NBN makes construction chief redundant



news The National Broadband Network Company today confirmed it had made its head of construction Dan Flemming redundant, just 18 months after he was appointed, in a move that marks the second time the leadership of the company’s construction team has changed in less than two years.

In a statement, the company said that its chief operating officer, Ralph Steffens, had announced an “adjustment” to NBN Co’s structure to ensure it was best placed to deliver on its targets. The first move is that the commercial and contract management teams previously in the company’s Construction division would move to the Business Operations division under executive Kate Stapleton. “This allows us to consolidate expertise as we focus on the vital areas of contract management and rollout delivery within the COO team,” NBN Co’s statement said.

“Further to these changes,” the company added, “Dan Flemming, head of construction, will be leaving NBN Co. For almost three years Dan has been instrumental in developing NBN Co’s construction capability. His passion for and commitment to the National Broadband Network has been clearly evident throughout his tenure. Dan’s achievements in leading and growing the NBN Co Construction organisation are many, and greatly appreciated. We thank Dan and wish him well for the future.” An NBN Co spokesperson confirmed that Flemming had not resigned but had been made redundant from the company. The news of Flemming’s departure was first reported by The Australian.

NBN Co also noted that Richard Thorpe, the current general manager of Implementation, would move to the new position of executive general manager of Construction effective from today, reporting to COO Steffens. “Richard has 15 years experience in the telecommunications industry having held a number of senior management roles within both BT Openreach as well as Level 3 Communications,” the company said. “Whilst working for Level 3, based in Denver USA, Richard was responsible for constructing their European fibre network and datacentres.”

Flemming’s departure marks the second time NBN Co has lost a head of construction under less than ideal circumstances. In April 2011, the company’s then-head of construction Patrick Flannigan resigned unexpectedly, just days after negotiations broke down between the fledgling fibre monopoly and some 14 construction firms about the construction of the nation-wide network.

One of the eight senior executives reporting to CEO Mike Quigley, Flannigan had over 25 years experience in the infrastructure service industry. His role will now be taken on an acting basis by Dan Flemming, who up unti that point was working as construction general manager. Flemming was confirmed as the company’s permanent head of construction several months later in August 2011.

NBN Co has seen numerous senior executive departures in its short life after the company was formed in mid-2009.

In August 2011, the company noted that its then-CFO Jean-Pascal Beaufret, a former colleague of Quigley’s at his former company Alcatal-Lucent, who served as NBN Co’s first financial overseer, had retired. At the same time, the company lost its head of industry engagement Christy Boyce, who had been one of the most visible figures in NBN Co’s early days in representing the company to its ISP customers. NBN Co’s statement at the time didn’t reveal why Boyce was leaving, noting only that her departure came “as a result of the reorganisation”.

In December last year NBN Co also lost another of its most visible executives in the form of the company’s Head of Product Development and Industry Relations, Jim Hassell. After NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley and perhaps Head of Corporate Kevin Brown, Hassell had been the company’s public ‘face’. He joined Broadcast Australia late last year as chief executive officer.

Another executive to leave was NBN Co’s inaugural chief information officer Claire Rawlins, who resigned and left NBN Co in August last year, after spending several years at the company setting up its IT support operation. And the company’s head of network operations Steve Christian also left the business in 2012, after three years with NBN Co.

Even the most fervent pro-NBN commenters will find it hard to put a positive spin on this one. Frankly, the build-out of the NBN is one of Australia’s largest construction jobs ever, and leading its construction is an incredibly prestigious role. If NBN Co has seen fit to make Flemming’s role redundant (and remember, he did not resign from the role; he was given his marching orders), there must have been very significant disagreement within NBN Co as to how that construction job was progressing.

We still don’t know how much progress NBN Co has made on its rollout over the past three months, as the company has declined to release hard rollout and active connections data through the quarter to the end of December 2012. So it’s hard to judge how well Flemming was doing in meeting the company’s targets.

However, to my mind what this situation reads like is a clear-cut case of the company’s relatively new chief operating officer Ralph Steffens (he’s been at NBN Co little over a year) taking a more direct hand in the NBN implementation.

While Flemming was no doubt very competent, he never struck me as a heavy hitter at NBN Co. In comparison, Steffens is very definitely a heavy hitter, both at NBN Co and globally. Prior to taking his current role, Steffens (pictured, right) held a number of very senior positions at British telco BT, where he led a team of no less than 4,000 staff based in 34 countries as the company’s managing director of service delivery.


However, and perhaps more critically, previous to that, Steffens held down a long-term role at European telco COLT Telecom, where he rolled out a series of metropolitan fibre networks across Europe.

My suspicion is that Steffens, now having a year under his belt at NBN Co, is taking more direct control of NBN Co’s construction unit and hasn’t been afraid to kick some ass to get that job done, especially as the company is now under the pump to show results ahead of the upcoming Federal Election.

Is this a good thing? To be perfectly honest, yes, I believe so. I’ll pretty much greenlight anything that will get the NBN rolled out faster at this point. It’s been almost four years since the new NBN policy was announced in April 2009, and a little over five years since Kevin Rudd took power in late 2007 and announced the original NBN policy. A lot has been done and said since then, but NBN Co still hasn’t deployed its network to that many premises yet. And that’s its only real benchmark, as I have no doubt Steffens is painfully aware. I really don’t personally care how many asses Steffen or NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley has to kick to get this job done. In fact, to some extent I am hoping that both are going all Steve Jobs on NBN Co’s internal staff. This job needs to get done. The time is now.

Image credit: NBN Co


  1. Interesting.

    I’ve not directly spoken to Dan Flemming at any NBN event I’ve been to, but I’ve listened to him speaking, and he seemed an incredibly switched on bloke, and picked up very quickly and very knowledgeably from where Patrick Flanagan left off – so it’s somewhat of a surprise to see this.

    We’ll only be able to judge this as “good” or “bad” as the rollout progresses.

    But definitely seems like a strange move.

    • I suspect that the reason we don’t have the premises passed and active connection figures are because they are lower than NBNCo’s target. Therefore it is not surprising that he person responsible has been asked to “explore other options”.

        • I’m not sure why you would even bother posing this question. Someone with such a simplistic view of reality would no doubt be unable to comprehend it.

      • Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if NBN Co hadn’t met its 2012 targets. I’m sure if it had easily exceeded them, it would have already released that information.

        • That was my thought too.

          I’m probably OK with it if they did (it’s still early days for a project this big really), but I sure as heck want to know why, by how much and what they are doing about it…

        • Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if NBN Co hadn’t met its 2012 targets. I’m sure if it had easily exceeded them, it would have already released that information.

          I disagree with this thinking. NBNCo. has reporting timeframes. Just because they choose not to break them, doesn’t mean it’s bad news. They are NBNCo. Not Labor.

          That’s my opinion anyway. We will see in the next few weeks more than likely.

          On a side note, without digging it up, what do we think ARE the targets passed and active for Dec 2012?

          • It is looking more and more like the NBN did not meet the figures, however the only evidence for this will be available when NBNco decides to release it.

            Just because they haven’t released the info doesn’t mean that they didn’t reach their targets, however it is a very easy conclusion to draw.

          • Well of course you wouldn’t Seventech, it appears your ability to think critically has been surgically removed or something…

            Seriously, how many red flags need to go up?

            I reckon if Quigley came out and said “We didn’t meet our targets”, you’d find a way to turn it in to a win…

          • @Asmodai

            I’d appreciate not being personally analysed. If you have an issue with my thinking, outline it. From the evidence I have seen, here is what we know:

            1- NBNCo. have surpassed their goal of 758k commenced or completed. Some believe this is a useless metric. It doesn’t change the fact they’ve surpassed it.

            2- NBNCo. were asked by Renai, in an FOI request, to reveal their premises passed and connected. NBNCo. essentially declined (ultimately) with the reason that they’d need to be collated (not required for an FOI request) and they would be released in due course anyway. Their reporting period is quarterly. That is somewhere between now and end of Jan.

            3- Renai would not be surprised if they missed their 2012 targets. That is his opinion. However that is rather academic- there ARE no 2012 targets.

            4- NBNCo. have made their head of construction redundant. Not fired, not quit, redundant. There are numerous reasons for making even top level jobs redundant, including, but not limited to, the job has been assumed by someone more appropriate for efficiency OR because there is a problem with the structure or politics of the company. Trying to debate which is kind of pointless- we will never know.

            Find a flaw in that thinking. But please don’t patronise me.

        • I agree Renai.

          You wouldn’t think they’d sack the bloke who helped them reach their targets?

          • Flipside is that you wouldnt sack him so soon either. There would be a review of whats gone wrong, etc etc, and he’d be quietly shown the door some time mid year.

            The last set of figures (3-ish months ago?) should have shown whether they were on track or not, and the plan shows what the target is, so put those figures together and you’ll see what was needed to meet the target for premises passed.

            If they were on track at the last report, then something pretty serious would need to have gone wrong in a very short time frame, and thats the sort of thing someone would have noticed. If something serious DID go wrong, then he shouldnt be responsible to the point of losing his job.

            This is based on things that happened 6 months ago, not 2 months ago. So what was in the news back then?

  2. I wish they would make their head of pricing redundant, especially based on the Be alert and informed and you may pay less in the Age by Peter Martin. The article mainly discusses how retailers and wholesalers charge higher prices in Australia and then has some comments about NBNCo pricing, from which I quote:

    “These practices offend our sensibilities. But, appallingly, they are what our own government’s new $37 billion national broadband network is planning in the prices it charges retailers. It wants to hobble the speed for ordinary users and have no block for users who pay a higher price.
    The constraint is artificial. There is nothing to stop it giving all Australians the truly phenomenal speeds of which it is capable. If it wants to charge for usage it can charge for data.
    Former Telstra economist John de Ridder has told the Competition Commission its thinking is mired in the past. It is imposing scarcity where none exists, ”building a motorway and then only using one lane”.
    Unless we are given what we have already paid to build, most of us might never know what it’s truly capable of.”

    • Get off it Matthew before you go blind.
      ” If it wants to charge for usage it can charge for data.”
      And how would that be practically achieved ?, simplest method is precisely what they are doing using speed tiers and volume charging.
      The alternative is providing unnecessary peaks of data transmission rate which will need to be catered for by a massive increase of largely redundant backhaul and transits at greatly increased cost which much be recovered. All unnecessary and completely ridiculous gold plating for no real benefit apart from satisfying pedants.

      • Actually, on pondering what he said, I kinda agree with his main point.

        Once Australia is “all fibre”, the use of speed throttling is totally artificial, everyone will have the capability of getting the full speed available (someone on 12Mbps will use the exact same hardware/fibre channels as someone on 100Mbps) and I’d expect that the back-end infrastructure would be built to support that (we’re in for some horror stories in the future if it isn’t).

        So what IS the point of throttling the speed? Originally, it was to limit the amount of data on the network (especially slow, unreliable old copper networks), but with fibre, that will be a lot less of a problem.

        Seems to me they could make the pricing structure a lot easier for everyone by dropping the artificial speed throttled plans, and just offer more data plans.

        If anyone has a good reason for lower speed plans, please feel free to tell me, I’d like to know what I’m missing :o)

        • Yes, he’s correct in that. However as I pointed out, does he have evidence that it’s a POLICY decision as opposed to a BUSINESS decision.

        • @tinman

          Seems to me they could make the pricing structure a lot easier for everyone by dropping the artificial speed throttled plans, and just offer more data plans.

          They could. There is nothing in legislation that says they can’t. They would have to renegotiate the WBA, but it can be done.

          My feeling is they decided to stick with speed tiers because that’s what the industry has and would accept the easiest, therefore reducing the complications of drawn-out negotiation sto try and force a hostile industry into changing pricing models.

          I don’t currently see a problem with this charging model. I WOULD like them to revisit it near or soon after construction is finished though.

          • At least one industry player (Simon Hackett) posted on whirlpool that he would prefer a flat AVC charge. Here are the quotes:
            * “They could charge that average to everyone, and open the ports up to full speed for everyone (this is my personal preference, FWIW).” Simon Hackett
            * “No cost to NBNCo for additional speed / data – Simon Hackett

          • He also mentioned why NBNCo did it the way they did. It was to make plans cheaper and more affordable for people on lower incomes. Higher speeds being more expensive subsidize low speed connections. This allows for those 29.95 plans for pensioners and the like.
            Of course this could be dropped and everyone charged the same then the high speed users would effective be subsidised by those that don’t need that sort of speed.

          • NBNCo are on record now (on ZDNet) of saying it’s to encourage people to take up faster/higher data plans. Considering how many people use Dodo, I’m not won over ;o)

            Here’s the crux of the issue for me, they could STILL offer the same price plans they currently do, but based on data usage alone. The lower tier data plans (500Mb/1Gb) could still be $29.99, and the higher tier (100Gb) data plans $99-$120ish. The NBN hardware everyone will be using is identical in each case, so it’s not like they need to use “better” hardware for faster speeds.

            One thing I found when Telstra decided to bump up the speeds on their HFC, once you have higher speeds, you tend to use more data anyway, so I’d expect they’d still get a natural drift up to higher plans anyway, regardless of whether they use speed as a stick or not.

          • @tinman

            For a start, I hope that was either a typo or you’re getting confused….

            100GB is NOT NOT NOT a high plan. I’m on 200GB and I use 3/4 of it a month and pay $70 for it. 500GB-1TB is a high plan right now. If I paid $100 on the NBN for 100GB, even at 1Gbps, that would be ridiculous. I’d be considering staying on ADSL.

            Second, the other thing found when unlocking higher speeds for no extra when data use increases is contention gets much higher in peak times AND it becomes alot more unstable during the day to predict- you’ve no idea when a few people will go on a download rampage at 100Mbps for half an hour. That means, either, service quality as a whole degrades significantly OR you have to by significant quantities of extra backhaul (CVC on the NBN) to ensure latent demand is met. Either is bad and both are costly (the first one indirectly). Speed tiers enable RSPs to handle contention much better as they have statistical probabilities based on the split of tiers they have, what the absolute maximum bandwidth required at any one time could be.

            There are reasons for and against speed tiers. I don’t think we need them in the years coming, but right now, I don’t disagree with the tiers still being used.

          • I’m on 500Gb and pay $130 for it, but then I and several others in my house are in IT and tend to download a lot more than the average person.

            But then I have several seniors friends/family that are on 1/500th of the plan I’m on with usage that I’d call “lite” (facebook with a bit of You Tube).

            The main point is still valid, NBNCo can achieve the exact same system they have currently using data plans, rather than speed/data plans.

            The benefits are pretty obvious and are in line with the actual objective of what the NBN is trying to achieve. Consider this, one of the applications of the NBN being pushed is remote medicine. If everyone is on 100Mbps, then they’ll know that there won’t be any issue with the speed, whereas if there are speed plans, they’ll need to make sure folks are on the higher tier plans.

            In other word, they really need to make it a real “next gen” network, not a “next gen that acts like the last gen” one.

          • @tinman

            The main point is still valid, NBNCo can achieve the exact same system they have currently using data plans, rather than speed/data plans.

            Except that the usage will now vary wildly. If everyone has access to 100Mbps regardless, those that normally shy away from heavy downloads or youTube watching because it used to be slow or use lots of quota, now don’t. Overall data usage skyrockets and contention ratios are too high, resulting in a bottleneck, the only way of which to heal is to by large over-quantities of backhaul/CVC which may not get used 13-15 hours of a day.

            Contention ratios work now because ISPs know the maximum speed people can use and the ratio of people that have that maximum speed. They can therefore work out very precisely what contention ratio they need. NOT knowing when even your basic users will suddenly shoot up to 100Mbps downloads for a few minutes at a time, because there’s no maximum speed means you have to try and predict user usage. That is ALOT harder.

            NBNCo. use this system to increase revenue AND decrease the cost of data as more data is used. Once we get to a stage that everyone is using 50Mbps on average, instead of our current 5Mbps, THEN we can look at unbottling speeds, as data use will have brought backhaul and CVC prices down significantly.

            In other word, they really need to make it a real “next gen” network, not a “next gen that acts like the last gen” one.

            It’s not. Not at all. If you WANT 100Mbps, you can get it. Or 1Gbps. You just have to pay for it. If you don’t want it and basic connectivity will do you, then you don’t pay.

            That’s like everything else in life- even electricity, gas and water. In fact, ironically, the whole idea of unlimited “speed” in utilities is causing issues, particularly in electricity. If you can draw however much you want, when you want, peak load is no longer peak load, so more generation has to take place to compensate. This is EXACTLY why Electricity generators want Smart-meters- they raise your price if you use large amounts during a peak period (literally a period that has high usage, not a set time period) and lower it when you don’t. It encourages people to use less electricity overall, rather than use it all at the same time (as the system does now). People don’t like it, because they’ve had free reign to “download” as much electricity as they want for the same price, whenever. This is now changing BACK to a model like the NBN.

            It is more efficient. People just don’t like it when they are the ones who use more than anyone else.

          • I’m still not sold on your PoV Seven :)

            Most networks are overbuilt (by a lot, consider the PIPE pacific cable currently runs at 2.56 terrabytes a sec, and can be upgraded to 10.24 Tbps if required).

            Also consider that companies like Akamai serve up 10 terrabits a second to help avoid that kind of traffic being required on OS links for non-realtime stuff, and the whole “there isn’t enough bandwidth” thing doesn’t really seem that plausible.

            There’s plenty of bandwidth when the networks fibre end-to-end, and theres content servers locally to easy the load on OS links, so why clog it up artificially to manufacture “fake” bottlenecks?

          • @tinman

            I’m afraid you actually misunderstood my point. The NBN itself is likely built or able to be easily upgraded to cope. RSPs OWN contention (via CVC and backhaul to POIs) however would be required to be much higher than normal just to cover the random spikes from not knowing top speeds.

            RSP contention is carefully managed. Removing a limit set in place to stabilise that management will greatly fluctuate their ability to manage efficiently. It will end up with many high end and mid range users not getting what they pay for because they’re expecting high top speeds and get crap during busy times.

          • Really, they could have done it 1000s of different ways. They have organised their pricing how they have for various reasons. You may want it a different way. Tough, it isn’t.

          • BTW Malcolm Turnbull would be proud of your selective/mis quoting. Your second point is a complete bastardisation of what Simon says. He states that it is the case when capacity isn’t exceeded that it costs them no more, while explaining why CVC needs to be charged. Using selective quoting you have reversed what he was actually saying.
            Is your entire rational for these post over the last few years to get the low end users to subsidise big torrenters?

    • I see you are spamming this post of every NBN article you can find on all sorts of tech forums.

    • @ Mathew

      Just what that comment has to do with the construction side of the NBN, is anyone’s guess? But let’s run with it since you wish to grandstand…

      Ah yes, Peter Martin (“Economics Reporter”) and author of such literary gems as…

      “The NBN is a slowly unfolding disaster”

      “NBNCo. Don’t say you weren’t warned”

      “We’re spending a fortune on new wires. In case you don’t want them, we’ll disconnect the ones you have”

      He’s the one you obtain your “impartial, balanced and unbiased” info from? Really? All is becoming clearer!

      Then your next star witness is Telstra?

      The same Telstra who invented every trick in the book to give us less and charge more? The same Telstra which you yourself, even admitted were responsible for social inequality, “just yesterday”?


      I think you need to broaden your horizons my friend :)

  3. Whoops! “who up unti that point was working as construction general manager.”

    Should be “who up until that point was working as construction general manager.”


  4. My slant which has been posted on Malcolms site under his Gillard comment and slightly extended here

    Today the NBN has lost Dan Fleming, sad but necessary, he is brilliant and focused on the most efficient and best long term operation, unfortunately due to the destructive nature of the vitriolic attacks by the opposition and also News Ltd’s vicious destructive attacks to protect and build their media monopoly, especially in cable TV it has become political with short term results being critical to the survival of one of the most important infrastructure platform for the Nation and the economy now and for the decades to come.
    Your pathetic Coalition Policy is just as fatally flawed and dysfunctional as that half baked disaster in waiting labelled as OPEL. It is the Government responsibvility to provide the National Infrastructure to enable optimal growth of the Nation and the economy not just for now and the short term but for decades to come. The Private sector is only interested in ROI and profits as such cannot provide that which is needed by it’s very nature without massive taxpayer gifts for eternity

    For once stand up for Australia to those ideological fanatics in your party, but especially to that creature Rupert Murdoch and his henchmen and minions who seek to rule this nation by proxy and control and manipulate our every thought and opinion. I vote for a government not a behind the scenes uncrowned despotic puppet master emperor

    Stand up for Australia and be a man of integrity, support the NBN as it is and allow the best result to happen, defuse the political B.S and do something worthwhile for Australia

    • hey Abel,

      Frankly I am not sure what Flemming’s departure has to do with the Coalition. If you post further comments along these lines I will delete them.

      Not everything to do with the NBN has to do with the Coalition.



      • @Renai

        Frankly I am not sure what Flemming’s departure has to do with the Coalition.

        Well, to be fair, you actually mentioned it may, indirectly:

        My suspicion is that Steffens, now having a year under his belt at NBN Co, is taking more direct control of NBN Co’s construction unit and hasn’t been afraid to kick some ass to get that job done, especially as the company is now under the pump to show results ahead of the upcoming Federal Election.

        The Federal Election is, essentially, a contest between the Labor and Coalition parties. Therefore, if Flemming’s departure may be because they need headkicking to get results for the election….

        Sorry, I’m not trying to be a smart-ass. I just happen to agree with you and I think Abel was too, if in a round-about way.

        I’m sorry Dan has gone, but if NBNCo. need to headkick to reach or even surpass targets, then so be it. At least it shows they are being efficient, contrary to popular opinion by some.

      • Your call Renai
        Howevet IMO is that we all on this want what is best for Australia as a whole.
        As I have always indicated the opposition to the NBN appears to not share that goal or intent.
        It is an election year

        My apologies if I pushed the envelope

        • The real issue here is that the debate around the NBN has become way too politicised, and both parties are to blame.

          But at the end of the day there isn’t too much different between them, they both agree that Australia needs one (an NBN), and that it should be fibre (as a backbone for the Libs, all the way through to the premises for the ALP). Heck, if Malcolm uses the right FSAM’s (as he is on record of saying he would), even the Libs version would be an easy upgrade to the ALP version of the NBN. As an aside, this is why I don’t believe Malcolm when he says his plan will be cheaper, he’s using the exact same stuff up to the street, then very expensive copper (Telstra will make sure of that) to replace cheap fibre the ALP will be using.

          Most of the current arguments about the NBN are the equivalent of what shade of blue it should be, it’s basic size and shape have already been determined.

          • @tinman

            That’s if you believe the LNP will definitely DO something on broadband and not just stop the NBN and say the private sector will “fix it” and throw a bit of money at them.

            THAT is why I don’t trust them.

          • It may well be that the Libs wouldn’t do anything (anything is possible after all), but that’s not what Malcolm said he’d do, I’ve no reason to disbelieve him at this point.

          • @tinman

            MT is not the leader of the opposition. And the leader of the Opposition has never, ever, mentioned doing what MT suggested.

            I’m very surprised you believe them with nothing more than confused statements from all involved.

          • @seven_tech

            ‘ the LNP will definitely DO something on broadband and not just stop the NBN and say the private sector will “fix it” and throw a bit of money at them.’

            Well you can rest easy then, because the LNP have not stated they will will do either of those.

  5. NBNco has an unenviable position. And so do many of it’s staff. They are expected to meet targets and deliver to not only Labor policy, but stave off abuse (and I think that’s a pretty fair assessment of some of the more personal comments from the Wizard of Wentworth) from the Coalition.

    The stress and deliverables will be.. intense. I would anticipate this will be a trend until the deployment stabalises and NBNco can just get on with building.

    Have they made targets? possibly. It’s not the end of the world if they’ve slipped a bit. Negotiations with Telstra have delayed the deployment. Hardly a secret.

    The key thing will be whether NBNco has managed to ramp up deployments successfully; if they’ve missed (and it’s possible they have) prior targets, yet have met, or actually exceeded the expected rate at which services are being built now, then any delay will become largely irrelevant.

    If sacking a few people to ramp the speed up and streamline management, is what they have to do, then I imagine that’s what they’ll do; they don’t really have the luxury of taking their time here, exits are likely to be short and a bit brutal.

    We all need to ensure they’re kept honest, but I can’t help but think the resulting pressures to deliver will be.. insane.

  6. I have to say, looking at events over the past few weeks, you have to say that it does look a little suspicious.

    1. NBN Co releases nebulous ‘construction commenced’ stats, which are based, literally, on the company issuing a piece of paper to its contractors saying “start construction here”. It claims victory in meeting its goals
    2. NBN Co repeatedly refuses to release hard rollout data
    3. NBN Co fires its head of construction, but only publicly talks about it when The Australian breaks the story

    Y’all know that I am supportive of the NBN as the best telecommunications policy Australia has had yet. But it’s getting hard to continue to be so when these kinds of ducks line up in a row.

    • Sorry Renai, but you’ve lined up those ducks yourself:

      1 NBNCo. had a target of 758 000 premises commenced or completed by end of Dec 2012. A few days after that deadline they release those figures….how is that duck 1? Just because you disagree with the metric?

      2- NBNCo. ARE going to release the metrics you requested. The fact they’re doing so outside your timeframe is annoying but not surprising- if they reported every time someone asked they’d do nothing but report….duck 2 is floating away….

      3- There is possibly some headkicking going on I agree. Doesn’t mean they weren’t at or close to their target anyway. Perhaps it was headkicking to get BETTER than targets…

      I don’t see them as ducks because IMO the reporting period is the Senate Committee’s issue, not yours. But that’s my opinion. Yours differs. Thank goodness we’re not all the same :-D

      • I must say I agree with seven_tech on his comments here.

        The NBN is an investment in infrastructure. You’re logic on the official numbers could be used on other infrastructure projects in the same way. That is:

        1. Cancel the Pacific Highway upgrade as you don’t get the official Cars/Trucks per day figures whenever you demand themy
        2. The Snowy mountains Hydro Scheme was a waste because the can’t confirm the KWh/s per day would be consistent

        The Houses connected numbers are a topic for you to discuss at Malcom’s BBQ’s but I’m finding your “unbiased” reporting to be be as “unbiased” as the “The Australian” newspaper

        For the record; I’m traditionally a Liberal voter who thinks the political debacle that is the ALP is sickening, but understands the importance of this project for Australia’s future. Which puts me in an interesting position come polling day…..

  7. I’m proposing to buy a beer for the first 20 people to walk through the door a nominated pub in Adelaide at a mutually agreeable time (Saturday afternoon?) if NBNCo meet both the premises passed and premises activated targets for December 2012. If NBNCo don’t meet the targets then people will need to post in this thread and on Whirlpool that they acknowledge that NBNCo have engaged in spin. Specifically that NBNCo have sought to mislead the public as to the actual progress in building the network and that NBNCo have predicted in both versions of the Corporate Plan that 50% will connect at 12/1Mbps and less than 5% will connect at 1Gbps in 2028.

    To accept this offer, please post your acceptance below.

    PS Renai, I hope this is okay, but I’m frustrated by the unwillingness of the NBN fanbois to acknowledge even the slightest criticism in NBNCo.

    • @matthew

      You tell me what those targets are for December 2012 and ill consider it. Afaik, there IS no premises passed OR active target for December 2012. Ill even pay for my flight over if I agree and win…

      • Keep saying it 7. Someone will notice at some point :)

        I’ll join in … what are the NBNCo’s December 2012 targets for ‘premises passed’ and ‘premises with active services’?


        They can report what they like if there are no published targets.

        • @CMOT

          LOL. I know, right….

          I’d be happy to look into any figures anyone has, but I’m not aware of any ever produced for Dec 2012. The only way to ascertain it would be to estimate the ramp up stage between June last year and June this year, but considering it is non-linear….that would be very difficult indeed.

          AFAIK (approximate numbers here, as I don’t want to trawl WP for them right now) 3 FSAMs went live in October, 6 in November and 4 in December (I think). At (approx) 2400 premises an FSAM, that gives about 31 200 premises. Added to 52 000 of Sept, that gives us 83 200. Plus whatever FSAM premises numbers NOT complete, but at least RFS. I’d say, we’re looking at AROUND 85 000 premises passed as a conservative estimate. (If anyone can be bothered going through Tallweirdo’s month by month on WP in the Rollout thread to confirm those live FSAM numbers, I’d be happy to change it if that’s wrong)

          I’d hazard a guess (total guess here) of 16 000 premises active- about 19%.

          Your guess CMOT?

          • “Your guess CMOT?”

            The NBNCo is not measured against my guesses or anyone’s derived figures. They should be measured against their own targets. The actual figures are not particularly meaningful without published targets against which they can be compared.

    • Oh and by the way it isn’t spin to suggest 50% on 12/1. Its called a conservative estimate. Why is it spin? No one has denied that’s what they’ve predicted.

    • *sigh* Mathew…

      The NBN Fanbois as you call us have said NBNCo should release all information on time. You say they should provide all info at the drop of a hat – so who is promoting spin?

      We suggest the 50% on 12/1 is a projection which can fluctuate and is, as estimations normally are, conservative. You quote them religiously and have done so since the first Corp Plan was released in (iirc) Dec 2010, as if these figures are set in stone, or else NBN fails – so who is promoting spin?

      You quote info as being unbiased, from Peter Martin, an Economist reporter who has a track record of anti-NBN articles (as I supplied above) – who is promoting spin.

      Although I could continue, lastly, you make up some lame 20 free schooners, if NBN have met their targets as if it’s the end of life as we know it if they haven’t – who is promoting spin?

      Seriously we want what is best for all Aussies which is IMO the NBN. Whereas you keep bagging the NBN (without foundation) and then when asked about the alternative (FttN) you say… because I don’t support the NBN it doesn’t mean I support FttN – again who is promoting spin, when we only have two alternatives before us, the current NBN or the opposition’s FttN and you bag the NBN and avoid at all costs mentioning FttN.

      Mate, seriously as far as spin is concerned, you make Warney and Murali look like rank amateurs :(

      PS Renai, I hope this is okay, but I’m frustrated by the unwillingness of the anti-NBN grim reapers to acknowledge even the slightest NBNCo positiveness.

      • “We suggest the 50% on 12/1 is a projection which can fluctuate and is, as estimations normally are, conservative. You quote them religiously and have done so since the first Corp Plan was released in (iirc) Dec 2010, as if these figures are set in stone, or else NBN fails – so who is promoting spin?”

        Alex, the educated among us know it’s not a grand ‘psychic’ prediction of history to come; it goes without saying really… but seriously if MM truly believed NBNco can predict the future then he really should have more faith in them. He’ll be one of the lucky “50%” still “stuck” on 12/1mbps in 2028 and we have NBNcos prophecy to thank (it’s in the corporate plan). I am prepared to bet against that though and he is very sure and certain “50%” (or more) will be on 12/1mbps in 2028 so this should be easy money for him: $2028 bet.

      • “We suggest the 50% on 12/1 is a projection which can fluctuate and is as estimations normally are, conservative”

        its not even truly a projection as much as it was a target. it was – iirc in the original Plan – the rates at which NBN would have to hit, MINIMUM to make an IRR of 7%. and they expected that payback would come under the circumstances of:

        “(52%) of customers who signed up for its fibre services (..) [picking] the entry level speed tier it’s offering — a 12Mbps service (…) The remainder were to be split largely between the next speed tranches of 25Mbps (17%) and 50Mbps (23%), with only a small number (8%) taking the highest speed 100Mbps plans.”

        at that stage – in the initial Corporate Plan – i doubt NBNco truly knew what ratio people WOULD buy services at, and the actual figures for 100Mbit takeup back that – theres a large divergence from those target payback figures!

        But they had a fair idea, that there was a minim level they would need to hit for each tier if they wanted to make the promised 7% return. that data has been superseded by realworld figures since – early adopters to be sure, but so far making a larger return than indicated in the original CP.

        Personally speaking, having %figures approaching the target figure for 12mbit by the 100 mbit tier instead, is good news. even if NBN slip on their premises passed etc i would argue thats actually not as bad as made out, if the figures for tier breakdown stay the way they have been so far. that is to say, there may be fewer connections, but each is making significantly more than expected, or even needed to make the % return.

        remember also, being a GBE instead of a shareholder outfit, return over what is necessary is to be ploughed back into the system (they dont have dividend payouts to service etc). again, im not concerned with a small blowout in time – as long as these kind of %figures hold. i would also suggest the closer we get to 2020 the more and more likely those rates will stay that way, simply on the trajectory of data use the nation has been following to date. its altogether possible they will beat expectation if that breakdown holds. the next couple of years to 4y out will be instructive, particularly when Gbit services are let out to the general public.

        IMO the premises passed is not the be all and end all as has been suggested – is important, but keep in mind the rest.. aint flying anywhere soon, but will accept Coopers red/sparkling anytime. (im not offended with 62 pils either……)

  8. I always look at these things from outside the box ;)

    While most of you are looking at this redundancy as something related to past targets, I actually think it has more to do with future targets.

    While they may have just made their 758,000 target by Dec 2012, I suspect that there was a lot of arguing at the top over what would be the best approach to reach their future targets in the most efficient way.

    I suspect that Ralph Steffens simply had a better plan to reach the targets then Dan Flemming did, and hence the loser was made redundant.

    I guess we will never really know.

    • His plan didn’t include Ralph’s home :P Now it does :D
      Keep on rolling baby! Hopefully to my house go go go!

    • In most corporations, those with worse plans don’t get made redundant. They just get forced to adhere to the better plans. There is more here than just disagreements about the way forward.

      • Yes, but in the real world, some people do not like being told their approach is not suitable and they have to do it another way – those same people generally leave soon after that happens.

  9. Can someone explain how this is noteworthy? Companies adjust their structure all the time. This is not the same as firing people for not doing their jobs properly.

      • Or, its a restructure…. You have to admit, now that the network build is underway, surely some design jobs would be less necessary, for example…?

        • Yep.

          Also, since construction is pretty much the main thing they are doing right now, perhaps having a “head of construction” doesn’t make sense. It would be kinda like Starbucks having a “head of coffee making”. Pruning away unnecessary management levels reduces overhead, which is a Good Thing, and part of the normal operations of any company.

          • Yeh – i know – thats why I said ‘example’. I havent watched the corporate affairs of the NBNCo organisation to be able to comment further, but I am not surprised that staff get punted as the company develops. Will be interesting when we hear more from those in the know. In the meantime, its *all* speculation, and people trying to fit an idealogical position on the NBN to a reason for the change.

  10. I seldom comment on any of this as it’s usually far too partisan. This one seems relatively benign so far though. But I could not let pass…. if one is going to swear Renai please do it in Aussie.

    It’s Arse not Ass dear, and mines Redback when I drink beer, but coopers is okay.


  11. Worth noting this quote from the Australian article


    “Dan Flemming is the most pragmatic and competent guy the NBN has, so his departure is a big disappointment for us,” said a senior executive from one construction firm helping to build the broadband network.

    “He was always focused on the realistic, long-term goals of the project (not) short-term political targets. This is bad for the NBN, and bad for us.”

    • I guess that hints at (or at least The Australian wants us to think it) that the targets of the future will be more politically based.

      You could also come away from that article thinking that Dan might have been going a little easy on the construction firms, which could also be a reason they’ll miss him…

  12. There is something I never expected to hear from you. I agree, yes it must. You’ll put your energy now in to fighting Abbott’s plans to halt it?

    • @NBNAccuracy

      ‘You’ll put your energy now in to fighting Abbott’s plans to halt it?’

      Save your energy for a cause that’s going somewhere, Abbott doesn’t have plans to halt it.

        • Also Hockey categorically stated he would stop issuing bonds, forcing the NBN to borrow in the open market at high interest rates, sharply reducing the economic viability or increasing charges sharply.
          MT stated in an interview that he would reduce the NBN and include the private sector which with their higher borrowing costs and need for a rapid ROI and high profit margins will deliver less for more dollars.
          Any or all of the above will destroy the GBE funding off budget, shifting all costs onto budget, at which point it can longer be afforded with the defecit, in fact any subsidies or incentives even for rural will have to be deferred possibly for decades.
          Consistently repeated statements taken in conjunction with their well known antipathy to GBE’s and belief that the private sector can do anything better when the history and evidence in this instance disagrees

          They have painted themselves into a corner and too many people devoutly believe the B.S they have been sprouting, they cannot change their position

  13. Declaring someone redundant when the work they did then just has to be given to someone else to do is what you do if you want to get rid of someone but you can’t come up with evidence that would support sacking them. In a growing young organisation with its biggest challenges still ahead of it, sacking someone who is particularly competent rather than finding somewhere else the organisation can use their talents indicates toxic office politics. That sort of office politics indicates a badly run organisation. It makes you think of another organisation, Alcatel Lucent, where middle management was out of control and getting the organisation involved in dirty corrupt deals and the guy at the top said he knew nothing about it.

    • Hmmm.

      Boral are said to be sacking 700 and Bluescope 170.

      Yet NBNCo sack one and are accused of being badly run (corrupt)?

      But I do find Mr. Fleming’s redundancy none-the-less, odd.

      • It was just a matter of time with the Australian dollar being so high in those industries. :(
        Anyway, sorry getting NBN side tracked.

  14. I figure this is just normal growing pains experienced by any company that has suddenly come into being in such a big and dramatic way – hopefully the NBN will now be in a better position to kick some serious a$$ this year!

  15. No matter what you guys think, sacking the Head of Construction, just as construction is being ramped up in what is a “red letter” year for the NBN with an election on it’s way, _is_ significant.

    What that significance is, only time will tell, but usually people aren’t rewarded for work well done by being sacked…

  16. No matter what you guys think, sacking the Head of Construction, just as construction is being ramped up in what is a “red letter” year for the NBN with an election on it’s way, _is_ significant.

    It’s just as significant that the Liberal party, in “what is a ‘red letter year’ with an election on it’s way” has stated it will cease works. Yet that’s somehow less critical than the NBNco making a decision to make a manager redundant.

    We’re told “we’ll get the NBN in some form or other” like it’s some kind of truth. Will we? I don’t think so, Jim.

    Here’s the thing.

    Turnbull is not the opposition leader. I know, crazy, right? When did that happen?

    Both Abbott and Hockey are on record indicating they will scrap the NBN. Turnbull has no formal policy. He has no support. There is no Liberal NBN. There is no funding. There is no solution. The political backing they have isn’t the sort that demands the NBN.

    There are some vague plans, from a person whom isn’t in a position to ensure they get approved let alone legislated.

    Assumption that a Liberal NBN will lead to a fibre to the premises outcome is, frankly, ludicrous. Turnbull won’t even be drawn on the topic; yet people seem to believe it’s inevitable. It isn’t. It takes funding. A lot of it.

    It’s inevitable now because it’s being built, now. Don’t assume, for a moment, that the same is true for a Liberal build. It is not. There is no policy for any FttN build. There sure as hell isn’t one for FTTH.

    We don’t have a clear reason for Flemming’s exit. There are any numbers of reasons, and anyone going into that role would have no illusions as to the vortex they will enter. Is it important? Sure.

    But so is what’s a stake.

      • On reflection, you are perhaps correct. Apologies.

        I had intended to point out the broader picture, and failed. No offence intended if any has been taken.

Comments are closed.