news Fact-checking website PolitiFact Australia has flatly rejected a claim by the Australian Labor Party that the Coalition has “cut” some 500,000 houses from the National Broadband Network project, finding that the Coalition had only changed the metrics by which the rollout was measured, not the rollout itself.
In late October, NBN Co radically altered its network rollout map. Many areas around Australia which had been marked to receive NBN infrastructure over the next several years had their areas removed from the map.
The changes took place because NBN Co changed its metrics. Previously, NBN Co had used a metric which referred to the fact that initial work on designing the NBN rollout in certain areas had commenced. This included, in many cases, work on paper that took place in office environments, despite the fact that no actual construction work in the field had actually started. However, the Coalition changed this measurement and is now only measuring areas where construction crews in streets have been instructed to actually start deploying infrastructure.
“The company is also today updating the rollout maps on the NBN Co website to provide residents with clarity around those areas where (a) the physical building of the NBN has started or (b) is about to start (c) as well as locations where services are already available,” said NBN Co in a media release in October.
Consequently, NBN Co’s new map only has two metrics — areas which can connect to the NBN now and areas where NBN Co is actively pursuing construction work on the ground right now.
The changed metric appears to make NBN Co’s map significantly more accurate. Delimiter had received a number of complaints over the past year that NBN Co had not actually commenced network construction in the areas where it said it had, due to ongoing delays. In addition, the company’s three year forecasts were inherently inaccurate due to the fact that the Coalition is planning to significantly modify NBN Co’s rollout scheme to include a mix of technologies.
“The maps will be updated when further areas enter the building stage and the shape of the rollout becomes clearer following the completion of the Strategic Review into the NBN,” said NBN Co in October.
However, many Australians had been using NBN Co’s maps to predict where the NBN was to be rolled out, and expressed significant amounts of disappointment that their premises appeared to have been removed from NBN Co’s plans.
“More than half a million homes and businesses were today identified as the first victims of the Coalition cuts to the National Broadband Network,” said Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare on 30 October.
“Before the election Malcolm Turnbull promised to honour existing contracts, now he has broken that promise,” Clare said. “This week Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull have pulled the plug on half a million homes and businesses that were expecting to receive fibre to the home. They are the first victims of the Coalition’s cuts to the NBN.” Labor has also produced video advertisements criticising the Coalition over the issue.
However, in a ruling published late last week (we recommend you click here for the full article), local fact-checking site PolitiFact Australia took significant issue with Labor’s claims.
“For Labor to say “construction had already commenced” on these premises implies construction sites lying fallow outside half a million houses, even perhaps that construction contracts have been cancelled or terminated while in progress,” the site wrote. “That would torpedo the Coalition’s commitment to honour existing construction contracts, if it were true. We could find no evidence it was. In fact, construction contracts had not been issued for the premises in question.”
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull had previously stated that Labor’s benchmarks for the NBN were inaccurate.
“There was one area – about 3,000 premises in Prospect, in South Australia, in [Labor MP] Kate Ellis’s electorate, in fact – where they said construction had commenced in April 2012. Well, it’s now November 2013. Nothing has happened. Nothing has happened. Not even the designs have been finalised,” said Turnbull in an interview on Channel Ten’s Meet the Press in early November.
“Those householders were victims of Labor’s lies and spin about broadband. Labor invented all sorts of misleading metrics.”
I largely agree with Politifact’s ruling on this issue, as I usually do. The premises which vanished from NBN Co’s maps in late October have not been “cut” from the NBN. Every Australian premise will ultimately receive high-speed broadband under the NBN in some form, whether it be FTTP, FTTN, FTTB, satellite or wireless. And many of those premises will, in fact, receive FTTP, as the Coalition is still planning to go ahead with a significant proportion of Labor’s FTTP model.
What has changed is the metrics. NBN Co is now only publishing on its maps two core metrics — where construction has actually, really started for the NBN infrastructure, and those areas where NBN services are available.
I’ve received a lot of complaints about the inaccuracy of NBN Co’s maps over the past year or so. I wholly support the changes which were made in October. Those maps were incredibly out of date and didn’t reflect reality on the ground.
What is, of course, still missing is any forward planning from the maps. However, this is obviously impossible to detail right now as the mix of technologies planned for the NBN is very much up in the air, pending the results of the company’s Strategic Review. Hopefully we’ll get some more visibility on that in a month or so.