of Australia. If just one life of a good Australian is saved due to the fact they were connected to the NBN whist on a cabled phone in their house and the line was struck by a bolt of lightning, well how much is a life worth?
    We are not a poor Nation. Why can’t we have a good system of communications for work and play? We have worked hard to bring this Nation to where it is. We deserve this. We have worked smart; why not make our nation better able to share those smarts and benefit from them instead of someone else. Why is cheaper and faster always better? Why do we have to have it cheaper and nastier? Is it because someone else wants those finances to go to them instead of the Australian people? Obviously that is a point as I cannot think of a reason why anyone would justify an old dilapidated piece of technology over a bright new shiny object of technology unless they have rocks in their head or very gullible to listen to the arguments of those who would prefer to have your money instead of you. Sorry, the Market did not look after us as was promised. It looked after itself instead. Lesson learnt. Thanks JWH. We won’t forget.
    We stand at a point when we can lead the world in creating and designing how an optical system is built and rolled out to an entire Nation, which if we do it right and the NBN locks it up in Copyright (just like US Corporations do all the time), we for once, can make others pay for the knowledge just like they wish us to pay for it from them. I can see why US Interests don’t want this to happen. They can’t afford much of anything right now and they always want to be in front and hold all the good cards. Move over, as we can shine this time. We dealt with the pain financially when others would not and all others wanted was the gain at other’s expense. It is our turn now, but it is our expense and not yours, so why are they bitching. You pay your credit card, as we should not have to do it for you. We controlled our spending so we can do this when the time came. Not to allow other Nations to say we need to give the wealth to them because we will be good Vegemite’s if we do. Bah. Our turn at the front and we might actually do it with a flair of egalité that another Nation finds impossible to do. We actually might create a better product than others have because of that philosophy. God forbid! Other Nations may choose to by the smarts from us. God forbid! Money might come to Australia for knowledge instead of stuff from a hole in the ground. God forbid! Australia needs to be brave to walk again and not cower behind larger Nations, as we have been doing for way too long.
    All I can see is a lot of other Nations interests in making sure they hold those cards and not us. To not work to make us the owner of the knowledge of efficiently designing and owning the rights of the knowledge we will amass in rolling out a Nation’s fibre network, which others will want to save on those costs we will have in going first, is worth money to Australia in the long run and savings to those who buy it. Any Politician who doesn’t see the Market potential in what the NBN, a Govt. owned Enterprise (like the CSIRO) can reap in rewards for Australia is obviously not interested in the best interests of this Nation, nor its people. Why can’t we be first? Why can’t a mistake be made? If we learn from it, I certainly do not see an issue. But I have an issue of not doing anything and sitting on our hands as we have done this last 15 years and it is a mistake the Coalition refuses to learn and they want us to wait for the world again! In that, I am right to have an issue with. That is ignorance to evolve by choice.
    So we can split hairs and bitch and moan, or we can dare to progress to a future where at least we are doing something worthwhile for ourselves instead of someone else for once. We seem to be in a loop of feeding every other snout at the trough instead of ourselves. Is our Nation mentally ill? If we don’t just get on with this and lock it down as ours, I say we are mentally ill. We can create a product and knowledge that has worth to the world, but we are being told we shouldn’t. Sorry, I don’t see that is in Australia’s interests Malcolm. Australia is developing a product the world is waiting for. Let us just get on with it and reap the benefit just like others have in the past for similar things of technology.
    Now I expect what I have been written to be torn apart. Good discussion leading to innovation and progress is good. But if you’re just going to sprout the same old cowering mantra of never be brave or first and work in our National interests instead of greed only for the individual, crawl back into your hole. Australia, as a nation, with the drive of its greatest resource, its people and its culture of egalité (fair go) can lead us into being able to stand in the world again instead of cowering behind the dictation of others.
    We can make this happen. I want this to happen for us. We deserve it. Not more of what we were last dished out by JWH. We can eat better than a dog’s breakfast the Coalition has delivered and is offering again. Sorry Coalition, not thrice. No way.

      • yes, but he is also now claiming to have never said that they did have a fully costed policy.
        “Well, I have not said we have a fully costed plan “

        Seeking to clarify, the AFR asked if this meant a complete, costed policy was drawn up. A transcript of the relevant exchange shows the shadow minister did suggest such a policy existed.

        AFR:“So is that all fully costed up, you’ve worked out that if the government was to fall tomorrow, you’ve got that all in place, all ready to go?”

        Mr Turnbull: “What, do we have our policy ready? We do and it is very much … if I released our full policy document that wouldn’t surprise anyone, because I’ve described it pretty extensively in my speeches and articles and everything.”

        so it’s not just a case of him chaning his mind about it being fully costed, he is now saying that he never said it was fully costed in the first place.

        • @looktall

          Unfortunately, if you look closely at that AFR article, he never said the words “We have a fully-costed policy ready to go”. AFR said that. Turnbull said:

          “What, do we have our policy ready? We do

          That doesn’t mean it’s costed. Plenty of policies have been released by Oppositions AND government over the years with only basic or even NO costings.

          It’s another example of the media not pinning Turnbull down and him managing to squirm his way out of misleading and hypocritical statements. He’s a very good politician that way. He always leaves himself a way out.

          • the question put to him was “so it is all fully costed up?”

            his answer was We do and it is very much

          • @look tall

            He could quite easily get out of that saying he meant ‘it is very much ready, not very much costed.’

            As I said, he’s very good at leaving himself a way out.

          • i don’t disagree with you. all of the best pollies are good at that.

            i just wish more people would call him on stuff like this.
            there’s only so many times that a pollie can keep getting called on his incorrect statements and claim that he meant something else before people start to wonder why he can never say what he means in the first place and stop listening.

    • King of the flip flop.

      * In August, MT said he had a fully costed policy, ready to go.
      * A few weeks later, he said it wasn’t possible to fully cost it without seeing the NBN contracts.
      * Now he says it will cost $15B.

      He was either telling the truth at none of these three points, or at only one of them.

      You be the judge.

      • Yeh, the Lateline battle did atleast refocus the nations attention to a few particular areas worthy of close attention!

  21. You have made the classic mistake of allowing Malcolm Tunbul to state the problem as being

    “NBN Co’s focus (is) on nebulous statistics regarding the number of premises where it has commenced or completed construction”.

    He provides the “problem” then comments on how its a fail.

    How many communications has the NBN used “the number of premises where it has commenced or completed” as the only statistic? I would suggest none. Therefore how is the NBN focusing on it?

    MT talks about it at every opportunity, then when people justify it as being one of the valid criteria (one of, not the only) suddenly it seems as though they are focusing on it, when in fact they are just responding to MT’s focus on it.

    If he turned around and started commenting about the 30,000 people already on the NBN in every sentence the discussion would then focus on how are they finding the NBN, how quickly is that number increasing etc. (and other items that no one opposing the project would wish to have prominence).

    The NBN provides to much detail? IMHO they detail all the criteria that could be used to measure the progress of the NBN. If requested I’m sure they, or some of the other posters here, would explain/provide some nice easy charts/graphs to view. A Picture is worth a 1000 words.

    Surely providing a great deal of detail invalidates any claim that they focus on one detail, the “premises where it has commenced or completed construction”?

    • @Paul Krueger

      Excellently put.

      Turnbull is adept at the spin. And this is the spin at its’ best. The metric IS valid. There fact that he chooses to focus on it is, frankly, his problem. There are several other metrics which he could use.

      • In my opinion, the metrics are both valid and invalid.

        1 – Actual active premises is obvious enough.
        2 – Premises under construction is equally obvious.
        3 – Premises passed is also fair enough.

        4 – Premises passed or under construction – though a little bit “fudgey” is still valid, given MT’s promise to honour contracts.

        “2” plus “3” = “4” or “How many FTTH premises Malcolm would have to deal with, whether they are “complete” or not as such time LNP may come to power. They will at some time be “complete”.

        So to spruik this number IS somewhat reasonable.

        “2” is reasonable to show future, predictable progress with the rollout.
        “3” is reasonable to show current, solid status.

        Senate Estimates demanded NBN Co show progress and reasonable forward projections.

        Well, this is what they got.

        It’s a bit contrived, and arguably fudged, but the combined “4” is valid when viewed in the correct context.

        • @Michael

          All 4 of those metrics NBNCo. Reports. They report premises connected regularly and when asked. They report premises passed regularly and when asked. They report commenced construction in the Monthly Ready for Service reports. And of course they report the ‘commenced and completed’ too.

          I don’t understand why people think they only are harping on one. They aren’t. Conroy is, but that’s his problem, not NBNCo’s as Turnbull would have us believe.

        • I’d prefer Conroy to just give the broken down numbers and let me add them together if I want to. If he just uses “Commenced or completed”, you have to actually go look up how many “completed” or “commenced” there actually are, no biggie but it’s still a pain (and in actual fact, why should I have to, he should be proudly proclaiming how many aussies he’s helped get a better deal “this month”).

          For my purposes, a nice neat commenced this month/completed overall/taken-up a service overall (like 2435/156540/27890) would do just fine. Personally, I think average Joe Ozzy is misled by the figures Conroy uses and just equates what he’s saying as “houses finished”, at least that’s what a lot of my non-tech friends see it as. Stating the numbers as I have would be a lot more accurate and unambiguous.

    • Agree with everything Paul says, Renai would do well to read this and take note as he has no idea.

      • Well, that link only shows that YOU quoted a single statistic (If your referring to “lunch held by the Sydney Business Chamber last week”), not that others were not mentioned.

        Without transcripts of the other events who could say?

        But no matter, we might have to agree to disagree.

        Having said all that, its NBNs purpose to roll out the infrastructure to 100% of people in Australia. The number connected will follow, given that 93% will be migrated from copper to fibre. For construction, if you had to pick statistics what would they be?

        IMHO the only 2 (from construction point of view) are
        Construction completed or commenced and Construction completed.

        “Construction commenced relates to the phase of work in an area where contract instructions have been issued and our construction partners can commence work on detailed design and field inspections. It also refers to the date that NBN Co releases the rollout map for your area and signals the beginning of engagement with your local community and council” (from http://www.nbnco.com.au/rollout/rollout-map.html)

        When contract instructions are issued for an area would seem to be a big deal, perhaps it should be focused on, especially if the other statistics are given as well.

        As an example, if NBN said 5 million premises had just had contract instructions issued and would be completed within the year, surely that should be big news?

        I don’t get why its a “worthless” statistic, sorry.

        • @Paul Krueger
          As an example, if NBN said 5 million premises had just had contract instructions issued and would be completed within the year, surely that should be big news?

          Absolutely, as already mentioned copper migration is a matter of law and will happen.

          So this the real statistic I am interested in, unless someone can show that this is not “the point of no return”. If that was the case then I would also want to see the stat that represents the point of no return.

          I don’t get why its a “worthless” statistic, sorry.

          +1 I couldn’t agree more… actually +1000 (seems I can agree more)

          • So instead of the government just putting out clear stats as their primary format, they combine them all and it’s up to the journos to search for and find the truth of the matter?

            I’m sorry, since when was it’s Renai’s responsibility to sell the NBN for Conjob and co.? Is it really too much to expect that the “good news” be stated clearly rather than hidden? They have the exact statistics and could publish them clearly if they wanted to. That they don’t, rather hide behind the obfuscation of combining it with a nebulous and unclear figure creates the fear, uncertainty and doubt so many of you continually carp on about…

            I’ve seen scientologists that are more willing to accept criticism of their cult than some of the NBN supporters are of their golden… erm, fibre calf…

          • “I’ve seen scientologists that are more willing to accept criticism of their cult than some of the NBN supporters are of their golden… erm, fibre calf…”

            Getting a bit carried away, don’t you think?

            At the end of the day, stats can be manipulated by anyone (including you). The question really is: Given its background , is the NBN progressing satisfactorily? I believe it is. You may believe otherwise but ultimately, in years to come, people will wonder what the fuss was all about.

            I am starting to think that all these discussions are the result of the uncertainty of the opposition’s “policy”. This, in turn, gives rise to speculations after speculations. Had the opposition adopted a by-partisan approach, the debate will be elsewhere and much more beneficial in delivering a better rollout and product.

          • @Asmodai

            I’ve seen scientologists that are more willing to accept criticism of their cult than some of the NBN supporters are of their golden… erm, fibre calf…

            Thats ironic coming from one of the heaviest and continuous (rational) critics of the NBN on Delimiter.

            Asmodai, as MikeK has said down further, NBNCo. produced this metric for the Senate committee. It is a VALID metric. It is not the ONLY metric, nor is it the only one reported during network updates. This article is about NBNCo. producing the metric. What Conroy uses as his metric is about as important as what Turnbull uses as his. They’re both nebulous and misleading. Tit for tat. But the metric of ‘commenced or completed’ produced by NBNCo. is valid.

            You may not agree. That’s fine, but that’s no reason to go around calling zealot on all those who disagree with you. That’s what Malcolm does. You’ll note several pro-NBNers here agree with you. That doesn’t mean all have to, or that all who don’t are automatically not capable of rational, critical thought.

            Please leave the zealotry and anti-zealotry to the politicians.

          • Asmodai, IMO, your opinion had no credibility as soon as you said Conjob, as it just shows your obvious motive.

  22. A few more facts Renai will not like, Labor has been in office for five years, yet only 8613 premises are connected to the NBN fibre, the others are wireless or sat.

    Labor first promised FTTN in April 2007, and it was scheduled to be finished by 2013.

    • So? It’s above the FY 2012 target of 3500 and below the 2013 FY target of 54000.
      Since the rollout is in ramp up stage and each area takes up to 12 months to complete and the rollout started less than 12 months ago I guess figures will have to be watch and 30th of June. Since they are getting about 1500 a month active now it will need to triple in the next 7 months. I guess some would depend on how many ISPs swtich their customers over.
      Oh well, it’s all academic as those customers still on copper will be switched over in 18 months from completion anyway. The 54000 would represent a sort of early adopter figure. Lets face it, as you are probably in this boat, the general public is pretty clueless when it comes to tech.

    • Your memory seems to have glossed over the details a bit.

      From memory I remember Telstra delaying supplying any information regarding its networks until it was forced, delaying the original process, then not supplying a valid tender for the original FTTN opportunity. Without the participation of Telstra, and the uncertainty over the compensation that would be necessary to be paid for their copper, the expert panel recommended that FTTN did not provide good value for the billions that the gov was willing to supply.

      Once there was no alternate to bypassing telstra it was necessary to see if a business cse would be viable for FTTH, after that report indicated that it was it was then necessary to was create the legislative framework for a Gov controlled business, despite oppositions attempts to slow and delay. It takes time for companies to form, hiring the appropriate staff, setting up the systems necessaries to operate.

      Seeing the writing on the wall, Telstra (and then optus) decided that given the costs of maintaining their copper infrastructure they would rather allow NBN to use their Ducts and migrate their customers across

      Negotiations with Telstra were protracted, and shareholders had to agree. The appropriate Regulatory bodies had to be satisfied….

      None of this was quick, yet it all had to be done before the NBN could ramp up its production as it is now able to do.

      It was a big effort, and one that the liberal party seek to roll back to the very beginning, where they might like a private company to build FTTN with a gov subsidy (Labors plan in 2007). Legally this could be a very complex task, removing the legislation that governs the NBNs behaviour, compensating all the players involved. They might talk a good game of faster, but stopping the NBN now that it’s in full swing just seems stupid.

      But who really knows what the Liberal party plan to do when in office. IMHO I suspect they don’t have a plan ATM, but a plan to develop a plan if they win power and have access to more information. They are in the same situation as labor in 2007. Like the idea of a step up from adsl, but not quite sure of all the details.

      While Lavour was involving the industry in finding the best solution if the Liberal party had participated then, providing bipartisan support I suspect Telstra would have folded, negotiating in good faith rather then delaying. Legislation would have been passed quicker as well.

      An opportunity lost, but you can not lay the length of time solely at the feet of Labor.

      IMHO I am glad that FTTN did not go ahead in ~2009. The current plan provides immensely more value to the Australian citizens who will now own it, almost certainly produce a cheaper cost for the end user and be able to reach speeds of 1Gb now, and faster into the future.

    • Lone gunmen

      This is exactly the sort of response MT wants. You are right, nothing has happened in the time you have mentioned. All the people working for and contracted to NBN have just done nothing.

      The problem is your comment will become increasingly irrelevant as time goes past and more premises get connected. So, enjoy while you can.

    • Yes, there are only x number of connections to FTTH under Labor. And that’s still greater than the number of connections to FTTH during the decade-long Liberal government. Greater by x. :)

    • TLG, was that the same FttN the then Coalition government referred to as “fraudband”? The same FttN the very same/now Coalition opposition embrace as the best solution?


  23. Renai

    I note your obvious admiration for Malcolm Turnbull’s communication skills. It may be worth reminding you, however, that his particular skill is shared by many a con man.

    As for the statistics being used to denote NBN co’s progress, it is not prudent to ignore the context in which they are provided.

    If you had no knowledge of the NBN debate, listening to Turnbull, you would be left with impression that nothing much has happened in the last 5 years. We have this white elephant costing a fortune and the progress has been pitiful.

    So, please tell me. What should NBN co and Conroy’s reply be?.” You are right we have only connected a small number of premises. We won’t mention planning (and its associated delays), or the fact that we have commenced work in many areas and that this work should be completed with the next 12 months. In would be misleading to give you figures that indicate the acceleration pace of construction when it is being questioned incessantly.”

    I think you will find that what happened with the carbon tax will be repeated with the NBN. Scare people early but when the truth emerge move on to something else. In 12 months time, Turnbull’s claims will sound hollow because the premises commenced will be largely completed.

  24. Is it really an apples for apples comparison when the NBN costing includes the cost of compensation to Telstra and others whereas the Turnbull version is a construction cost if starting from scratch. What about the compensation to telstra etc.?

    It is much easier to be cheaper if you only include half the actual costs.

  25. Turnbull was really squirming I thought when they tried to pin him down on his fully costed policy backflip.
    Was a good interview. Both sides made some good points.

  26. The most relevant statistic is the number of users of the NBN that are doing things with it that are of benefit. A classic example of this is telehealth, which is often used as an example of the value of the NBN. Unfortunately there seems to be a lack of vision and direction by the relevant government authorities that are involved in delivering that value. The department of health has decreased the availability of reimbursement for telehealth whilst the NBN has rolled fibre under the street, but failed to develop solutions that utilise it to deliver such value.


    The NBN should be working on developing and supporting solutions that utilise the network for the benefit of the Australian population. Healthcare, social care, education are just three examples, and with the right investment and support they could drive an entire new industry in Australia. Unfortunately their communication team seems to be focused on just reporting numbers of houses the fibre has run past. They need to realise they are much more than a construction company that lays fibre in the street, they are the drivers of innovation, and as such have a responsibility to deliver more than just fibre outside our doors.

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