ACT NBN rollout highly unfair, says Labor MP


news Federal Labor Gai Brodtmann has strongly criticised the NBN company in Federal Parliament this week for its internal decision-making processes in relation to the Australian Capital Territory, which are seeing the company ignore broadband-starved areas in favour of overbuilding existing high-speed broadband networks.

Last month Delimiter revealed the company had decided to prioritise overbuilding the long-established TransACT Fibre to the Node/VDSL network in Canberra, instead of focusing on rolling out its broadband infrastructure to areas which currently have no high-speed broadband availability.

The decision appears to make little sense. TransACT’s network already provides speeds of up to 90Mbps to much of Canberra, meaning that the NBN company will be duplicating existing network infrastructure. However, the company simultaneously appears to be neglecting areas where the TransACT network does not exist and which currently have very poor levels of broadband.

Brodtmann — who represents the electorate of Canberra — told the House of Representatives this week that many Canberrans currently had some of the lowest-quality broadband in the country. Many had no access to fixed-line broadband infrastructure at all, and were forced to access the Internet through “expensive and unreliable” 3G or 4G mobile dongles.

“To make the situation worse,” Brodtmann said, “the Canberrans who need the NBN the most will have the longest wait. The next three-year rollout plan for the NBN, released in October, fails to include the Canberra suburbs that have the poorest broadband internet rating in the country. The vast majority of Tuggeranong, including suburbs like Monash and Theodore which have the lowest ratings in the country for both availability and quality of broadband—they are not even on the rollout map.”

Tuggeranong, in the south of Canberra, is not currently covered by TransACT’s FTTN network and is known as a region that has poor levels of broadband availability.

Brodtmann said bitter residents in the Tuggeranong area had written to the MP pointing out that they paid Federal and local taxes like anyone else — and yet the northern suburbs — already well-served by broadband infrastructure — received all the government spending. ” We get close to zero new or upgraded infrastructure by comparison,” the constituent said.

Brodtmann said she had heard many similar comments at a NBN forum the MP had hosted with Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare in Canberra a few months ago.

“That night, I promised Canberrans that I would start a petition, and that I would lobby hard to have Canberra’s NBN rollout prioritised,” she said. “A few months later, more than 700 people have signed my petition; we are currently up to 741 signatures.”

“The message is loud and clear, Deputy Speaker: Canberrans want the NBN, and we want it now. Canberrans: we have got three more days, sign my petition and send the message to the government—we want NBN and we want it now!”

Several weeks ago, Delimiter asked the chief executive of the NBN company, Bill Morrow, to comment on why the company was focusing on overbuilding existing high-speed broadband infrastructure in regions like Canberra, instead of targeting areas poorly served with broadband infrastructure.

However, Morrow flatly refused to comment on the specific details.

Morrow said there would always be some who were not happy about their premises not being at the front of the queue with respect to the NBN rollout. “There’s always somebody first and somebody last,” he said.

The executive said the NBN company always looked at assets that it could buy. If there were, Morrow said, the company would pursue that option. However, he said, if an asset was not going to be sold to the company, then the company would “move forward with our build”. It appears that TransACT owner TPG does not wish to sell the infrastructure in the ACT and Victoria to the NBN company.

Morrow said until an area had been declared as “adequately served” with high-speed broadband — which the TransACT regions have not — then it had an obligation to build its network in that area.

However, Morrow did not answer the question of why the NBN company was choosing specifically to overbuild TransACT’s network in the ACT as a matter of priority, while not focusing on other suburbs in Canberra which do not have high-speed broadband at all.

Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting


  1. In some way I can see the reason for over-building and serving “upper class” type areas first – that may already have sufficiently good Internet access – so they can sell the expensive plans to them, and have those users subsidise building out the network to the under served.

    Though this being a government project it should be going the other way around. It should be more like a utility bringing in access to those that do not already have it.

    • Its purely about preserving market share to try and ensure they can actually make a return. NBN precept is setup as a wholesale monopoly where the low cost high profit area’s will offset the major costs of getting access out into the more remote area’s.

      Transact and TPG and Open networks will never ever attempt to reach the last 20/30/40% of Australia but rather cherry pick the the most profitable regions.

      I will say the ACT overbuild is bad form regardless especially on that scale.

  2. It’s a very poor excuse of “there is always somebody first and somebody last”. Doesn’t help when the ones getting it first already had it first before they started.

    • There is always somebody first and somebody last, and in between there’s always somebody second and third, and some times those are all the same people.

      Happy now? :)

      • But in this case…. it is “There is always somebody first, twice, then the people last are still last”

  3. If Morrow wants to overbuild TransACT in my area, he could at least give me FTTH. The fibre ring already passes within 1km of my house, so he just has to approve construction of the FSAM!

    While I wouldn’t mind the choice of NBN RSPs, I don’t REALLY need two VDSL2 connection options here – particularly when friends over in deepest, darkest Tuggeranong get none – and barely get ADSL.

  4. Old school: You can always tell when a political party is incompetent – they get tax-payers to fund grandiose white elephants; you can always tell when political parties don’t care for the electorate – some equivalent of “Don’t you worry ’bout that!” or “There’s always somebody first and somebody last.”

    Did anybody notice the lips were moving?

  5. So how is this different to the NBN rollout policy under Labor, Gai?

    From day 1, the NBN should have started with areas where the need and demand for it was the highest. That would have gotten it the highest takeup rate and quickest flow of income to minimise the amount of money taxpayers had to put in it, and reduce the need to borrow from the capital markets.

    But it never did that. Not under the Liberals now. Not under Labor before.

    • whilst I don’t mind the black spot program that it was focused so heavily meant it was always doomed to delays (those area’s are black spots for a reason after all) which gave so much ammo to the opposition its not funny.

      If a decent chunk of effort had been put into area’s say where exchanges were full and there were no DSLAM ports available (ie clear indication of extra high demand) I wonder if the labor roll out wouldn’t have had far better numbers.

    • Gordon
      Firstly they had to build the back haul and 121 points of interconnect (stupid ACCC).

      The problem with the highest demand is no one knows really where it is that’s why FTTP was so good for revenue as it supplied 100Mbps to everyone to get that demand now with the MTM when someone wants to pay for faster speed and the MTM can’t deliver it they now have to pay a lot more for the same service someone else didn’t have too pay. So now its a lottery on speed and lost revenue.

    • @ Gordon Drennan

      Here’s what the Liberal Party’s Peter Reith and Julian Leeser said about the original FttP roll out, following the 2010 election…

      “Policy on the National Broadband Network had a particular effect in Tasmania for a range of reasons. In several towns Tasmanians could see the NBN being rolled out. Tasmania is often behind the mainland in receiving new technology so being at the forefront of the NBN was seen as a boost to Tasmania. The NBN provided jobs for Tasmanian contractors and it brought people to Tasmania from the mainland having flow on effects for Tasmania’s tourism, hospitality and service industries.”

      Can you spot a difference now?

  6. I live in a large suburb in Sydney’s North West. We are too far from the “local” exchange for any DSL variant, and have no other wired broadband options. There are unused DSLAMs in the exchange because we can’t use them, so we are also not on the radar for NBN. Similar issue to that reported in our capital. I’m afraid NBN has turned into the worst outcome that you get when you combine political and commercial motives. Thank goodness at least Optus has released a wireless broadband offering for home use with a half decent quota, but come on NBN – get your act together.

  7. For an initiative that didn’t have a business case underlying it, it has proved remarkably ruthless in pursuing revenue, be it TransACT, TPG FTTB, Telstra South Brisbane , and so on.
    If reputedly no longer shutting down acquired HFC.
    Given it has been backed by taxpayer dollars from the beginnings in 2007, I would have expected it to focus on broadband blackspots, be it remote, rural or regional – given the fed gov cancelled Opel Networks – especially, even metro.
    Wonder what the next piece of bad news on this will be?
    FTTx locations performance?
    Further timing changes?
    The relevant shareholder ministers will hopefully get involved, alongside the ACCC (now that nbn/ NBN equivalent networks generally must do wholesale) …

  8. Greenfield sites in Gungahlin (including my own new home in Franklin): nil connectivity at all. No copper, no fibre, $30 for 3GB wireless if you must have something. Settled in July, NBN *might* pull the fibre in by end December.

    NBN can’t do a thing as far as I can see. Estate next door has NBN, why couldn’t they do the 47 units just next door at the same time?

  9. The Canberra situatioin is somewhat unique. Previous to NBN and greenfield construction post 2010, the north of Canberra had the worst internet infrastructure in the ACT. Now that NBN is in Gungahlin Tuggeranong has the worst internet in the ACT.

  10. I suspect the reason NBN is going over the Transact network is the same reason Transact rolled out to those suburbs in the first place. Aerial deployment of the fibre. Almost all of the suburbs south of Kambah have underground power and phone lines.

  11. At least Theodore, the last suburb in Tuggernong, has aerial cable. It has electric poles at the back of the houses.

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