Malcolm’s Blacktown visit: Silly tweets, a ridiculous video and technical inaccuracies



This article is by Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications and Member for Greenway Michelle Rowland. It was first published on Rowland’s blog and is re-published here with permission. the headline is Delimiter’s.

opinion Malcolm Turnbull visited Blacktown last Friday. I think the last time he was in Blacktown was to launch my Liberal opponent’s campaign in Greenway. But I digress.

Turnbull posted some silly tweets and uploaded a ridiculous video in which he starred with his new (part-time) Executive Chairman of the board of NBNCo, Dr Ziggy Switkowski. I largely ignored Turnbull’s comments until he repeated them in Parliament this morning and again in Question Time today.

Turnbull basically claimed that there was no need for a fibre-to-the-premises NBN rollout in Blacktown because: (a) Blacktown is already serviced by existing Optus and Telstra HFC infrastructure; and (b) speeds of 100Mbps are already available to end-users from services currently provided over that infrastructure.

This is nonsense.

The reality is that the end-user services provided over such cable technology are heavily user-dependent. The more users at any given time, the less speeds are available. The Optus HFC infrastructure in particular is not dimensioned for a significant number of users. In fact, the ACCC has recently stated that Optus is unlikely to make the investments to support higher speeds on its HFC network and that Optus HFC doesn’t represent a substitute for the higher speed services that Labor’s NBN would deliver. In contrast, the services provided using fibre under the NBN are not as susceptible to speed degradation as the number of users increase.

It is also incorrect for the Minister to make broad claims of 100Mbps being available under existing infrastructure. Such speeds are not available to all end-users, which is why service providers use terminology of “speeds up to”. In fact, consumer complaints and investigation and enforcement by regulators are some of the reasons why those service providers themselves don’t make the type of broad claims made by Turnbull, and have substantially moderated their advertising strategies over the years. Even the retail contracts of Optus and Telstra do not guarantee such speeds.

While the laws against misleading or deceptive conduct constrain what service providers say about the services they are actually delivering, this doesn’t appear to be an issue for the Minister.

And as I have repeatedly said since my first speech in the Parliament over 3 years ago, the NBN is not about the download. It’s all about the upload. And the upload speeds available on existing infrastructure are a fraction of those under the NBN. And what’s the upload speed on the Telstra or Optus HFC? Generally about 1-2Mbps if you are lucky!

Perversely, the Minister’s action in wiping previously scheduled NBN areas in Blacktown off the map is likely to result in consumers turning to services provided over the existing infrastructure he extolls. Our local broadband accessibility problems will be exacerbated, as more residents resign themselves to the notion that the NBN will not be delivered under the Liberals and enter into contracts for services provided over non-NBN infrastructure.

So thanks, Malcolm, for not only wiping us off the NBN map, leaving Blacktown (as noted by our local press) as “a town divided” between the have’s and have-not’s of world-leading fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure, but also for giving us a video of your excursion to Blacktown, which has been given the reception it deserves.

Image credit: Office of Michelle Rowland


  1. I can vouch for the congestion issues on cable. I’m on Telstra’s 30Mbps ‘cable extreme’, and at 6am on a Sunday I can get slightly more than 30Mbps.
    However, the night before last I was trying to watch ABC I view (with it’s terrible not-even-SD image quality), and it started buffering. Ran a speed test, and I got all of 2.4 Mbps down.

    I was so looking forward to *reliable* download speeds, and decent upload speeds.

  2. When I first got the Speed Pack with Optus cable, I was happy with the speeds I was getting but now I’m lucky to get 20-30 Mbps download.

  3. A friend of mine lived out that way (lost touch with him, probably still does) and at one point he was the sole HFC/cable user in the area. No congestion whatsoever. Last time I caught up with him (sadly, a mutual friends funeral) we were talking about his connection, and he commented that as the years went on, his service was getting slower and slower.

    Not because of his equipment, his job meant he generally had the latest and greatest gear, or near enough, but because more and more people were connecting to his hub and hence getting in each others way.

    When it started happening, he complained, and was basically told that it was because the area was getting busier. He wasnt happy, but the summary from Bigpond was that as it was an “up to” service, there wasnt anything they could do.

    But these soundbites from Turnbull arent for the people of Bankstown, they’re for the rest of Australia.

  4. Good to see a sanity check coming from Labor.Labor has gone all too quiet since the election.The NBN is too important to allow the Liberals carte blanche.

  5. If it’s “…not about the download. It’s all about the upload.”, why are the media (and both major political parties) so heavily promoting the download speeds?

    • Because 1) they are controlled by politically conservative leaning owners who are pro LNP and 2) because most journalists don’t understand any of the technical debate so simply repeat LNP statements without criticism because they simply wouldn’t know where to start (nor do most of their readers, to be fair).

  6. The job for Labor (apart from getting reelected) is to do what they can to ensure the LNP don’t do irreparable damage over the next three years. If they can delay FTTN it won’t be too much to clean up, if they can stop erosion of the infrastructure competition regulations they will ensure that a rebooted NBN actually has a market to deliver to. Neither are particularly likely propositions, but that should be the objective.

  7. I have the fastest non-fibre HFC internet going, with Telstra high speed cable.. but that doesn’t help me when I’m trying to sync person and website backups into my crashplan or glacier accounts.

  8. Excuse my whilst I have a little chuckle at that “Blacktown has access to HFC” comment.

    A HUGE majority of the newer housing from the Woodcroft to the rail line at Doonside do not have HFC access (or even ADSL for the more recent housing estates since there are no open ports) . Only the early housing blocks from the Quakers Hill to Blacktown and earlier builds at Doonside/Woodcroft along the Falmouth/Richmond road area ever had access. The rest had to make do w/ Dial-up till about for quilet awhile due to the joys of “pair-gain”.

    So consider me “amused” at the level of ludicracy of that statement since I live in that area

  9. Also worth noting regarding access to Optus and Telstra HFC in the area , is this comment by Turdball himself:
    “…Australia that have the worst broadband – you know, where the need for upgrades is greatest. And they will be prioritised. We’re also – the NBN will also focus on rolling out upgraded services to areas where there is the greatest demand – you know, business, industrial parks, business areas – where you can actually generate some early revenue.”
    On the latter point, I wonder if he had ever considered that maybe this is a reason why Blacktown was apart of the initial rollout. Considering the area was cherry picked by Telstra and Optus to rollout HFC, there’s obviously demand and profitability to be had here.

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