Tassie NBN “shambolic”, “farcical”, says TacICT



news Tasmania’s peak industry body of the information, communications and technology sector, TasICT, has published a strongly worded submission to the Federal Government slamming both sides of politics for the “shambolic” and “farcical” progress of NBN Co’s network rollout in the state, stating that the project has become a “political tool”.

When Labor first announced its National Broadband Network project in April 2009, Tasmania took pride of place in the announcement. The state’s existing poor broadband infrastructure compared with the rest of Australia meant that the then-Rudd Labor administration allocated Tasmania priority in the planned NBN fibre rollout, with the state to host pilot programs for the wider national NBN fibre rollout and a separate division of NBN Co, NBN Tasmania, established to service it.

However, little progress has been made in the state since that time due to a combination of NBN Co’s poor handling of its prime construction contractor in the state, as well as asbestos issues in Telstra’s infrastructure and a constant back and forth between various sides of politics about how the Tasmanian rollout should continue.

Many Tasmanians believe the Coalition, specifically Malcom Turnbull, committed the Coalition’s modified Broadband Network rollout (CBN) in the state to a full Fibre to the Premises deployment during last year’s Federal Election, as was originally planned under Labor. However, in fact, Turnbull never explicitly made such a promise; stating only that a Coalition Government would honour construction contracts signed by NBN Co. Some Tasmanians took this statement to mean that the Coalition would commit to a full rollout of Fibre to the Premises broadband in the state.

Subsequently, NBN Co has confirmed that part of Tasmania will be served by the technically inferior Fibre to the Node technology preferred by the Coalition. In the recent Tasmanian election, both sides of politics called for Turnbull to commit to a full FTTP rollout in the state. The Minister eventually confirmed new trials of overhead fibre would be undertaken to confirm the viability of the model.

One of the most vocal voices regarding the project in Tasmania has been TasICT, the state’s peak body for the local ICT sector.

In a submission to the Federal Parliament (PDF) regarding the National Broadband Network Companies Amendment (Tasmania) Bill 2014 (legislation established by Labor which would require a full FTTP rollout in the state, but which has no chance of being enacted), the organisation harshly criticised both sides of politics for their mismanagement of the broadband rollout in Tasmania.

“By June 2013 the project was plagued by disputes between NBN Co, Visionstream and its subcontractors as well as concerns over asbestos risks during remediation work,” the group wrote. “These issues were never dealt with by the Government of the day. In fact, they were completely ignored and the rollout had almost stopped by September 2013.”

“It was hoped these issues would be addressed by a new government and the rollout could get back on track. To date, that has not happened. Less than 4,000 new premises have been passed since Visionstream announced it had reached agreement to ‘accelerate’ the rollout in December 2013. TASICT believes the Tasmanian project has no realistic chance of being completed by the end of 2015, as previously promised. The first-mover NBN advantage once trumpeted as an economic saviour for Tasmania, is gone.”

TasICT wrote that the most immediate issue facing the Tasmanian rollout was not the issue of which technology — FTTP or FTTN — would be used, but “what can be done to get the project moving at a reasonable rate”, with only a few thousand premises having received NBN Co’s infrastructure since the company was formed in April 2009. “At the current rate of progress it will take another 14 years to complete the remainder of the 190,000 premises currently contracted to receive FTTP NBN,” the group’s submission states.

A secondary issue is the poor ability which NBN Co has to actually connect customers, even if the company’s broadband infrastructure runs past their premises.

“It is estimated that up to 50% of appointments are being missed by NBN contractors,” wrote TasICT. “There is anecdotal evidence that some of these appointments are being ignored because contractors arrive at the appointment, identify a difficult or time- consuming job and make an assessment it is not worth the rate being offered.”

This situation had resulted in “significant re-work” for retail service providers, as they were forced to restart the connection process after failed attempts, and a high risk that customers would blame their retail service provider for missed appointment and long wait times between ordering and connecting to NBN Co’s infrastructure. In turn, this had led to uncertainty over future rollout locations and times, as well as lower than expected take-up rates of NBN Co’s infrastructure.

In general, TasICT noted that it was disappointed to note that the NBN project had been “used as a political tool by all major political parties at a state and federal level”. “It has been frustrating to see the real issues skimmed over or ignored, as evidenced by the Bill being assessed by this Senate Committee,” the group wrote.

”The NBN rollout and connection process in Tasmania has been so shambolic and failed so abysmally to meet its targets that the question about what NBN technology Tasmania will get has become less relevant. Tasmanians now wonder if they will ever get the NBN. Business has lost enthusiasm for the project and RSPs have lost confidence in the product they want to provide. Tasmania, already dealing with an inadequate communications infrastructure, faces lengthy delays to ever see the project completed.”

”A debate about what policy would see the greatest number of new connections to NBN infrastructure in the shortest period of time would be more relevant than one about proposed changes to the NBN technology mix. TASICT implores Inquiry members to take this submission seriously and look to address the issues raised in relation to the lack of rollout progress and farcical connection process.”

”Without urgent political intervention, the project will continue to fail Tasmania.”

I wrote a detailed analysis of the Tasmanian situation a couple of months ago. The conclusions I came to are very similar to those evinced by TasICT in the group’s submission. I wrote:

“The ongoing stoush over how the Coalition’s Broadband Network should be deployed in Tasmania shows Australia’s broadband tangle at its worst: Construction contractors who don’t deliver, overly optimistic promises and estimates, and politicians playing petty power games with a highly important national infrastructure project. No matter which way you look at it, it’s a shocking mess.

The core issue in Tasmania right now is not, in fact, what style of broadband rollout the state will receive from NBN Co over the next few years. In fact, the core issue right now is how any kind of rollout will actually be delivered — who will do it, and how.”

And as I wrote more than 12 months ago, the whole project is really in fantasyland right now:

“The NBN is still a wonderful dream; wonderful enough that anyone from overseas who visits Australia tends to praise it as a fantastic undertaking that they wish their own government had undertaken.

But let’s be real about this: For the foreseeable future, the NBN is going to remain just that — a dream. The NBN is not coming to your house or business any time soon, and in the next five or so years Australia can expect the current disgraceful level of political infighting about the project and delays in its rollout to continue. This dreadful situation is not going away any time soon, and neither are the problems with your broadband connection. So get used to the dropouts.

The NBN has always been a fantastic dream. But all dreams must end as we wake to grisly reality. This project has been mismanaged by Labor, and is about to be screwed over wholesale by the Coalition. At this stage, the suggestion by then-Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo back in 2005 that the Government pay Telstra a few billion to deploy FTTN itself (and lock out competitors along the way) is looking more and more like it would have been a winner, comparatively. We may not have had competition in the telco landscape, and we may not have had fibre to the home. But at least we would have had something.”

It’s tragic, but then that’s Australian politics right now: A tragic mess of quite epic proportions.

Image credit: Jens Buche, royalty free


  1. The so-called trial of aerial fibre was implemented in George Town Northern Tasmania 2-years ago. If Lara or Will had visited before the election, they would have noticed; maybe…
    They left the local George Town airport off the fibre though because apparently it is currently privately leased /operated and this means that communications infrastructure to the airport is not a priority.

  2. Turnbull has clearly lied about rolling out FTTP in Tasmania. I don’t see why he still isn’t being called on it.
    He committed to completing contracts – that clearly stated they were to roll out FTTP. That is a very clear commitment to FTTP. Even TasICT acknowledge this in their submission.
    “At the current rate of progress it will take another 14 years to complete the remainder of the 190,000 premises currently contracted to receive FTTP NBN,” the group’s submission states.
    Turnbull has lied and should be called on it.

    Tasmanian’s are right to feel screwed over. Turnbull lied to them about getting FTTP, and now it appears all those involved with the rollout have had a gutful and are happy to settle for something fast and nasty, just to get the rollout going again (even though Turnbull said it is not stopped and is ramping up – more fibs). Turnbull is going to get his way by keeping his foot on the rollout brake. People are so frustrated, they are willing to rollover and just get something – anything. This does not bode well for long term comms infrastructure improvement in Tasmania. They will effectively be like regional mainland Australia where they will get a small improvement via FTTN, and no specified upgrade path any time into the future. The current status quo and digital divide will be maintained for a long time to come.

    Tasmanians ,in particular, deserve better given their very long history of second rate internet infrastructure.

  3. wait a minute who did the majority of Tasmanians vote for ? Liberals. What did Abbot charge Turnbull with – to destroy the NBN
    i rest my case

    • I totally agree. As far as I’m concerned Tassie doesn’t deserve it. They voted for the Liberals despite knowing their position on the NBN. Now they’re cracking up about it? Be quiet and enjoy the FTTN that you voted for.

    • To be fair, Tasmanians voted Liberal, on the understanding that Malcolm Turnbull would keep his commitment to complete the FTTP rollout that was contracted. Its not the same argument for those on the mainland who voted Liberal and still expect to get FTTP.
      Voting Liberal should not have been a problem for them, as they were specifically promised an FTTP rollout, as per contract.

      Turnbull lied.

      Tasmanians have a right to be upset about that, and not getting what they were promised.

      • That is an epically stupid argument. Sorry, if you thought the LNP were going to do their utmost to cripple or outright destroy the NBN on the mainland while simultaneously providing Tasman with ubiquitous fibre you can only have ignored years of statements about their intentions to the contrary. You can’t financially undermine NBN Co and still maintain a going concern in Tasmania. You don’t get to smoke the coolaid and then complain when reality turns out to be a disappointment.

        • Their statements about Tasmania were always that they had been hard done for a long time and deserved better. Turnbull committed to completing their FTTP rollout as per the contracts. You cant pick and choose which words you want to go on. Turnbull said he would complete the contract prior to the election – that’s what voters believed at the election. That’s what he should be held accountable to do.

          • No, he said he would honour contracts. Contracts that included variation clauses. We knew they did, Turnbull and Conroy both said so.

            And as Paul says below, if they thought they were getting fibre but understood the LNP were committed to dismantling the NBN for the rest of the country, I have zero sympathy, just as they had zero concern for the future of the whole country.

      • Either way, it’s hard to have sympathy for Tasmania. Did they vote for NOT fibre for the rest of the country while expecting it themselves?

    • “wait a minute who did the majority of Tasmanians vote for ? Liberals. What did Abbot charge Turnbull with – to destroy the NBN i rest my case”


      Myth debunking – Only 43.59% of Tasmanian eligible voters voted for them. Of formal votes, more than 51.02% were first preferences for candidates other than the Liberal party (Labor, Greens, PUP, etc).

  4. “They will effectively be like regional mainland Australia where they will get a small improvement via FTTN, and no specified upgrade path any time into the future”

    and who did they vote for. ?

    “wait a minute who did the majority of Tasmanians vote for ? Liberals. What did Abbot charge Turnbull with – to destroy the NBN
    i rest my case”

    As Malcolm Stated this is what you voted for.

    Suck it up princess or emigrate

    • “As Malcolm Stated this is what you voted for.”
      On the mainland, I agree. In Tasmania, its different. Turnbull promised to complete the contracts in Tasmania. The contracts were specifically for FTTP. Therefore Tasmanians actually voted for FTTP – as per Turnbull’s commitment. Cant fault them for that. There was no understanding at that point they could get FTTN, and hence no reason to be concerned, NBN wise, about voting for the Libs.

      • Why do you keep saying They voted under that False Assumption? No they DIdnt! In the Federal Election they did but not the state Election that just passed. Remember he said it wouldnt be FTTP anymore and the liberal Leader (the current Premiere of Tassie) said “This could cost us the election. So Yes Tasmanians STILL voted Liberal in spite of all that outrage about the NBN.

        I want the NBN and think its far more important than most people realise, but Its clear that it didnt mean as much to the Tasmanians or they would have voted labor back in to power in Tasmania, 16 years of Labor rule there! But they voted them out AND still want what they promised. Sorry you got what you deserved.

      • http://delimiter.com.au/2014/02/13/switkowski-confirms-fttn-tasmania/

        FTTN policy was made clear way before the Tasmanian State Election was held.

        In the Federal Election things were a little bit more muddied, and people jumped to conclusions after Turnbull stated contracts would be honoured, but the Liberal broadband policy was still there in black and white, and it never included full FTTP for Tasmania. If people looked into the issue, they would not have been confused as to what was going to happen post the election.

        • So now they are in I assume the Liberal candidate that was fighting for FTTH in Tasmania is doing just that? He must be biding his time and planning I guess, that’s why he’s said nothing since the election.

        • FTTN policy was made clear way before the Tasmanian State Election was held.

          And Tasmanians rightly blew up because Turnbull had broken his commitment to complete the contracts that specifically said FTTP was to be rolled out to all 190,000 premises. It became such an issue that the Liberal candidate had to lobby Turnbull to change the broken promise or they would possibly lose the election. Voters were then taken to that election with the idea that FTTP would still be considered, via power poles. FTTN policy was not set in stone by any stretch. No one can seriously argue that communications policy from this government is “clear”. The FTTP carrot was dangled in front of the voters to sure up the election.

          If people looked into the issue, they would not have been confused as to what was going to happen post the election.

          People have looked into the issue. Evidence has been presented here, and elsewhere, that the contracts in Tasmania were specifically to roll out FTTP to all 190,000 premises. It was in the contract. Turnbull committed to completing that contract.
          What should peoples expectations be of Turnbull given that commitment?

          Turnbull admitted the contracts were for FTTP. NBN Co admitted the contracts were for FTTP. Contractors admitted the contracts were for FTTP. TasICT even mentioned it, as quoted in this article. Given all this evidence of what the contract said, and the regular request for evidence based arguments here, I fail to understand why this issue keeps getting obfuscated and “ignorant” Tasmanian voters get blamed instead of Turnbull being held to account for his blatant lie.

          • hey mate,

            I’m sorry, but I don’t want to hear any more debate about this issue on Delimiter. I think it’s important to move on. The truth is clearly that Turnbull implied that FTTP would be deployed but did not actually state that it would be. We all know that is what happened. We need to move on from the debate about what happened and shift to a debate about what is happening now and what should happen next.

            If I hear one more Tasmanian scream “they promised us FTTP!” then I will puke. And I will delete further comments discussing this issue.

            I’m sorry, but this one has been done to death and I’ve had enough.


          • No problems.
            For the record, I am not Tasmanian. They have been screwed over, and Turnbull should be held to account. The facts are as they are. They have been provided.
            RIP Evidence based debate on Delimiter.

          • “RIP Evidence based debate on Delimiter.”

            hey mate. FFS. We have discussed this issue endlessly. It hijacks every topic about Tasmania. I don’t think it’s a big thing at this point that we acknowledge what happened and move on.


          • I am not really sure how discussion about political failures in Tasmania is off topic for an article that is about political failures in Tasmania. I don’t know what else we should be discussing that would be on topic.

            Happy to acknowledge that Turnbull promised something for the federal election and reneged, and implied something for the state election. The facts are as they are.
            Going forward, he should be rolling out FTTP as promised, and that’s what everyone should be calling for in Tasmania. He has dangled the carrot. He should now be held to account to make sure it results in something more than election fluff. The trials have already been done under Labor, by the electricity company and shown to be feasible. The pressure should be applied on Turnbull to provide FTTP by at least the aerial means.

  5. The Coalition has never been, nor will it ever be a ‘safe vote’ anywhere for fibre. Was not. Is not.

    It’s no good getting upset after the election, when the outcome is right down the same party policy line that was carried into the election.

    He could say he would build an Elvis memorial in the middle of Hobart, unless it’s committed in policy post election there is not a damn thing you can do about it, short of vote them out.

    It’s a shambles because people were, frankly, stupid enough to believe a single politician whilst the rest of the country was demanding answers as to how the hell Turnbull intended to deliver.

    He was just as suave and smooth then, too. And still just as transparent.

    That’s why it’s a shambles. Expectation has not met outcome. Welcome to the rest of Australia.

  6. It’s no good getting upset after the election, when the outcome is right down the same party policy line that was carried into the election.

    The policy was, and still is, to use a mix of technologies to improve broadband services. This does not preclude FTTP anywhere. Turnbull himself has said this many times.
    So how is he “going against policy” if he were to fulfil his promise and rolls out FTTP in Tasmania today? Especially if he does it via power poles so its more cost effective and faster to do?

    • “The policy was, and still is, to use a mix of technologies to improve broadband services. This does not preclude FTTP anywhere.”

      Unless the policy stated the Coalition would maintain the existing roll-out model, you cannot interchange “preclude” with “will”.

      The policy was and is mixed technologies. Not “all fibre”. Not “mostly fibre”. In fact it was almost anything but fibre. Even the notion you could potentially pay to have the last mile upgraded all but vanished before the election.

      Anyone who spent more than 30 seconds reading what the Coalition intended to do, could see where it was going. HFC at ~30% is probably the only real surprise (as much for Telstra, Optus as anyone else).

      Tasmania is sadly in the exact same policy hole as everyone else. I am sorry but that is where we are, today. Turnbull has made a decision and directed NBNco, prior to the Vertigan lead CBA being tendered to Government.

      You don’t commission a review and report if you don’t already know the outcome. And you don’t go down this cluster-f*ck of grab-bag technologies if FTTH was under serious consideration.

      Turnbull will not have directed NBNco down the current mixed-technology model if there was any chance the CBA would refute it.

      FTTH is dead under a Coalition-led government. Move on.

      • Tasmania is sadly in the exact same policy hole as everyone else

        Tasmania is in a different situation to all the rest of us. They had signed construction contracts in place that stipulated FTTP to 190,000 premises. Turnbull stated he would complete these contracts. We aren’t allowed to discuss the facts behind this anymore though apparently

        Going forward, there is nothing stopping Turnbull doing the right thing and providing FTTP to Tasmanian residents. He has said he will look at more efficient methods of doing it. He has said he will prioritise areas of most need first. If Tasmania isnt the area in most need, after all these years, I will eat my keyboard. The longer it drags, the worse it gets. The contracts are in place, there is no reason Turnbull cant be acting right now- no need to hide behind stacked analysis, reports etc

        Bottom line is that we should not be expected to stop pressing a politician to fulfil a promise, and lay down and just accept something else entirely. Turnbull should fulfil his promise to Tasmania.

  7. I think the blaming game should stop and focus more on how to solve the real problem. Construction contractors inferior delivery, exaggerated promises, inaccurate estimates and politicians’ absurd debates over a highly significant national infrastructure project should stop, right now.

  8. There are current problems and future problems, a prudent planner incorporates both aspects.




    The aerial solutions may be a short term solution, FTTN and HFC may have reliability and major maintenance issues

  9. This is hilarious. Article blames both parties, comments Turnbull. Again the remarkable failure of NBNCo to deliver on any of its talk is ignored.

  10. My thoughts are the less the lying prick does the better off the country will be, if I was a Taswegian I would be praying that he keeps his foot on the brake, the same goes for the rest of the country.

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