“Misinformation”: Turnbull slams Digital Tasmania



news Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has launched a broadside directly against Tasmanian technology activist group Digital Tasmania, accusing the group of instigating a “misinformation campaign” regarding the rollout of the NBN’s infrastructure in the state.

In September, Digital Tasmania stated that during the Federal Election campaign, then-Shadow Communications Minister Turnbull had appeared to confirm the NBN’s previous fibre to the premises model would be fully deployed in Tasmania, as the state was already covered by existing construction contracts which Turnbull had pledged to honour. At the time, Labor had claimed the Coalition’s preferred fibre to the node deployment model would see some Tasmanians receive inferior broadband to the FTTP model used by Labor.

Subsequently, as Communications Minister, Turnbull issued a revised Statement of Expectations letter to NBN Co, ordering the company to continue existing construction only where build instructions had been issued to delivery partners, but not explicitly confirming the fate of the Tasmanian rollout.

This morning, as has been expected for some time, NBN Co updated its network rollout maps to reflect its new orders. The future of the network’s rollout past mid-2014 is currently in doubt, with NBN Co curently conducting a strategic review to determine the shape of its rollout in future. It is likely that NBN Co’s future rollout will include substantial sections of Fibre to the Node-style deployments, as well as in-between solutions such as Fibre to the Basement.

Because of the doubt surrounding the future of the NBN rollout, Digital Tasmania has been lobbying for the Tasmanian situation to be cleared up and for the state to receive a full Fibre to the Premises rollout.

“… we just don’t want to get that substandard fibre-to-the-node service,” Digital Tasmania spokesperson Andrew Connor told the ABC today.”So the money’s already committed there and we’re already due to have this rollout done by 2015, but now these rollout areas in Tassie to get fibre just disappeared from that map.”

In response to Digital Tasmania’s statements, Turnbull this afternoon issued a statement through his own website — but not his Ministerial website hosted by the Department of Communications.

“Digital Tasmania’s Andrew Connor has this morning embarked on a misinformation campaign about the rollout of the NBN in Tasmania,” said Turnbull.

“Mr Connor stated that the Coalition has put the rollout on hold for a couple of months. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, the Coalition has updated the NBN maps to show residents the true state of the rollout in Tasmania. Labor created a false and misleading metric of ‘construction commenced’, which was initiated as soon as high level planning began and was designed to create the impression that there was far more construction activity than was actually the case.”

“Mr Connor acknowledged that asbestos delays and issues with contractors had already created delays in the rollout. These delays occur between high level planning and physical construction work begins – meaning that communities who have been informed that they will be getting the NBN in a reasonable timeframe are waiting for periods of beyond 18 months.”

“The new maps reflect only areas where physical construction has begun, meaning that those communities have greater certainty about when the network will be active and when they can expect to order their services.”

According to Turnbull, Connor also said: “A lot of these areas have been handed over to contractors and those instructions have been issued to make these pits ready so we’re just bemused that that work is just going to go to waste now. To then put that on hold for, at best, a few months or more while they plan out a new network and negotiate with Telstra to get access to that copper – it’s just not going to make the rollout happen any faster or any cheaper in Tassie.”

However, the Minister said,it is wrong to say that any delays in the rollout in Tasmania are a result of Coalition policy.

“As he well knows, Labor went to the last election with the rollout forecast for June 30, 2014, cut by almost 50 per cent with only around 600,000 premises in brownfield areas expected to be passed by fibre,” said Turnbull. “The NBN Co has advised the Government that with the revised Statement of Expectations, it expects to be able to reach approximately that same number of premises by June 30.”

“However there will be more certainty concerning forecasts by NBN Co following the completion of the strategic review. The new maps are designed to create more certainty for residents and consumers so that they have reasonable expectations about when they will be order services.”

As I wrote on Delimiter 2.0 a few weeks ago (subscriber content), Malcolm Turnbull never specifically promised Tasmanians that the all-fibre NBN rollout in the state would be completed as originally planned. Andrew Connor, and several other commentators in the state, have for several months been putting words in the Minister’s mouth on this issue. The modification of NBN Co’s maps this morning is an entirely expected and legitimate move. Connor is using the change to make what I consider to be slightly inappropriate commentary, and I do agree with most of what Turnbull has written here.

However, as I also argued on Delimiter 2.0, if there is any one state in Australia that deserves to have a universal Fibre to the Premises National Broadband Network, it’s the Apple Isle, which has been a perpetual broadband backwater for the past decade and more. Tasmania should get a full FTTP rollout. The state is a special case when it comes to broadband, and it does deserve special treatment.

Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull


  1. Well Turnbull and misinformation go hand in hand don’t they.

    What sort of a fool would roll out FTTN (which is pretty much EXACTLY THE SAME as the EXISTING ADSL that we have today, except it will cost tens of billions of dollars, and put big ugly cabinets on every street corner, rather than roll out a faster/future proof FTTH that has pretty much zero operating costs, and is totally buried under the footpath?

    • I agree with most of your comment; except FTTN is the same class of technology sure, but it is an “upgrade” over ADSL. It’s not “the same” and will provide faster speeds than currently available.

      (I don’t however believe it is worth 30 billion dollars).

  2. I find it interesting that the Minister would cry “misinformation” but do so outside of his own portfolio’s letterhead.

    • Has Turnbull even clarified if Tassie will get FTTP?

      Seriously; he complains about misinformation, all the while not answering the question people are asking.

      The liberal government are attempting to run a government without communication. Hiding from asylum seeker questions, trying to control the media by not saying anything.

  3. Either way the new map gives us less information about when an area is expected to be ready than we had before. Before the map gave you a good idea of the approximate month a specific area would be ready a year in advance. It then gave you a similar estimate of the time an approximate area would be ready about two years in advance. Finally it gave you the same thing a good four years in advance but with a higher degree of variability. Now it just tells you what’s ready and the areas where they’re physically putting stuff in the ground.

    I guess I understand why if they’re going to throw everything in the bin and start again. Problem is it means everything’s going in the bin and they’re starting again. Which means we’re completely in the dark about when various areas will be done.

    • No, it’s accurate, those are the areas who will get the NBN, the rest may or may not get whatever Turnbull does.

      • At the very least they should make it clear which areas will definitely get FTTH. You know, that whole transparency thing they’ve been hammering on about.

        Maybe I’m being too kind to them but I would be pretty shocked if the areas that were previously orange now miss out. Problem is now those areas are less visible. That’s not a good thing however they want to spin it :(

  4. “Digital Tasmania’s Andrew Connor has this morning embarked on a misinformation campaign about the rollout of the NBN in Tasmania,” said Turnbull.
    I’m sorry Turnbull its just Andrew’s… “opinion”.

  5. Hooray for Tasmania, instead of getting FTTP they get shit-house FTTN. Maybe. Who knows.

  6. By Turnbull’s definition, you only start construction of a building when you have completed digging and pooring foundations. Its certainly a very narrow and missleading definition.

    But then he has Ziggy helping him and his track record in Telstra was to publish missleading information on the quality of Telstra’s quality of service. (in Ziggy’s day I tried to log a fault, Telstra refused to take it because it was’t my phone and it turned out t be a national fault on a particular service, but never reported so the figures looked good).

  7. What Turnbull has done is redefine for his own political purposes the meaning of “construction started”.

    NBNCo has previously defined “construction started” as when the planning stage commenced with people on the ground locating and measuring the utilities and services on the ground, passing that information to the planning designers and separate crews roping and rodding to ascertain the state of pits and ducts requiring remediation. Once all of that was done the contract was signed over to contractors to haul the fibre, install the FDHs and get the service ready for customer orders.

    Turnbull has redefined NBNCo definition to exclude all the work carried out prior to the final DDD contract.

    • +1000

      When I saw the updated map, I felt physically sick. Wol-02 where I live was listed as going live in November. Thats tomorrow. Obviously it wasnt actually tomorrow, but it was damn close.

      They’ve done everything up to the final pull through, and now theres nothing on the map. It was literally weeks away from completion, but because that final build order hadnt been issued, its been paused with no information on if or when that last bit will be completed.

      I guess thats one way to make sure the rollout targets arent met…

      So tell me again how that means this area gets FttX faster. Or cheaper.

      *edit* Also wanted to add that this doesnt surprise me in the slightest. I had some hope that this wouldnt happen, but months ago I stated that this sort of thing could happen, and given tle slimey evasive nature the Liberals have shown so far, was a likely outcome.

      They ARE honoring contracts, just not the ones we assumed they would. And I expect that when you go back and look at what Turnbull and Abbott have said in the past, you’ll find that he promised nothing more than this exact thing.

      • @GongGav: So in otherwords…

        Never ever believe a politicians words unless it’s already in action. There’s a reason why people should never take “election promises” at face value.

        Either way… my area is also shafted as of the last update. Here’s to another 10-20 years of sub par ADSL1 :D

        • Not quite. Dont assume your interpretation is correct is probably closer.

          Turnbull is a very good politician, make no mistake about that. He is VERY careful not to blatantly lie, but only implies things and leads you into your own interpretation. This is one of those times.

          He said he’d honor existing contracts. Not sure if he used the term ‘build’ or not, but in a nutshell thats what he said, and nothing more. Everyone made the assumption that would mean everything that had started the complete process, but that was only an assumption. It was never clarified what the term ‘existing contracts’ would actually mean.

          When the statement was made that honoring contracts would mean 900,000 more FttH premises, alarm bells should have been going off all over the place, because far more than that had started the 13 month build process. 900k included greenfields sites for half that number, so whatever number was left after them was way short of what people had assumed.

          Now we’re finding out why that number was in reality so low.

          Its ironic that when someone plays the same game with him, he cries foul though. Basically the map is now only reflecting about 2 weeks of the build, rather than 1 to 3 years of planning. He’s moved the goalposts again, to gain political points, and Digital Tasmania have called him out on it.

          I’m noticing that fibroid and friends are very quiet today on this…

          • @GongGav: “Dont assume your interpretation is correct is probably closer.”

            Pretty much . I was always skeptical when he made that “we will honor all contracts” statement pre election. I knew that (as all politicians do) they will eventually manage to cut down to the nth degree on what their obligated to do and still keep their statement “true”.

            That being said vindication is small comfort in the face being stuck w/ my ADSL1 for another few years…

          • Unfortunately one wouldn’t be able to decipher the answer… through all his accompanying misinformation ;)

      • Wait … I just looked at the map.

        There are VisionStream NBN Co contractors in my street – some of them pulling blue wires through pits. But now my area is no longer on the map.

        Just what does this map represent?

  8. Any normal transparent definition of NBN construction commenced MUST include issue of remediation orders to Telstra, these are the foundations of the NBN.

    • To play devils advocate for a minute, the counter argument will be something along the lines of that work being part of both rollouts, so isnt wasted effort, while the final build orders are a crucial difference between FttN and FttH.

      Basically, when you compare the two rollouts, up to a point quite late in the build there isnt much difference. That point is where the cabling is pulled through the ducts, or in other words, when the final build order is given. Or more specifically, where the cable actually ends. But that construction point is the actual point of no return, and thats where Turnbull has stopped things as of this week.

  9. The worst thing is that we had NBN trucks (I spoke to the crews) installing fibre in our street last week and now our area has been stripped from Turnbull’s NBN 2.0 plan. I guess it is all a figment of my imagination. I assume the men in black will be coming to take me to the Minitrue for some Turnbull “reprogramming”.

  10. It will be interesting to see exactly how much progress has been made in any direction at the end of this Govt’s tenure. If their aim is to stymie the whole project then when Labor get back they might just carry on. Depends on how many terms the Coalition get (or not).

    • Sorry David, you’re dreaming – once the NBN is redirected to deploy FTTN and the infrastructure competition clauses have been rescinded the project has no economic viability and NBN Co are doomed for imminent collapse – the only question becomes how much debt they’re allowed to accumulate before they are shut down and sold off to Telstra for a fraction of the cost of construction. With Telstra once again in charge of Australia’s telecommunications network the only option an incoming government has to turn things around is nationalisation of Telstra assets. Good luck seeing that from an Australian Government.

      This is not a criticism of you because I have no idea how you voted, but that’s an argument I heard again and again from Liberal voters prior to the election – if they do a bad job they can just be replaced in three years. Very few people were able to appreciate how unstoppable the LNP’s plan would be once initiated. I would say the majority still remain in denial.

        • Your assumption that logical analysis based on facts can be simply dismissed demonstrates your inability to follow a rational argument based on facts objectively.

          Fact: the LNP have demonstrated their predisposition towards FTTN in replacement of FTTP.
          Fact: the LNP’s policy document states that they intend to remove existing barriers to infrastructure competition.
          Fact: reduction of NBN Co’s market share will result in reduced revenues without a corresponding reduction in infrastructure construction costs.
          Fact: a national FTTN network will cost more than FTTP to operate as a result of increased electricity demands and copper network maintenance
          Fact: if you reduce revenue and increase costs you reduce your capacity for profit
          Fact: the NBNs expected ROI over the length of the project is 7%. If you impact profitability you reduce the ability to pay back the debt, increasing accumulated debt from interest. It won’t take a large alteration of revenue and operating costs before profits are wiped out and debt repayments can no longer keep pace with interest.
          Fact: allowing other operators such as Telstra to overbuild NBN FTTN with FTTP in high value areas will attract all the highest revenue potential customers away from the NBN
          Fact: the NBN relies on high margin premium plans to subsidise the cost of the project
          Fact: removal of a significant proportion of high value customers eliminates the fundamental assumptions that underpin the financial rationale for the whole project
          Fact: elimination of upper speed tiers from the NBN by forcing the construction to FTTN wipes out the high margin plans in much the same way as poaching high value customers, with the same net effect on economic viability.
          Fact: Telstra are a commercial company interested in providing the greatest profit to their shareholders. If the LNP removes restrictions to infrastructure competition Telstra will overbuild FTTN with FTTP where profitable, because their major competitor will be legally restricted from competing on a level playing field. This isn’t just a fact, there is no logical scenario where Telstra wouldn’t maximise their advantage when they had just been handed the opportunity for market dominance on a legislative platter.

          I’m sure you’re getting the idea. If you can provide some argument based on facts and evidence to dispute my argument, be my guest. But your flippant dismissal adds nothing beyond substantiating that you have nothing of value to add here.

          • Great comment. I’ve had these same ideas swimming around in my head for a while, but you’ve put it down cleanly and orderly.

          • Fact, I’m a Labor voting NBN supporter. My original comment was in relation to how long these projects can take to turn around, it took Labor the best part of two terms to get it this far. The Libs could dawdle along with it so who knows what will actually happen on the ground, I don’t.
            Fact, all that you have written looks pretty reasonable but has got bugger all to do with me.
            You wally.

  11. People need to be made aware that any opinion that differs from Malcolm Turnbull’s own opinion will always be deemed as misinformation. It will swiftly be followed up with commentary calculated to belittle, humiliate, discredit and reinforce the “correct” statement.
    Fibre was going to take 80 years in Tasmania. The total cost was going to be 90 billion dollars.
    Digital Tasmania should be happy…
    Malcolm is going to deliver broadband that is slower than fibre. Some users will see a speed increase from current speeds. It will be potentially delivered in less time than fibre. It will be cheaper and less taxpayer money will be spent up front on infrastructure. Users will continue to pay for the maximum speeds at the node regardless of the delivered speeds. It is more expensive to run than fibre. It will need to be replaced in the short term. It is one step forward and two steps back and this progressive government initiative is being delivered by the man that practically invented the internet.

  12. Tasmania deserves special treatment? Why the hell should the basket-case state get all the rewards!? If you want a cost effective fibre roll-out, DO IT WHERE TAKE UP WILL BE HIGHEST AND ROI QUICKEST – SYDNEY, MELBOURNE, BRISBANE, PERTH.

    • Umm, special treatment. Not sure who’s post you are responding to but I hope you feel better.

    • @Max: What a silly thing to say.

      Tasmania needs special treatment because for a variety of reasons, it has the lowest education levels, the highest unemployment, the worst-performing economy and generally fares worst of all states in any given metric related to general propserity in this country.

      In addition, there is relatively little need to roll out FTTH in closely settled populations in capital cities. They are already serviced quite well via both fixed and wireless technologies, and have less need of fiber. Obviously there are blackspots in cities too, but far less than regional and rural areas.

      We don’t want NBNCo to be cherry-picking the most profitable areas like Telstra does. Dollars are not the only important thing to consider.

      • And you run the risk that a change of government would strand regional areas with no upgrade and only highly built up areas that are the easiest to deploy to with the greatest profitability will actually get fibre, which is why the NBN was deployed as it was. Conversely, delivering in the most structurally efficient way would mean four times more of the NBN may have been delivered by now than what we actually have, so it might be harder for the LNP to derail it, meaning going for the easiest, most profitable customers first may have meant that the whole build was actually completed (with greater regional delivery) because the whole project is easier and faster to roll out. Damned if you do…

  13. The new NBN maps have another subtle change, which I think will be used to make the rollout less transparent. They are now only publishing wireless and “fixed line”. Is that so future FTTN is merged with FTTP?

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