news Outgoing NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley has posted a comment on broadband forum Whirlpool thanking the site’s community for its support of him personally and for informing commentary on the subject of broadband in Australia, in a move which further demonstrates the influence the site wields in the nation’s telco sector.
The executive revealed last week that he would retire after four years leading NBN Co as its founding chief executive. While elements of the mainstream media and the Opposition have been harshly critical of Quigley’s tenure leading NBN Co, telco sector executives have over the past week lined up to thank and praise the executive’s integrity and energy [D2] in rolling out the NBN.
In a post on Whirlpool this morning, Quigley said he wanted to express his “thanks to the Whirlpool community members for the many kind words of support over the last few days”.
“I would also like to express my sincere thanks for the ongoing contribution you have all made in informing the commentary around the subject of broadband in Australia,” the executive added. “I know from personal experience that this can sometimes be an uphill task. I have watched the discussions on Whirlpool for quite some time and have asked members of the NBN Co team to follow up on some of your comments and observations. I could not quite keep up with our former Minister, Stephen Conroy, who frequently called me to refer to a Whirlpool post.”
Conroy has publicly expressed several times over the past several years that he was “tragically” a frequent visitor to Whirlpool, especially during the height of the debate over the NBN project which he had oversight and ministerial responsibility for. The Senator mentioned a number of specific Whirlpool threads on several occasions in Federal Parliament.
In addition, in August 2012 Conroy delivered a fiery tirade against the media for constantly repeating misconceptions about Labor’s National Broadband Network project, singling out the Financial Review newspaper for particular ridicule and recommending that those interested in accuracy read broadband forum Whirlpool.
“For those that are interested in a comprehensive discussion of these issues, I can recommend to you the Whirlpool website, particularly the thread entitled ‘fighting the FUD’,” Conroy said at the time. “It is a very informative thread, and I would encourage you to take a look at it. because it does address quite a few of the issues which we debate regularly.”
Like many other ISPs, NBN Co has its own online representatives active on Whirlpool. The company’s first posts on the site were in April 2011.
Quigley told Whirlpool users today that they would understand that he could not enter the online debate, “as I would likely have had little time left to try to design and build the network”. “But I do want you all to know that I believe it is very important that you continue to debate the topic as I am convinced that a first-class broadband fixed line network is critical to Australia’s future,” the NBN Co chief executive wrote.
“It has been both a privilege and a pleasure to have lead the NBN project for the first 4 years but I would like to stress that this has been a team effort by many people both within and outside NBN Co. The job has also had its challenges and I do hope that you will continue to support the new CEO as she/he continues the efforts.”
“I will be putting all my energy into moving the NBN forward while I am still with the company so I will continue to rely on my online team to respond to your many queries. However, I can assure you that I will still be taking a very active interest in your comments, criticisms and suggestions. All the best.”
Quigley’s comments received generally polite responses from the Whirlpool community. “Absolute pleasure to have you here … I hope you get to retire in peace and many thanks to you and your team for getting the nbn under way,” one commenter wrote. “Good to have you onboard Mike I had a real big gut feeling that you have been reading Whirlpool,” added another. And a third wrote:
“We sincerely thank you for the work you have done. Few really understand the significance of what you have achieved in such a short amount of time. Australia will be quietly indebted to you for a long time. Your strength of character in these difficult times is a testament to you having being the right person for the job – few would have survived, let alone accomplish what you did. We hope that you can continue contributing to the NBN debate! Enjoy a well earnt rest!”
I’ve said many times that online communities such as Whirlpool and Delimiter play a much greater role in influencing the national debate, and even actual policy and project outcomes, than many online readers and commenters realise. It’s very common (actually, it happened this afternoon in a coffee I had with a prominent MP) that politicians, high-ranking executives and other stakeholders in Australia’s technology sector go out of their way to mention a particular comment or comment thread to me that they’ve seen on Delimiter, and I’m sure the same is true of Whirlpool.
It’s not just the articles which make these kinds of sites so important — it’s also the communities. And I can assure you that those in power do read many of your comments on issues they are considering, and do take them into account. The comments which Conroy and Quigley have made about Whirlpool today and going back over the years are strong evidence of that. These forums are places where individual Australians can have their say — and be heard.
Image credit: NBN Co