Incompetence: NBN Co forced to ‘re-do’ segments


news The National Broadband Network Company is reportedly being forced to re-do portions of its fibre rollout in some areas because of the incompetence of its contractors, according to leaked documents the Financial Review newspaper published from within the company this morning.

Up until late March this year, NBN Co was publicly insisting that it was broadly on track to reach its mid-2013 target of some 341,000 total premises being covered by its fibre to the premise rollout, although it had admitted that its contractor Syntheo had been suffering delays in its portion of the deployment. However, on March 21 — as the nation’s attention was drawn to the Federal Labor leadership struggle between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her predecessor Kevin Rudd — NBN Co announced that it was three months behind on its rollout progress.

This morning the Financial Review published information from what it said were confidential documents held within NBN Co about its progress. The claims are documented in a number of articles — NBN contractors fail to deliver, NBN at war with contractors, and the newspaper has also published several opinionated articles arguing the NBN was suffering major headaches. One, entitled NBN Co’s competence under question, isn’t paywalled.

Likely the most controversial claim published by the newspaper is the allegation that NBN Co has been forced to go back over portions of its rollout due to the poor quality of work by its contractors. “In one instance, up to 15 per cent of fibre cables in the northern Canberra suburb of Crace have to be redone,” the newspaper reported.

Delimiter has invited NBN Co to comment on or verify the newspaper’s claims that it has had to ‘re-do’ portions of its network rollout, but the company has not yet responded to a request for comment in the area, although the issue has already been taken up by conservative commentators such as radio shockjock Alan Jones, who noted the AFR’s coverage on air this morning as part of 2GB’s ongoing heavy criticism of the NBN project.

NBN Co has responded in general to issues with its rollout, however. In a statement this morning, the company said that for most of 2012, its major construction contractors had assured it that they would meet — or even exceed — their targets.

“At the end of 2012, however, we became concerned about Syntheo’s progress. Their reports simply didn’t measure up to the activity we were seeing on the ground,” the company said. “Syntheo then formally revised down its forecast. That led Mr. Quigley to inform Senate Estimates on 12 February that: “One of our construction partners has significantly reduced its forecast since we presented back in the October timeframe”.”

The company said that it had worked with Syntheo in particular to examine the contractor’s problems and find a way through them. “At the same time we looked into what was happening with our other construction partners,” NBN Co said. “This led us to the reforecasting of the numbers, which were ratified by the Board of NBN Co on 21 March.

“The Corporate Plan target of passing 341,000 premises with fibre is now expected to be achieved in September. Between 190,000 and 220,000 premises are now forecast  to be passed by fibre by the end of June. This is a three month delay in a decade-long national infrastructure project.

NBN Co emphasised that the delay in its rollout was due to what it described as “mobilisation”, and emphasised, as its chief executive Mike Quigley did in March, that the rollout delay would be recovered — although at the time, Quigley declined to say when precisely the gap would be made up.

“We stand by the ability of our partners, who are the leaders in the Australian construction industry, to ramp up the rollout and ensure every Australian has access to fast, affordable and reliable broadband by 2021,” said NBN Co this morning.

You have to pity NBN Co at times. Last week it was The Australian newspaper going hard on the telco about one issue. This week it’s the Financial Review. And throughout, no matter what it does, the company is getting damned to hell and back by conservative shockjocks on national radio day, in day out.

Meanwhile, its contractors are failing to make their targets, and apparently leaking like a sieve to those same newspapers. I can’t imagine that it’s NBN Co executives funneling internal documents the AFR’s way, after all — it seems likely that it’s either contractors or executives from retail ISPs leaking in this manner.

So what do I think about NBN Co’s newest set of problems as detailed by the AFR this morning?

Well, as I’ve written previously, I’ve largely lost faith in the governance of the NBN project as a whole at this point, if not its overall model. There just isn’t a lot of evidence at this point that the project is being competently managed; broadly, the NBN is not being rolled out at the moment, and where it is being rolled out, as we’ve learnt this morning, sometimes that rollout is not of sufficient quality to go ahead. When you consider that the Coalition is about to win power in the Federal Government and deliver NBN Co another couple of years of turmoil, there’s not a lot to be positive about.

However, I am always conscious of the fact — as many in the telecommunications industry have pointed out to me privately recently — that these kinds of problems in the rollout were always going to raise their heads. This is a massive project on a scale which is unprecedented in Australia, and what we’re seeing right now is teething problems as NBN Co and its contractors work out how to do this stuff. It’s no wonder that the contractors don’t have a lot of experience with splicing fibre; after all, Australia hasn’t had many fibre rollouts in its short history.

All of this only emphasises the need for NBN Co and its political masters — whatever their persuasion — to push forward with the project. After all, whether the NBN is initially FTTP, FTTN or some mixture in between, the fact remains that these kinds of problems would pop up regardless, and that the copper network would still eventually need to be replaced. Australia has to go through this fraught process at some stage over the next few decades. Let it be now.

I must also say that although I’ve been pretty hard on the Financial Review at times for its poor NBN reporting, this isn’t one of those times. The newspaper has been doing a stellar job in recent weeks reporting on the mis-management of NBN Co’s rollout, and journalists such as David Ramli, James Hutchinson and John McDuling have doing very good, square work. Whether you are pro-NBN or not, it’s still a universal truth that every major government project should have light shone into its darkest corners, and this trio is currently doing the best NBN reporting in Australia. Nice one.


  1. National radio? No one here is even close to 2GB down here in Melbourne town our right wing shock jock station MTR went off the air after 2 years.

  2. I’ve heard that some crews digging inner city fibre trenches have targets of 70 metres per day. They often only make 3 metres due to the existing infrastructure they are digging around and must preserve. I have grave fears for the NBN’s projected time-frames if these daily targets form the basis for their projections!

    • Shh no they will use the cheapest and fastest contractors; better than the NBNco ones. The NBNCo has chosen Big, Slow, white and plodding contractors that dig using their trunks.

  3. Hmm you would think when a government goes ahead with such a large project they would tighten the codes a little bit, government projects seem to draw in the cowboys into the industry, not saying that private projects don’t.
    Anyway, it would really suck if you did have the NBN to your house but it was dodgey :(

    • It’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation…

      More tight controls = more procedures which leads to more delays and then your shown as a slow elephant that will never get done. Streamlined procedures means faster rollouts but leads to some sloppy work = cannot manage the project.

      The question is of course are the issues cropping up w/in the “accepted” minimum percentage of failure/problems in relation to the size of a project?

      • Absolutely. Remember when pink batts deployment was more hasty and, despite being regulated, regulations were not policed and some deaths occurred.

        Opposition members can object till the cows come home without being responsible for the outcomes.

    • NBN Contractors

      NBN Implementation Study Lead Advisors -McKinsey & Company and KPMG
      NBNCo Business Plan Consultants -Greenhill Caliburn
      NBNCo/Telstra Agreement -Lazard
      Advertising -Cleminger Melbourne – and Weber Shandwick
      Other Consultants – Consultel

      Alcatel-Lucent, – an initial $70M contract aand a committment to spend up to $1.5bn on network equipment comprising GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) equipment, aggregation and engineering assistance.
      Nextgen,- is supplying backhaul fibre links
      VisionStream – part of the Leighton Group are providing design services
      Bilfinger Berger Services / Conneq .is a specialist engineering, construction and asset management contractor, connecting industries and communities with vital infrastructure
      Kordia, and Downer EDI Engineering,- have been selected to participate in the Townsville based First Release Pilot Site design project creating an aerial network design for the city of Townsville and key stakeholders including the utility Ergon Energy.
      Service Stream Communications – provide optical fibre, coaxial cable, copper cable and wireless solutions and deliver wideband and broadband projects.
      Transfield Services, – is designing the blueprint for the Minnamurra/Kiama Downs trial area on the NSW South Coast.
      GHD, – provide communication systems and infrastructure
      Silcar Communications – for telecommunications network infrastructure deployment.
      ETSA Utilities, – provides the National Broadband Network roll-out in Willunga.
      Ergon Energy -Ergon Energy secured the contract to deploy the NBN in Townsville last year and had been laying fibre in the town since July.
      Telstra – analysts have called on Telstra to provide more detail on its $11 billion agreement to transfer its fixed-line monopoly to the National Broadband Network after the telco giant was forced to postpone its shareholder vote on the deal.
      Nokia-Siemens Networks, – will supply optical transmission gear f in a deal that could be worth up to $400 million over 10 years.
      Warren and Brown Technologies – is supplying Optic Fibre termination, distribution, and management products and services to the telecommunications industry
      Prysmian, – Prysmian has been awarded a contract to supply fibre optic cables worth up to AUD300 million over five years. The five year contract ensures job certainty for approximately 125 existing staff within Prysmian’s telecom business located in Dee Why, NSW, with up to 50 additional jobs to be created over five years.
      Corning Cable Systems Pty Ltd, part of Corning Incorporated’s (NYSE:GLW) Telecommunications segment, has been awarded a contract to supply fibre optic cable in the first tender released.
      TE Connectivity – a five-year, $400 million contract with an initial purchase commitment of $100 million. This contract award follows supply to date of more than $4 million of passive optical equipment into NBN Co’s First Release sites.

      Data Centres
      Global Switch – Global Switch operates eight data centres in key connectivity hubs across Europe and Asia-Pacific, providing around 270,000 sq m of state of the art technical space.
      VCE alliance comprising VMware, Cisco and EMC – the VCE Alliance will provide infrastructure for NBN Co’s data centres. The alliance’s preconfigured Vblock systems will be used.

      IBM, – two-year agreement to host NBN Co systems such as procurement, asset management and accounting. IBM will provide servers, storage and operating systems and a hosting environment. The hosting platform will be based upon ultra-thin, energy efficient System x3650 server technology.
      Accenture, – awarded Accenture (NYSE: ACN) a five-year contract to provide all core HR administration services to the organization.
      Oracle – Oracle provides open, and integrated business software and hardware systems. .

      These contractors etc are not cowboys, they have decades of experience in telecommunications and construction, its just the vast size of the project and the size of the country (7 times larger than France but but with a small population) . No country has taken on such a large project like this before, rolling out fibre optics to 93% of its population over such long distances,with such a small qualified work force in telecommunications, regardless of how disappointing it is expect hickups and delays.
      And if you think the Coalition can do it better well vote for them and you will spend decades being disappointed with the performance of HCF, ADSL2 ( which will still be part of Coalition NBN2) and outside of these foot prints a bit of FTTN.

      • Maybe these big names aren’t “cowboys”, but their sub contractors certainly are. Let me tell you a quick story. I work for one of the contractors as a telecomm trainee. At one of our training sessions, we had some blokes in who work for a sub contractor to the company I work for.

        Now these guys had pretty much been told by their mate, come work with me and I’ll make us all rich. He then promptly got them to work digging out some lead ins. Without Dial Before You Dig reports. These blokes doing the digging knew nothing about Dial Before You Dig, or needing to have them on site before digging (btw, we’re not just talking about on private property). When they found out about them in one of our training sessions, they were a little shocked.

        Everyone else in the training session was telling them to make sure they have gotten a digs report before digging next, and they were a little unsure on how to approach it when they found out it takes a couple of days to get each report. We all told them, they need to ask their boss to do it, and to make sure their boss is planning the work that needs to be done in advance.

        This is the same bloke that told them he’d make them all rich.

        Can you spot the cowboy as well? I’d be willing to bet this isn’t an uncommon occurrence either.

        • @ Ben, your comments support my argument which is
          (No country has taken on such a large project like this before, rolling out fibre optics to 93% of its population over such long distances,with such a small qualified work force in telecommunications, regardless of how disappointing it is, expect hickups and delays.) The stress here is on such a small qualified telecommunications work force compared to the breath of such a large fibre rollout. Yes unqualified people will be employed into the rollout but they wont get well payed until they become skilled and their boss proberly ment that they will make him rich. This is what Mike Quigely ment by the word Mobilisation ( everyone one on the same page at the same time). Obviously this crew you mensioned isn’t, we can only hope they are quick learners.

          • In short, bullcrap.

            Countries have taken up works “like” this frequently. Digging a trench and laying something in it is not new just because the thing happens to be fibre… We’re frequently pointed towards Sth Korea or Japan as examples of what we should be doing in terms of the technology and the ubiquity, well how about NBNco ask them about the pitfalls etc?

            As for hiccups, teething problems etc, well of course they were going to have them. Such a pity that Conroy ,with a legion of cheering Whirlpool fanbois at his back, made predictions that were just not possible.

            8 years originally, out to 11, out to ??

            I was constantly pilloried for daring to suggest that Conroy and NBNco had not done enough due diligence leading in to this project (and let’s face it, project management doesn’t change because of the scale, the principles stay the same), and yet for all their best efforts and good intentions, these very inadequacies and lack of proper risk management have led them to this point.

            This isn’t a commentary on whether the idea is good or bad, it’s about political optimism vs the reality of doing business, particularly in Australia. We were talking about exactly this on Whirlpool back in 2010, (I’m org’asmo), and here’s just one of my thoughts on the issue..


            “As noted in the link, there are ways around the problem. Training facilities exist etc, it just takes a little bit of forethought.

            But hey, that’s the best bit of critically appraising the process and fault finding it. Figuring out the problems before they become problems and then suggesting solutions to get around it.

            Or as some would misrepresent it, being a ‘henny penny’… X D”

            It would be gratifying to be proved so consistently right on these matters if it didn’t mean that there are deep, systemic problems that are undermining what could be a great thing.

            /puts on the flame proof suit

          • Agreed.

            Unless there is some critical thinking, the NBN is going to be a failure. No NBN, and 40 billion dollars spent. To those that see simple criticism as ‘anti-NBN’, I say hold the NBN Co. and the government up to the highest standards of accountability. If that doesn’t happen, the dream of a National Broadband Network is doomed.

          • They are already been held to these standards. The fact the MSM is so critical of stuff like this goes to prove that point.

            You want them to do the job, part of that job is fixing issues when and if they arise.

            We’d all like things to go perfectly to plan, but reality plays hard ball.

          • Any plan should take into account weaknesses. Are you saying that the NBN Co. did not even do that?

          • @ Matthew…

            “Unless there is some critical thinking, the NBN is going to be a failure”

            Please elaborate with actuals (evidence) as to where and why the NBN will fail?

            Thank you.

          • Todays anti-NBN contradiction…

            Previously those against the NBN have used the old chestnut…. nowhere else anywhere has any other country undertaken a roll out like this…

            But now, the complete opposite…


          • I have no way of proving it to you. If the coalition wins the election, it may be a moot point. If labor wins, let us return to this subject in 2 years. If I am wrong, mea culpa.

          • Yes it’s easy to say things sans proof – like claiming corruption is easy to prove and then not doing so :/

          • (In short, bullcrap.)
            No this isnt bullcrap, my statement had 3 conditions,
            1 size of rollout
            2 size of country
            3 size of qualified personnal
            Obviously geography isnt your strong point, Sth Korea nor Japan do not count, both countries are very small geographically compared to Australia. Population Sth Korea approx 50 million, Japan 127 million.
            In responce to the rest of your rant I will quote Bobby Burns….

            But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren’t alone]
            In proving foresight may be vain:
            The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
            Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]
            An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
            For promised joy.

  4. It’s a shame. I still firmly believe Australia needs FTTH and that FTTN has just too short a life and is wasteful. It just shows how f**king useless the work force in Australia has become. From what I can see the planning has been great, all they need is someone who will do the work to do the job. It’s not a matter of FTTH/FTTN they will all have this problem. Some of these contractors build other things like roads. If are the same guys I see doing this, their work ethic sucks with roads, I can’t see why they would put any effort into this either.

  5. He he. I like the way you responded to your own criticism/misgivings in your opinion section. Or is that hedging your bets?

    No matter. I’m firmly in the counter camp. There will always be problems in a project of this nature and we are seeing them. What I am tired of is the hype and spin that accompanies the critical articles. For example ….
    NBNCo at war with contractors? Bitter relationships? What garbage.

    All indications are that the documentation cited in the AFR is the normal information produced by any company looking into contractor performance (in this case what it perceives as a failure.) Yet this is indicative of ‘war’? “…. laid bare the increasingly bitter relationship between NBN Co and its contractors”? I’d look forward to evidence of the ‘increasingly bitter relationship’ between them. You know, like name calling, shafting, legal action, etc etc.
    As for the ‘ruined relationships’. That would be the relationship that was so bitter that NBNCo recently awarded the same contractors further work. Wow! Hate to see what happened in a good working relationship. It might have to be censored.

    Seriously – what BS. Yes the contractors appear to be having problems meeting targets and in some instances the work has not been up to standard. And in the latter instance that poor standard has been picked up and will be rectified. By the contractor? (That question is left hanging but somehow it appears that NBNCo has been appointed as the one holding the can.)

    But to use hyperbole such as ‘war’ and ‘bitter relationships’ is just nonsense, hype and garbage put out by a media publication hoping for a nice big controversy.

    MSM media? What a joke.

    • “MSM media? What a joke.”

      I would like to see the media start to ask the coalition how it will project manage the NBN if they get into power. I think that’s an important angle for journalists to start thinking about.

      The AFR must be applauded for their work over the past few months. They have been doing interviews with contractors on the ground, cultivating sources within NBN Co and asking relevant questions about the construction phase of the NBN. They seem to have secured the confidence of insiders and have let the facts speak for themselves.

      On the other hand, analysis by new media has been left severely wanting. No questioning of whether statements on progress made by NBN Co were credible – no investigation to cross check or verify through independent sources. No detail of whether delays are systemic. Some bright spots for independent online media here and there but generally a big time fail in keeping NBN Co – and by proxy the government – to account. I think the problem for new media was that it decided to play to its audience instead of challenging and informing it. As a means of determining quality journalism, the NBN issue has really separated the boys from the men.

      • “The AFR must be applauded for their work over the past few months.” Even when they indulge in such rhetoric as ‘war’ and ‘bitter relations’? That is not letting facts speak for themselves. That is embellishment with hyperbole and spin.
        As for your comments regarding the ‘new media’, a nice generic term but you do not define it or give specific examples. Yes, you mention a few ‘bright spots’ but again, nothing specific.
        And yes, the govt and NBNCo is being held to account, by both the old and new media. Fortunately the ‘new’ media appear to engage far less in colouring their ‘account’.

        No more from me. It’s not germane to the central topic.

    • Agree completely.

      All projects have problems. so far this one has seen slippage of what; 12%? (that is if you include the 1 year delay due to contract negotiations). If you don’t (because they shouldn’t have announced a timeframe without the qualifications of ‘after agreement with Telstra’) then its 3% (so far).

  6. “I must also say that although I’ve been pretty hard on the Financial Review at times for its poor NBN reporting, this isn’t one of those times.”

    They still called it ‘taxpayer funds’ when talking about the award of $1.4bn in construction contracts, which is wrong.

    • Well they can’t get it all right! It’s like parenting, if you don’t praise the children’s progress they won’t improve further, and god knows the kids at the AFR have a long way to go.

  7. News like this comes almost as no huge surprise, but in what’s becoming one of the primary election issues, this sequence of unfortunate NBN news comes at a terribly unfortunate time for NBNCo and NBN supporters. Having said that, in the context of a 10 year major infrastructure project, these shortcomings are to be expected in these early stages.

    Hopefully the significant (rumoured) shortcomings of the Coalitions ‘NBN’ plan, covered in Business Spectator, will quickly take focus, and will be seen by the wider community as being a third-rate option for Australia.

    • The problem is that the NBN is losing so much credibility is that supporters won’t have much leverage to salvage the best parts of Labor’s NBN. The mandate delivered to the Coalition may be so overwhelming that it won’t matter if the opposition’s solutions are third or even fourth rate. The question is how NBN Co can stem the PR damage of possible waning public confidence.

      • You are quite correct, I have said many times the the Coalition do not need to have a formal policy, their policy is just saying it won’t be a balls-up like the Labor NBN, which under the circumstances of bad news on top of bad news is more than sufficient as a ‘policy’ to go into the election with.

        I’ll say it again, the best thing that can come out of a Coalition win is a proper Productivity Commission CBA and review of the Labor NBN.

        In fact there is a strong case to say all work on the NBN should stop and the CBA is done as a matter of urgency, including a full Parliamentary inquiry.

        • @ alain WTF…

          “the Coalition do not need to have a formal policy.”

          Thank you for now admitting to the absolute bleedin’ obvious.

          You believe the Coalition are above supplying the voting public with actual details of what they plan?

          Yet you whine like a spoilt brat about NBNCo transparency, Labor changing their minds etc, etc..

          You comments are now (if they weren’t already) completely invalid due to absolute and unequivocal subservience.

          • NBNAlex, I… gulp…. agree with Alain.

            They do not need to supply any details on any of their policies. It is obvious that this has been their game plan from the beginning. They have never truly been focused on what they are going to do when they get the top seat, but simply on “how badly” the Gillard Government is doing.

            Don’t get me wrong, I wish they would release policy and at very least they are morally obligated to do so, so at least they will have something to be held accountable to if/when they win the next election. However, at the current rate it appears that the majority of the Australian public are willing to write a blank cheque to TA just to get JG out of the top job.

          • @jasmcd…

            Oh I of course realise what you are saying, that they are basically in a no lose situation so they don’t need to…

            It doesn’t make it right for them not to.

          • “that they are basically in a no lose situation so they don’t need to…”

            Well you know Alex this is what i was saying ages ago that the coaltion clowns are taking everyone’s vote for granted that’s why they haven’t been providing any details on their policy for people to scrutinize, sure it’s a good political tactic but what good does that do us? The fact that there are some people that think this is acceptable is far more concerning however.

          • I am NBNAlex! Buzz click! I am a Labor ideologue! Buzz click. Attack non Labor views no matter if they are right! Buzz click!

          • So you believe it is ok for a political party to not let us know their policies and anyone who disagrees belongs to the others…

            Yes typical irrational, erratic and foolish logic.

        • I perhaps agree on the CBA, but plan to waste even more money on a parliamentary enquiry (before you have even done the CBA) is the dumbest idea I have ever heard.

          Both ideas are a huge waste of money; I don’t understand why you would do both (without evidence from one or the other that both are required).

    • “Hopefully the significant (rumoured) shortcomings of the Coalitions ‘NBN’ plan, covered in Business Spectator, will quickly take focus, and will be seen by the wider community as being a third-rate option for Australia.”

      Indeed. That is the big problem for the coalition clowns since just about everyone except the most feverish of Turnbull apologists already regard their “plan” as third rate. If it is implemented it will just become more apparent. If they take the more sensible option and continue the proper NBN build as planned at least (regardless if it is warranted or not) they can blame Labor, if they insist on rolling out their substandard FttN patchwork then they will only have themselves to blame.

      • The supreme irony of course is calling the Coalition policy patchwork in the face of a headline like this about the NBN:

        ‘The National Broadband Network Company is reportedly being forced to re-do portions of its fibre rollout in some areas ‘

        Patchwork indeed.

        • Sorry alain, you’ll have to explain what you are talking about. I see no connection between calling the Coalition plan patchwork and the news headline. You may have well have said 1+1=2 there the moon orbits the earth, it makes as much sense.

          • Wow – you are easily pleased… no wonder FttN (or the status quo) is most acceptable to you…

          • If 40 billion+ dollars are spent and no NBN is forthcoming, then the status quo is preferable.

            This needs to be done right. If NBN Co. f*cks this up then there will likely never be another opportunity for a National Broadband Network. Even blind Freddy can see the warning signs everywhere.

            There were a whole lot of problems with this project, starting with the non-commercial basis off the roll out (large cities with high population concentration should have been first). Not doing that undermined the financial viability of the project. As far as I know, the decision to do that was political.

            There should never have been a 4% rate return for the government to ‘profit’ from the project. Rather, that money should have been used to lower NBN prices in general.

            If this wasn’t a government project, but was instead a commercial one that was accountable to shareholders, does anyone think that Mr. Quigley would still be heading up the NBN Co? Of course not. To ask is to answer.

            I think the whole project needs to be put back on the table for critical analysis. Experts from all over the world need to be called in. Then the project needs to be done right.

          • Let me get this straight, your objection to the project seems to be that it intends to make a profit at all and that it’s not following the traditional “cheapest first” schedule you would expect from a private entity?

            And somehow you’re holding Mike Quigley personally response for the failings of the project as well?

            Your expectations are completely unreasonable. I’m sorry, but you’re suffering from the same problem I see time and time again, apparently NBNCo has to have it done perfectly and if it doesn’t we need a serious review of the entire project.

            This type of thinking is not only damaging, as it is suggesting we halt the project for what will be undoubtedly a 6 month review that’ll recommend insignificant changes that hardly would justify the expense of halting. It also gives credit to Turnbull’s non position.

          • IMO, MQ is responsible.

            He is at the top. It is his responsibility to ensure he has competent managers. They are then responsible the managers under them(and so on), who are responsible for the workers, contractors and sub contractors.

            If that was the case then these faults and failures should have been identified real early, at which point a please explain could come out stating why there are delays.

            I am kind of sick of the whole concept of the guys at the top not being held responsible for the shortcomings of their staff. If an area is failing to deliver, you address the manager. If they can’t provide a sufficient explanation then you need to manage them. If they can provide a sufficient explanation, then it should be addressed appropriately and any planning adjusted to account for the delay.

            Oh and “its the contractor’s fault” is not sufficient explanation. There needs to be a why. For example, “The contractor claimed X amount of metres per day” is not enough. Because the contractor should have been questioned as to how the X amount of metres per day was identified and what factors might negatively affect that prior to ever getting involved in real work.

            MQ should have known about these issues and addressed them earlier. Unfortunately because he didn’t he has given the naysayers ammunition.

          • And what evidence do you have that MQ isn’t doing exactly that?

            You realise no one is going to report (except maybe Renai) that MQ has taken appropriate action to manage a poorly performing department right? That’s boring.

            There’s a difference between someone being responsible for something and someone micromanaging something. MQ is not a micromanager, so he only knows problems when he himself is told about them. Strangely enough that’s about the time you’ll hear about it too most of the time.

            The MSM is not interested in how well he deals with any problems that come his way, which is what you want in a manager, not some guy who just takes credit as everything goes precisely to plan. The MSM are only interested in what dirt they can produce.

            Learn to read between the lines. These issues are concerning, but do they justify a complete change of management or a full project review? No.

            Where’s the part about how MQ was told about contractors not meeting targets and the meetings he went into in order to suggest corrective action? Where’s the part about him and his team getting the contractors to re-do parts of the network, probably against the contractors wishes, so that the network can meet QA guidelines?

            That’s obviously not at all important, because MQ stuffed up and isn’t doing his job. Seriously, I may be over defending the man, but if that’s what it takes for you to get some critical perspective, I don’t car, someone needs to point out just how unreasonable you are being.

            Things go wrong. Get over it.

          • “If 40 billion+ dollars are spent and no NBN is forthcoming, then the status quo is preferable.”

            So do we use the same loser logic everywhere?

            Anything any Aussie starts which doesn’t go totally as planned, should be scrapped and the status quo preferable?

            I’m glad previous generations had more balls or we wouldn’t even have the copper status quo to fall back on :/

        • The Coalition policy IS patchwork. What policy actually exists, most of it appears to be one liners from people who actually shouldn’t be commenting on it.

          The Labor policy is not patchwork.

          The NBN Co Plan(as opposed to labor policy), however appears to have not accounted for everything properly. So whilst it is not patch work, there are some areas where the size is obviously not fitting.

          And before you ask, I am not a Labor supporter. I swing based on policies. And at the moment the Labor policy on broadband is immeasurably better than the Coalition policy.

  8. I want to know just how much corruption is involved in this NBN project.

    Specifically: Who is responsible for selecting the management of NBN Co, and what are their personal and financial connections with each other. Also, why were these specific contractors selected, and again, what connections do these contractors have that got them these contracts.

    The NBN project is going to make some people fantastically wealthy, and at the end we are going to have no National Broadband Network. This is corruption + incompetence.

    And before we get into the partisanship – I support an NBN, and not FTTN. I would prefer the latest technology, like that Google rolled out in Kansas City.

    What is the solution? I don’t know. I know there needs to be an impartial investigation, and that heads have to roll.

    • [Citation Needed]

      If there ever was a time for that tag to apply…

      And to misquote someone famous:

      I find your lack of evidence disturbing.

    • The precious private enterprise, who will save us according to some… can’t even do as per contract, so … enter the conspiracy :/

      Now maybe the NBNCo contracts expected too much? But in that case, these contractors should have said no they couldn’t achieve the required outcomes and exempted themselves and/or tried to renegotiate. But they accepted the terms and now aren’t achieving.

      Oh that’s right, it’s an election year, no room for common sense… bad NBNCo… please continue, you were saying.

      • Again, NBNCo should have done their own research as well. I would like to think they didn’t purely rely on what the contractors were saying as the only basis for planning. I would like to think they did at least a modicum of checking.

    • “The NBN project is going to make some people fantastically wealthy, and at the end we are going to have no National Broadband Network.”

      If you believe that is true just wait till the coalition clowns hand it over to Telstra and turn the rest into a FttN patchwork…

      “This is corruption + incompetence.”

      Keep in mind incompetence is the reason we required the NBN to begin with…

      “And before we get into the partisanship – I support an NBN, and not FTTN. I would prefer the latest technology, like that Google rolled out in Kansas City.”

      Too bad. You better get used to a FttN Australia because if the polls are any indication even with contracts signed that is what most of Australia will end up getting… even those poor and disadvantaged you whine about. Sorry champ, time to face facts, it looks like your dream of getting everyone 1gbps flavored FttP connections just blew up into a million little copper pieces. But hey look on the bright side, if you are lucky and assuming the newly formed GimpCo has the capability you’ll be able to upgrade your line to fibre and depending on how far you are from the node could cost you up to $4000… just don’t forget to keep telling yourself you wouldn’t have been able to afford more than a 12/1mbps plan to help you sleep at night.

      • Hubert Cumberdale, do I know you? You are attacking a strawman in your last paragraph, not anything I have said. What on earth are you talking about?

        • yeah maybe you should change your name, I missed the extra t in there, regardless your comment sounds very similar to the “other” mathew so most of what I said still stands.

          • Change my name? Not gonna happen. This is my name.

            Anyway, you are imputing a whole lot of ideas to me that does not remotely reflect what I think.

            I am worried that we are not going to have a National Broadband Network, even though the money will be spent. You seem more worried about which political party will be in power after the next election. Why don’t you leave the politics for your local labour party meeting?

          • “You seem more worried about which political party will be in power after the next election.”

            That does not remotely reflect what I think…

            “Why don’t you leave the politics for your local labour party meeting?”

            Hey, I just told you it was a case of mistaken identity but rather than just move on you start this crap? Really? At least my mistake was understandable you on the other hand are just jumping to conclusions. However the fact that your made a corruption claim without any hard evidence to back it up speaks volumes so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

          • You were the one that brought party politics into it, not me. As for corruption, of course it is corruption. What objective method is there by which the government can decide who should run a project like this? Of course, there isn’t one.

          • “You were the one that brought party politics into it, not me”

            Actually I didn’t. I simply stated known facts about the situation and what the election would mean to the NBN rollout.

            “As for corruption, of course it is corruption”

            Please post proof to back up your claim.

            Also please take the time to read Delimiter commenting policy ( it clearly takes exception to “Comments which might be defamatory in nature”, “Comments which display a lack of rationality or reasonableness” and “Comments which inject demonstrably false information into the debate”

          • It is easy to ‘prove’ corruption. By what objective measure was Mr. Quigley selected to run this project? We know it wasn’t because of his ability to deliver a National Broadband Network in a cost effective and timely manner. As I said, to ask is to answer.

            By the way, bringing up the comments policy as some sort of weapon to use against someone that disagrees with you is “harming the discussion”. Please refrain.

          • “It is easy to ‘prove’ corruption.”

            It is easy so please post proof to back up your claim.

            “By the way, bringing up the comments policy as some sort of weapon to use against someone that disagrees with you is “harming the discussion”.”

            I don’t think so, it is interesting that you would describe the comments policy as “some sort of weapon” however. Very telling.

  9. Well, as I’ve written previously, I’ve largely lost faith in the governance of the NBN project as a whole at this point, if not its overall model.

    Please don’t make this an argument about FTTP vs. FTTN. Just because the contractors are having trouble finding enough qualified workers to roll out fibre properly doesn’t mean FTTP is a bad idea.

    Having a lack of qualified car mechanics doesn’t mean you go back to using horses… you just have to train more/better mechanics!

  10. From Kohler’s article linked by Abel Adamski
    ” Telstra will be able to compete with the NBN Co as a wholesale provider of broadband internet access using its hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) cable.”

    I understand that Turnbull has said no NBN fibre will be laid in streets with HFC so there won’t be competition.

    • Well even if Labor get in and the NBN as we know it continues the Telstra HFC stays up for Foxtel, so there is still some competition.

      • Yeah, but Foxtel only, no net or phone.

        If the Coalition have their way, those in HFC areas will have to use Telstra for fixed broadband, no ifs or buts. You know, technically there will be two providers in the same city, so there’s competition (never mind that customers will only have access to one network or the other, never both, so each will have an absolute monopoly on each street they serve).

      • Oh the HFC you previously swore was a failure network… yeeees!

        Oh sorry it’s Tuesday isn’t it… cheap and wonderful HFC day… *sigh*

      • Thanks Alain, you have convinced me that Labor delivers competition and the Coalition does not. Thank you

    • As far as I am aware Telstra can’t use the HFC network for any broadband actvity under the existing agreement with NBN Co – NBN Co is a monopoly broadband provider. Having said that, a little birdy has told me that Telstra techs are confident they can deliver 250Mbits over the HFC network!!!

      • Yes they can technically deliver up to 330mbps if it is one person on the network if there are 2 then half that 4 a quarter and so on

        • Actually this has been the case with the Fibre providers in the US for some time, interestingly that is the same max Verizon Fios offers. Once again upload is where it is at, it is about the customers per node also, not the network

  11. Not necessarily related to the real context of the article, but I wonder how often Telstra and NBN Co share the same Contractor for NBN related activity at the same physical sites?

    For example Telstra is using Service Stream – SS – (part of Syntheo) for a large part of the remediation work on its pits and ducts. I wonder how often SS then comes along later to do the NBN fibre at those same sites. Must be happening in some states, particularly WA and SA. Why can’t there be a joint work order for the same site? Or is there a level of animosity between the two companies that precludes co-operation? Whether you like Telstra or not one would have to admit they do have more experience with rolling out fibre that NBN Co has. As well as managing the Contractors doing the work.

    In addition I wonder whether NBN Co has ever considered having Telstra actually assist with the NBN roll out. Surely it couldn’t hurt!

    Off to get the flak jacket!

    • I think this would have been hashed out during the protracted negotiations with Telstra. Pure speculation, but I expect Telstra would have been happy to take a deployment contract at three or four times what the other contractors were quoting. NBN Co would have rejected it of course as it blew the budget, but Telstra will get to say they tendered but we’re knocked back.
      Either that or they were explicitly denied the opportunity to tender as a result of their insulting and incompetent bid back when the Govt were working out if they’d create NBN Co or go with a private contract build.

      • I do wonder if NBNco is going to have to go grovelling back to the contractors who they initially rebuffed. In SA they had some very prolonged negotiations with ETSA which ended up falling through – will they have to revisit that?

  12. Yeah, let’s cancel the project, why upgrade at all, just let the copper rot in the ground.

    I mean, if contractors can’t get this right, why bother doing anything? Why bother with FTTN? Why bother upgrading HFC?

    It has to be done. Eventually. It’s already started, just keep going.

  13. f I was setting up the contracts I would have gone for 121 last mile contracts. One for Each POI, if one fails you its only one in 121.

  14. Looking at a number of the comments I am appalled that so many people (many of whom post the same stuff on whirlpool) are so against the development of cost effective, ubiquitous infrastructure in Australia, and for no other reason that because the political party of their choice is against it. That that same political party is dead set against it for a combination ideological reasons and a feverish desire to grasp political power is actually disgusting to me.

  15. once again i ask – how many contractors are having issues? so far, ive seen problems with Syntheo. but not so much of the other contractors. im aware AFR have some claimed numbers but id prefer a second source before putting full faith in them. until then, if other contractors dont show the same issues why wouldnt the issue be dealt with by cancelling Syntheo and giving over to a performing partner?

    if its one contractor failing to make targets – and i mean significantly – thats one thing and if all are making significant fallbacks thats another. i am far more concerned about the latter case.

    asides from that debate, it should be crystal clear that if NBNco have one or across the board difficulties with their contractors, the alternative is every bit as vulnerable to the same, from pit and pipe remediation to identifying and tagging copper runs from households to the node target. i still believe this is a management issue not a failure of the network design, and fixing the management and contracting structure should get the rollout back on track, tho delayed. going to a network design level change instead -as Coalition advocate – just leaves all the same contractor issues ready to bite the bum again.

    it was impossible to expect there would be a problem free ‘fast ramp up’ but that is also where it is most vulnerable – any stuffups in dealing with it promptly and decisively snowball down the way – weve seen this with Quigley being silent until blind freddy could even tell there was a problem, and now he looks bad for keeping it under his hat and effectively hoping it would go away.

    the best thing NBNco can do up to the election is extract the digit fix the issues and get on with it, being upfront about things. the Coalition already suspect enough before seeing lumps under the rug. if fast rampup actually occurs with the issues solved that will be the best advertisement for the build. if more stuff emerges thats being held under the hat theres no question the thing is doomed under the coalition, as we understand it today.

    the worst part is i thought some years ago, we werent stupid enough to copy the US ‘infrastructure competition’. now im horrified to find its more than a distinct possibility here. its going to be a cats cradle of some finished fibre, copper, HFC and mobile BB, and some consumers – most likely HFC ones from all i can see – are going to be left in the lurch in significant fashion. we certainly can do better than that.

    • @nonny-moose

      ‘if its one contractor failing to make targets – and i mean significantly – thats one thing and if all are making significant fallbacks thats another. i am far more concerned about the latter case.’

      Be concerned then.

      ‘NBN Co believes all its major contractors are providing incorrect rollout information.

      Many of the contractors are having trouble finding qualified staff – especially specialist fibre splicers – because they are paying poorly, but are then blaming the problems on others.

      Silcar will meet only 45% of its required targets for NSW and the ACT by June, and will need a “significant increase in resources” is required immediately if it is to hit its Queensland targets.
      “Silcar are struggling to both recruit and retain construction resources for the rates that they are offering.”

      Visionstream will miss its June targets for Tasmania, achieving barely half of what it had projected.

      Transfield will miss its June targets for Victoria, meeting only 75% of its target due to “Inconsistent utilisation of critical resources and poor project management” and a lack of ribbon splicing resources available.”’

      • If you actually READ that article, Alain, you would see they are parroting the AFR. Which part of second source do you not understand?

        • What particular figures from the AFR report are incorrect nonny-moose?

          You asked for more than one contractor delay problems, that report showed delays are NOT restricted to one contractor.

          More enforcement to the contractor problems contained in the AFR article – from the NBN Co itself:

          ‘Quigley said in the revised rollout document tha NBN Co is accountable for the delay and is “disappointed it has occurred. We work closely with our suppliers across all parts of our network to build and monitor their progress to ensure each individual element is ready within the required timeframe.

          “In the case of the volume fibre rollout, NBN Co’s public projections have been underpinned by commitments from our four construction contractors that they would meet the 30 June target. The problem is we are just not seeing the ramp up of construction workers on the ground that would be needed to deliver these targets.”’

          Interesting you only want a ‘second source’ when it’s anything critical of the NBN, anything praising the NBN or meeting of targets doesn’t require a ‘second source’ to validate it I assume?

          On that basis I want a ‘second source’ of the projection figures both rollout and revenue contained in the NBN Co Corporate Plan 2012-2015 because I don’t believe them.

          • theres a difference between ‘i think thats incorrect’ and ‘i want to know more’. i havent said its incorrrect – FWIW AFR were correct on the delay before NBNco admitted it. NBNco DOES have problems. but an AFR report from a leaker, with ITwire repeating the AFR report, and AFRs past reportage history mean that while i think on the face of it AFR is probably correct id like a little more info before accepting as given. the ITwire piece being a near copy – paste of the AFR one isnt exactly what i would rely on as far as more info goes. thats why i was asking if there was anything else.

          • You don’t need anything else, the NBN Co has admitted it has problems meeting June 30th targets from all FOUR contractors!

            “In the case of the volume fibre rollout, NBN Co’s public projections have been underpinned by commitments from our four construction contractors that they would meet the 30 June target. The problem is we are just not seeing the ramp up of construction workers on the ground that would be needed to deliver these targets.”’

  16. Renai says “what we’re seeing right now is teething problems as NBN Co and its contractors work out how to do this stuff.”

    That is the crux of the problems being reported.

    I can not recall any infrastructure project being subject to such intense scrutiny by the media. This has been fed I think to a large extent by commenting in the various on line communities.

    The simple fact is that the NBN Co roll out of its network has only just begun. Apart from the first test sites, the initial sites in the main roll out are only just now being connected. It is hardly surprising that there will be some early problems. All major construction problems have them so I can’t understand why the NBN Co efforts would be exempt.

    The real problem with the NBN Co. is that there is a loud chorus of “I want it for me and I want it now” which is reflected in the commentary from a mob of self appointed experts who quite frankly know SFA about a major project like the NBN but want to micro-manage it.

    There is no reality or reason in the commentary from either side, and none of them are prepared to wait for informed and reasoned commentary that should occur with the system in place of the NBN Co reporting to a parliamentary committee. These commentators all expect the NBN Co to drop everything and provide them with what ever information they want instantly so they can have their say. The fact that there is an oversight committee is largely ignored and for some strange reason these experts are not criticising the political shenanigans being played out on that committee.

    My opinion is that it is time for all the commentators to take a long cold shower and than look at what is reasonable to expect in a project of this size and complexity. Looking at other very large project here and overseas and comparing the experiences could be helpful. They could also put some real effort into letting the political machines of all persuasions know that their contempt for their oversight responsibilities and using the oversight committee as a political platform does nothing to convince people that they deserve to govern this country.

    In short I think it is time for the self appointed experts who know nothing about the complexity of an infrastructure development the size of the NBN to stop making guesses and dressing them up as facts.

  17. @Bob.H

    ‘In short I think it is time for the self appointed experts who know nothing about the complexity of an infrastructure development the size of the NBN to stop making guesses and dressing them up as facts.’

    Which is a interesting conclusion to make seeing the basis of what we are discussing are the rollout figures produced and approved by the NBN Co which form the basis of the revised Corporate Plan 2012-2015, these figures also underpin the ROI, hence the concern by the ACCC that the ROI is at risk if the targets are not met.

    So I’m not sure who you have in mind exactly when you say ‘stop making guesses and dressing them up as facts’, the NBN Co?

    • He was talking about the reporters, you really need to brush up on your comprehension, unless you deliberately misinterpret people.
      He is saying micro monitoring an huge Australia wide project that goes for 10 years and looking at month to month figures, especially at the very start is getting a bit carried away. I’d have to agree. Sure report there are hold ups, but some pretty long shots are being called by interpolating startup data out to completion of the project.

      • Hahaha, mate did you just suggest to Alain to brush up on his comprehension skills?! Surely you jest ;-)

        • Like Malcom Turnbull; there is “good” alain, and “bad” alain.

          I think he comprehends just fine; just picks very specific statements taken out of context to reply and question. I think this implies that alain actually has a very strong reading comprehension; he uses this to only reply to the easiest part of a comment, or the part that contradicts his view of a particular situation.

          Often this involves ignoring the actual question; and attacking some of the assumptions underpinning it. (or perhaps underpinning the background information to a comment alain is responding to).

          Sometimes; he actually answers a question in full. When he does this, he often has very good points.

          • “In short I think it is time for the self appointed experts who know nothing about the complexity of an infrastructure development the size of the NBN to stop making guesses and dressing them up as facts.”

            “So I’m not sure who you have in mind exactly when you say ‘stop making guesses and dressing them up as facts’, the NBN Co?”

            Come on, it is so bleeding obvious that the OP was talking about the commentators and not NBN Co.

          • @NBNAccuracy

            It’s always interesting to see the same strategy used by the pro NBN lobby when bad news stories about the NBN rollout are published, it is happening here and it happened in Renai’s piece about the NBN bubble bursting.

            1. The best form of defense is attack, if you cannot rationally argue against the message attack the messenger (media).
            The same media in many instances praising the Labor NBN is of course doing a great job.

            2. Diversion, even though the topic of the article is blatantly problems with the NBN rollout try and divert the discussion to the Coalition policy or lack of one, the assertion being that a lack of Coalition policy is a total offset for any Labor NBN problems between now and September, doesn’t matter how bad it might get.

            What is amusing is that we have plenty of pro-NBN comment that we don’t know what the Coalition policy is, that is followed by great lengthy detailed discussions on what is wrong with the policy that no one knows much about!

          • That’s where you are wrong again alain (at least you are consistent ;)…

            Everyone here is saying yes there are roll-out problems, no one is denying it.

            But the usual FUD suspects are typically going the whole hog, claiming these problems are insurmountable (guess who), so stop the NBN. Whereas others are using logic and saying ok this is a set back, not totally expected but also not rationally unexpected… So where to from here?

            But seeing how people such as yourself have snidely had to resort to previously, when unable to answer the hot questions… “well it all doesn’t matter about the NBN anyway, come Sept 14…”. Well tell us about post Sept 14…

            So considering post Sept 14 and considering that I have asked you personally no less than 6 times (and another sound-a-like 2 or 3 times) to answer my questions/queries relating to FttN (which is the Coalition’s apparent alternative) and you both are too afraid to reply whatsoever and rudely ignore…it demonstrates more about the psyche or agenda of those who deride the NBN 24/7 and support an alternative.

            An alternative you yourself previously admitted you know little about, but support regardless :/

          • I wasn’t commenting on the NBN at all. Yes it is bad that the rollout is falling behind.

            I wasn’t being stategic at all. I was complaining about you deliberately misinterpreting what the poster said.
            In short it was a take on your posting behaviour. Stop deliberately misinterpreting peoples posts. That was so obvious he was taling about commentators not NBN Co.

            As for diverting the topic to Coalition plans, I did nothing of the sort.
            I was purely complaining about you.

          • ‘That was so obvious he was talking about commentators not NBN Co.’

            Yes I know what he was talking about, I was stating it could also apply to the NBN in its present state of play, just a reminder of what the headline says:

            Incompetence: NBN Co forced to ‘re-do’ segments ‘

            it was also in the form of a rhetorical question.

            ‘As for diverting the topic to Coalition plans, I did nothing of the sort.
            I was purely complaining about you.’

            It was general statement about the pro NBN lobby strategy when faced with bad news, and I forgot one more point, thanks you reminded me of it with your last comment.

            3. Make it personal

          • “3. Make it personal”

            I am glad you finally got the point that my post was nothing to do with politics or the NBN. It was to do with pure politeness to fellow posters to not continually misrepresent what they are saying.

          • #3 IMO… NBNAccuracy

            When, say pro-NBNers for example, always answer… say an anti-NBN detractor’s, many questions… but having done so, the protocol is hardly ever (if ever) reciprocated, or the answer childishly nit-picked or cherry-picked and at all times the detractor “avoids acknowledging substantive issues raised and diverts the discussion down another path, annoying the other commenters” (as clearly defined in the Delimiter comments policy) etc, etc”…

            I’d suggest the person refusing to adhere to the recognised protocol, i.e. their bigotry/rudeness towards their fellow commenters, is what makes it personal…

            It unnecessarily drags the discussion down, rather than promoting rational, mutual, friendly discussion about the issues, as is intended :(

            The icing on the cake, after having been the one who rudely makes it personal… is when the detractor then has the audacity to complain about others making it personal… all hypothetically speaking, of course ;)

          • Totally agree PeterA…

            Anyone who can argue until blue in the face on a particular topic…and at the next thread argue the complete opposite… but both ways still lead to deriding the NBN, isn’t as foolish as he would want us to believe.

            For example, arguing HFC useless, unwanted and a failure…therefore the NBN (the closest to HFC) will also be useless, unwanted and a failure

            And 5 mins later saying flourishing, successful, competitive networks (such as HFC) need be unnecessarily bought out or closed and people forced onto the NBN, for the NBN to succeed.

  18. Better Question….

    Why is Crace a Zone 1 area (With 4 different ADSL providers DSLAMs installed) getting fibre even installed ?

    The state with the best broadband in the country is getting the most attention from the NBN in terms of roll-out.

    It wouldn’t be because it is the ACT where a lot of politicians reside would it ? ;)

    Seems a few politicians are getting even better broadband while areas that have none are ignored… So much for the plan….

    • Yea I just discovered yesterday that a client who’s just built a new home can’t get any form of DSL due to the use of RIMs by Telstra. This is a newly developed area (land release was about 24 months ago) and Telstra are still using RIMs ffs. Where is the legislation preventing this? That area isn’t even in the 3 year NBN rollout, so no liklihood of improved services… Well, post LNP election win, ever.

  19. Maybe if Conroy focussed on the NBN rather than mandatory filtering and changing media laws, then the NBN wouldn’t be in a mess.

    • Not actually his job (or his fault) at this point – NBN Co management is completely separate from Mr Conroy’s department. Not that that will stop him from contacting Mike Quigly to ask some pertinent questions, I’m sure.

      It does make him (and the Govt) look bad, though.

  20. Oh wow! Notice that news, or propaganda that pushes a mantra that an individual wants, is not pay-walled!
    Well, bowl me over with a feather!

  21. When you have contractors installing NBN fibre at a depth of 30cm, in conduit not suited to the task and in areas where semi trailers pull over onto soft dirt shoulders…you might have some issues. Not to mention the erosion of dirt in those areas due to wind and rain.

  22. You know, it isn’t that hard to splice fibre optic cables. Certainly no harder than getting a good looking result when fixing a hole in plaster. It’s not like it is actually done by hand, after all.

    Surely this is a short term training problem.

  23. Expected for a government project :(
    I fully support the NBN but the delays (and there will be more) is going to give the opposition more arguments to scrap it

  24. Renai, competent management is not when everything goes well – that’s extremely good luck and very good planning. Competent management is when problems that arise are dealt with promptly and well – and that is the test that NBN Co faces now, so it’s probably too early to pass judgment on NBN Co’s managerial competence.

      • That is dependent on the context. How will NBNco manage these issues with (essentially) contractors promising more than they can deliver? That remains to be seen. Personally I thought that obvious from my initial comment. Apparently not. I am sorry that I confused you.

        • Well if you are not going to provide a judgement date then it’s always going to be ‘too early to make a judgement’ isn’t it?

          For as long as the rollout is behind stated projection figures in the Corporate plan it’s always going to be ‘too early’.

          • I’m implying that you can’t just place a judgment date. I’m saying look at how NBN Co achieves results (or not), not whether or not it achieves such-and-such results at such-and-such a date.

    • One point about good managment, it is also about anticipating problems and dealing with them (or having a plan) before they arise.

      To that end, all the comments that these issues are foreseeable, predictable, common etc, are really an indictment on the skill of NBN Co managment.

      • Agree with the first sentence, Michael.

        Second, we are dealing with a once in many generations build. We aren’t building another road, rail or hospital where through trial and error all the pitfalls have been learned and can ergo be avoided.

        There really isn’t an everyday template to use for the NBN and IMO regardless of how adept the manager of NBNCo is, some ‘major’ issues will arise.

        I think under the circumstances, it’s unreasonable not to factor this and not give a little leeway.

        • So you would be implying that the problems are unexpected / unforeseeable since no one has done anything like this? (as opposed to expected)

          • I’m not implying anything really Michael.

            For all we know they foresaw the current problems but possibly under-estimated the extent, who knows..?Seamus outlined a reason which may not have been factored or factored but under-estimated.

            All I’m just saying is, perhaps people should judge the build in context… a once in many generations build and if common sense were to consequently kick in, they’d accept smooth sailing 24/7 is improbable because “some” problems are inevitable.

            Don’t you think?

          • Stop laying nitrate under your questions Michael. Not nice. Behave. :{)
            No one has done what is happening right now in Australia before, in a project this large in infrastructure replacement, with a different technology. No one knows what to expect all the time, except some calculated and possible assumptions that would come from those who would have an idea due to smaller or similar exercises.
            The trick is to plan to the best possible and deal with the unexpected. Got us out of the caves and got us to where we are today. So as a plan, it works well. Or do we advocate killing all who make an error?

          • I agree with him that there is nothing wrong with comming up against unexpected problems, and the mark of a good manager is in how they deal with them.

            That is opposed to “expected” problems e.g. a tight labour market when building the largest infrastructure project which does require specialist skills.

            My only point was that since as you have both pointed out, it is uncharted territory, wouldn’t that make a lot of the problems unexpected? As you have both said no one can foresee them.

            In the earlier post, I was referring to expected problems.

      • True as to your first point.

        I’ll argue your second. NBN Co (through its contractors and sub-contractors) are essentially facing a labour and skills shortage. I’m guessing there was the expectation from all parties involved that they would be able to make up the difference as the rollout proceeded. Clearly, this has not been the case – so this problem WAS unexpected (obviously). Just because we can point to the problem and say, in hindsight, this is why it happened… just because in hindsight it’s not “unusual”, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily predictable. Now that they are aware of the problem and the cause, we can pass judgment on *how* they deal with this problem. One way so far that they have dealt with the problem is to revise back the forecast – this obviously doesn’t help solve the problem, it just brings the forecast and the expectations of the project more in-line with reality, which is important, wouldn’t you agree?

        • Harimau,

          Given the issues affecting the mining community there should have been a lot of expertise in Aust. in dealing with / predicting labour shortages. Whether or not they adequately allowed for it is a different issue so I would see it as more of an expected problem which they did not allow enough leeway for.

          As far as scaling back forecasts, I agree they are taking the correct approach and should keep expectations low. (Under promise and over deliver). They need to focus on doing the rollout as effectively as possible to minimise the long term cost of it.

          The only issue would be the business plan and maintaining the IRR over 7% to classify as off budget for political purposes.

          • I actually agree with almost everything else you’ve said in your post… but that pointless aside about the mining industry? I read “mining” and I thought “relevance: none”. Almost, Michael, almost…

            Clearly they have underestimated the extent of the issue, and now it is to be seen how they deal with it. IMO they should be hiring more overseas workers in the short term, providing more monetary and other incentive to local jobseekers, and increasing the quality and quantity of training across the board for the long term.

            As far as maintaining IRR of 7% to keep it off-budget… well, we’ve been over this. It’s standard international accounting practice. It’s not political, it is correct. I’d be happy if they increased the time frame to pay off the capital or just allowed for a small loss (that small loss being the true cost to the taxpayer), since it could allow for a necessary higher cost and/or lower prices to consumers. They may not even need to, but if they do, it still gets my support. Australia’s economy is doing superbly on the international stage – it is time to invest in the future for when we might not be so fortunate.

          • If the NBN is not completed after 40 billion dollars are spent, will there be no cost to the taxpayer? Who is going to pick up the tab?

          • The reason I brought up the mining industry is that they have the only other projects in Australia (LNG as well but very similar industry) that is of a comparitive scale to the NBN. It is the only industry where a single company is trying to do capital works with a CAPEX in the same vicinity as the NBN project. Yes they are different, but the sheer scale and similarities faced when managing projects that large can be instructive.

            You took the wrong implication out of why I mentioned the IRR. I was not questioning it’s validity, but the political drive to maintain it’s off budget status in the face of changing circumstances.

  25. Working for a subcontractor on the NBN its not surprising to hear about delays other contractors are having.
    Ribbon fibre is a completely new technology, especially when it comes to splicing it.
    The splicers in the field use cladding alignment to line up the fibres to be joined, which is alot less forgiving then the traditional core alignment technology in stranded splicing machines.
    You would splice the ribbons together, have a decent looking splice with acceptable loss estimates, then come back and test it and get a crap result.
    To fix this, it would require rework and cause delays.

    Its a bit of a learning curve, and should be overcome soon, however as Ribbon fibre has recently come onto the scene, Splicers will learn to avoid these problems and with repetition should get alot faster with their jobs.

    • @Seamus

      ‘Ribbon fibre is a completely new technology, especially when it comes to splicing it’.

      Really? this is a discussion on it in Whirlpool from 2010.

      Here is article on it pertinent to the NBN from 12 months ago.

      A discussion of ribbon splicing from 1995.

      • That reminds of the old joke about the software engineers response when a lost balloonist asked him for his location, and the engineer said “about 50m up, heading towards that barn over there”. In other words, absolutely accurate, but utterly irrelevant to the issue at hand.

        Yes, of course it’s been around for donkey’s years. But no one has been using it in any quantity until now, so having skills in ribbon splicing wasn’t terribly useful was it? So bugger all people know how to do it, yet. They will, but it takes time…

        • @Russell Stuart

          Yes got all of that, but of course what you said has nothing to do with with these two incorrect statements:

          ‘Ribbon fibre is a completely new technology, especially when it comes to splicing it.’


          ‘Ribbon fibre has recently come onto the scene’

          • Yes, he was a little confused about when it was introduced.

            But that’s not what matters when it comes to employing people who know how to use it, is it? What matters is when it was first mass deployed, which would be about now. Or to use @Seamus’s words ‘Ribbon fibre has recently come onto the scene. People like you may know all about it, but for people like Seamus who actually splice fibre in pits as their day job, it is indeed new on the scene.

      • I have to disagree with your comments.
        In relation to other forms of splicing, mass fusion splicing in a practical sense is a new technology.
        I have first hand knowledge that other splicers and technicians in the industry dont have a great level of experience with it. Just because they have written about it on a website, does not equate to having hands on experience.

        Alain, your links only reinforce my comment. Within the last 12 months, NBNCo have started using the fibre. Your whirpool link is dated 16-12-11, and only mentions that NBN might use ribbon fibre (See ). With the rollout delays, the splicers I work with only started working with it in July last year, with smaller jobs coming through slowly at the rate of one every two months for small stuff like TFANs. I started working with ribbon fibres in november last year, and with my early experiences with it I can sympathize with the contractors ‘re-do’ing segments in ACT

        Now I can only speak locally, and in my state there has not been a rollout to the same scale as in other states. It may be a different story elsewhere with contractors able to slap together joints with 100% accuracy but I can assure you that this is not the case here.

  26. Seamus thank you for taking the time to add your experience and thoughts to the discussion. We could do with a lot more comments and insight from you and your colleagues around here. Keep up the great work!

      • “might” because the Coalition hasn’t released any details on their (supposed) policy, right Alain?

        • tbh, I think this media commentator has put more thought into the Coalition alternative than the Coalition communications spokesperson himself.

      • I find it interesting that instead of some wanting balance and to compare the broadband options for Australia, they claim the Coalition’s plan always “taboo and off limits for discussion”…

        They will even ridicule others for wanting to know :/

        The question is why? Obviously, it paints a very clear picture on many fronts, doesn’t it?

  27. This is fantastic news! It means there are checks in place managing quality instead of keeping to schedule. I’d rather it late and robust than on time and shoddy, as would most people.

    More staff and resources can bring timelines back in to some degree, but getting the structure in place properly is what the contractors are supposed to do so well done NBN for sticking to quality first! (within reason; I’d like to connect within the next year please… )

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