Fifield rejects concerns about $641m NBN FTTN blowout


news Communications Minister Mitch Fifield this afternoon refused to substantially answer questions in the Senate about leaked internal NBN documents showing that the cost of remediating Telstra’s copper network has blown out by a factor of ten times to $641 million, instead attacking Labor for its performance with respect to the project.

Under Labor’s previous near-universal Fibre to the Premises model for the NBN, the HFC cable and copper networks owned by Telstra and Optus would have been shut down. However, the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix plan instituted by Malcolm Turnbull as Communications Minister in the Abbott administration is seeing them acquired and upgraded by the NBN company.

The NBN company and the Government have consistently attempted to block the release of information detailing how much it will cost the NBN company on a per node basis to deploy the Coalition’s preferred Fibre to the Node technology on Telstra’s copper network, as well as information pertaining to how much the remediation of Telstra’s copper network will cost.

However, internal documents released by the Opposition today showed that, by the NBN company’s own estimates, the cost of remediating Telstra’s network had blown out by a factor of ten, to about $641 million, with the cost of rolling out infrastructure to each premise via Fibre to the Node had blown out from $600 to about $1600 per premise.

In response to questions posed by Labor about the leaked document in Senate Question Time today, Fifield initially read out a statement made by the NBN company this afternoon stating that it “refuted the accuracy of claims made in today’s media” about its FTTN rollout.

“Senator Bilyk, I appreciate the opportunity to provide comfort and reassurance that you don’t need to be worried about the mischaracterisation of that document in the newspaper today,” Fifield told Labor Senator Catryna Bilkyk in response to her question on the NBN FTTN issue.

Fifield followed up by claiming that the NBN document leaked this morning was “an early draft — an internal planning document”. He noted that the details contained in the document were “commercial in confidence” and that the final numbers concerned “may vary”.

Fifield said the NBN Strategic Review which the Coalition carried out in November 2013 — and which the document leaked today shows got its estimates on the FTTN network wrong — had used “the best available information at the time”. The NBN company now had real-world information about its operation and could update its projections, he said.

The Communications Minister then segued into an attack on the performance of the previous Labor Government with respect to the NBN, stating that the project inherited by the Coalition was “a trainwreck” instituted by then-Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

“We will deliver the NBN quicker and at lower cost than those opposite would have,” Fifled said, claiming that the Coalition Government and the management of the NBN company had a “clear-eyed view of the NBN”.

“Senator Conroy in contrast, sought to create a culture of fear and denial,” Fifield said. “This govt is being upfront and transparent. Senator Conroy only wanted to hear good news, which did not reflect the reality of the NBN organisation.”

Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting


  1. It was only a matter of time before Mr Copper’s minion trotted out to lie about the real NBN once more to try and deflect attention from his parties incompetent and corrupt destruction of the NBN!

    • I want to know why politicians can get away with lying through their teeth, when they’re supposed to be trustworthy.

      • I want to know why politicians can get away with lying through their teeth, when they’re supposed to be trustworthy

        Probably because they know they will always get back in regardless of how much they lie because of the way people vote.

      • For 99% of the time, they’re not lieing. They’re just stretching the truth really really thinly…

        Thats what politicians do, they manipulate the data at hand to present the view of the day. Its not what they say that matters, you can usually be assured that theres an essence of fact there. Its what they leave out.

        • The test for political dishonesty should be intent, as with many things. If a reasonable person, with all evidence available, would consider that a politician, who had full access to the facts (irrespective of whether they claim to have never seen it) had made statements that were intentionally misleading and not representative if the body of evidence, then that should be classed as dishonest and misleading practice unbecoming of a public figure, and criminal and civil penalties should apply. I say *should*, in a world where people and society actually value honesty, integrity and public accountability. Sad, I think, that we do not.

  2. “instead attacking Labor for its performance with respect to the project.”
    Liberals keep forgetting they have been in power for 3 years.

    • Yes, but obviously Labor didn’t do anything with the NBN.

      It took the LNP to mysteriously make the FttP roll out happen.

      It’s always Labor’s fault.

    • Yeah. Labor has had nothing to do with the NBN since 2013 so everything that’s happened since then is all Liberal. Don’t know how long Fifield thinks he can keep blaming Labor.

      • Until the end of their term basically..

        .. and then it’s taking credit for the few things that went right once Labor gets back in!

        • I’m not sure that Labor will win the next election with Turnbull at the helm of the LNP.

          Had Abbott remained in? I’d have said we would be heading for either a Labor victory or another hung parliament, but with Turnbull? I would be shocked if they didn’t win another term.

          • It will all come down to preferences and how well the greens will do.

            I think that the gloss is starting to come off the LNP and Turnbull, and Bill is starting to actually get a bit of traction again. Not much, but then again, all he has to do is start to put a bit of doubt into the swinging voter, and i am sure that as the election grows nearer, people like Abets won’t be able to help but increasingly step on their crank…

          • @RichardU, all Turnbull has to do is put forward a standard, moderate budget next year before the election and all the swing voters will forget about the 2014 budget.

          • And if Malcs bolts to the GG before the next budget can be fielded?

            i wouldnt put it past him to do this btw….

          • I think it is within his per view to call an election when he wants, so I’m not sure its the same as “bolting to the GG”

  3. Well what do you know? Typical Fifield. This guy never stops blaming “those opposite” for mistakes made by Liberals. But Labor did this, Labor did that. How childish. This government needs to grow up and take some responsibility for their actions.

  4. Yeah I am sick of Pollies blaming the other guy, when this is clearly their own fuck up.

    Its a joke.

  5. This is just a consequence of making a simple solution more complicated in the mistaken belief that it would be “quicker and cheaper”. Turns out to be none of those things. And it will be more expensive to maintain as well.

  6. To call a spade a spade, the document is just shy of nine months old. It came out well before actual launch of the FTTN product and the most recent corporate plan. Given the information is not exactly current, what real value does it have?

    • It’s shows the cost used in the SR that was redacted.

      Considering Fifield said. “This govt is being upfront and transparent.”

    • It shows that the cost of FTTN during investigation and trial phases was 10x the working estimate. The thing about FTTP Vs FTTN copper remediation costs is that the former will fall over time as technologies, experience and techniques improve, but the latter would remain relatively static – in fact, it would only increase over time as copper gradually degrades, requiring more remediation, not less. If the copper needs to be replaced or repaired, no amount of new technology or experience is going to reduce the cost through efficiency improvements.

      So unless there was some drastic improvement in the copper network or the examples they investigated as part of their modelling turned out to be nonrepresentative of the state of the copper network nationally, these figures would still be accurate, regardless of the ‘age’ of the report or the fact that its release wasn’t officially sanctioned.

    • The numbers in the strategic review – particularly the internal rate of return – only came out slightly in favour of the MTM approach. The recent leaked documents show that the assumptions underlying the MTM were very optimistic. It seems very unlikely that the MTM approach would have come out on top if the strategic review had been done with more realistic numbers.

    • The information about these elements was either absent or redacted from the SR.

      What this shows is that had they been available for public scrutiny, it is likely that the broad MTM plan would have been shown to be less competitive with the Labor plan.

      Since then, not only have the arguments raised against the MTM been gradually revealed as correct, but the assumptions of the previous plan based purely on what has been completed are being shown to be accurate.

      This suggests that the Redactions from the SR where orchestrated that way on purpose for political expedience only.

      Being that this document was what was used to justify the huge expense in both time and money to change from a majority FTTP rollout to a Minority FTTP rollout. The keeping of this information from the general public, was at the very least dishonest.

  7. Why don’t we ever see Richard or Reality on these articles where the LNP is blaming Labor for their own faults based completely on the MTM policy?

    • Prolly cause they’re off looking for their credibility, of course what they don’t realise being Liberal party shills is, they never had any to begin with!

    • @r0 sorry a 14hr flight and meetings. Nice to be obsessed over (again)

      The leak provides the background (already asked for) for the increase in CPP in CP16 to $1600 and much of the SR13 to CP16 increase in peak funding (already acknowledge as MTM caused and predicted).

      Unsurprisingly many of the fanboys are misinterrupting it as another blowout; a reflection of there ignorance and gullibility.

      • @Richard not to mention ‘blowout’ is a relative term.

        Assuming $26K per node is for a loaded 384 line node, that works out to be $68 per premises – or 4% of $1600.

        • @david many of the figures are useful. Unable to understand them embarrasses those through their posting.

          The per premise power costs as provided by me a few days ago (unsurprising), destroying one of Tucker’s (eminent professor) arguement the other day (repetition of an arguement made by his college Gregory). Sadly another example of what passes for Academia these days.

          The per node costs is what stands out for me. A $70k (also matching my previous estimate) piece of hardware costs an extraordinary $190k to deploy & provision. Such is the inefficiency of this GBE.

          Like the dismissing of all evidence demonstrating the failure of the previous plan (today acknowledged by most), many continue to demonstrate their failure to understand evidence behind some of the blowout in peak funding acknowledged and presented in CP16.

          Revenue the next to fail. This policy folly (called out for years) has a long way to play out.

          • Considering you beat the chest with all of these self confessed gems, supposedly disproving actual recognised experts in their field, Richard… please now let me reiterate “your reality”…

            Richard: “The Liberal policy document includes everything I’ve been posting about for years; use of existing infrastructure, priority for areas where market failed, access to infrastructure for competition, review of NBNCo past activities, CBA, etc It is almost as if they commissioned me to write it…”

            Use of existing infrastructure (copper to be replaced by copper & Optus HFC rooted possible overbuild/switch off) = FAIL.

            Priority for areas where market failed… WHAT.. Markets fail? Noooo…ROFL.

            Sorry after that guffaw –

            Priority of areas where markets failed. What like poor little backwater market failures such as Warringah & North Sydney (which when chosen, were/are Abbott’s and Hockey’s electorates) = FAIL.


            Access to infrastructure competition = FAIL (you admitted so on the 1/12/15, yes a few days ago)…

            Review of past NBNCo activities (by the likes of Ergas & Co – Lib donators/sympathisers and FttP critics) = FAIL

            CBA (oh the independent CBA to be carried out by the PC ) = FAIL.

            100% FAIL Richard, well done.

            It’s a bit like… looks like, smells like, tastes like… good thing we didn’t tread in it… that you were’nt actually commissioned to write this MTM Titanic plan…

            You’re welcome “again”…

          • @alex sad you listen to “experts” because of their title, yet reject advice repeatedly shown to be accurate. I’ve had much fun correcting both your “experts” over the years, surprisingly easy given their positions.

            I love that post (hc calls that a hissy fit); destroys your (and others) repeated claim re authorship. You missed govt out (of course).

            Given the GBE wasn’t going away, private industry better to deliver for majority, the MTM model cheaper and faster with reviews to expose the cost overruns and failures. NBN policy is a disaster, but FTTN / FTTB / HFC cost cheaper and faster to deploy than FTTH. Reviews were fascinating reading.

            I also supported the other sensible points. Some of these aren’t being implemented (likely because of the revenue model and their requirement to keep expenditure out of the budget). I’ve been very critical of NBNCo not prioritising underserved areas whilst overbuilding well serviced areas.

            Economics of market failure studied (forgot my first postgrad? Insulted;-), acknowledged and discussed for years. I’m sorry you might not have understood the posts.

            You claim the policy and party is mine. I rejected the accusation years ago. Yet you continue to see the coalition policy implemention failures (predicted and called out) as somehow a projection of my competency. Also called out several years ago you have neither the knowledge nor experience to abuse others the way you do. Your recent labelling of me as a conservative continues to show your amazing ignorance (do equally bizarrely a neocon). Surprisingly this stupidity gives you the confidence to stalk my posts with your bile.

          • Fluddy (since you insist on calling me alex).

            Nice comment, all warm and fuzzy and based around… what else but, look at Fluddy, look how good Fluddy thinks Fluddy is… how typical.

            Yet when you wipe away the smeg, Fluddy was unable to disprove any (note not 1) of the many obvious Fluddy FAILS, I highlighted…

            Wow that’s actually a first, to not disprove or address Fluddy’s many obvious FAILS, yet still beat the chest like an ape with a hard on, whilst actually believing Fluddy has put the real experts (as opposed to the self proclaimed pretend experts, like Fluddy, Fluddy) in their place…

            All which sadly adds up to yet another Fluddy FAIL…

            Nice work Fluddy.

      • Ah yes it’s not a blow out at all … why? Well because Richard said, end of story…

        Well I for one am now convinced… what more would we need than Richard said?

        That’s all I needed to hear. After all we all know who wrote MTM (or rather could have… NAY ‘should’ have)… so…

        It seems apparent that the $15B blow out and the timeframes which are already years behind, were also not blowouts too?

        You see what you do is, simply renew your fuckup plan, by including all the new, many daily additional fuckups, then write NEW CP (add appropriate number) on it and it is then all ok…

        It’s then a pre-planned fuckup (yes it’s a fuckup nonetheless, but shhh that doesn’t matter)…

        Again I’m convinced, well who wouldn’t be by such a compelling and unbiased approach… FTW again Richard

        BTW flight? Surely you could have found a cheaper, FttN/fraudband like option, than Ferrari, gold plated whiz band flying, WTF?

  8. Seriously? They’re still blaming Labor for all their woes? Including the ones that they introduced that Labor didn’t touch (FTTN/HFC).

    Do they really want to ride that power rhetoric to the next election, considering it was a tentpole of the last two elections (and won it for them once). They have to tone it down and replace it with something else.

    When will they realise that this tired talking point (blaming previous government) is dead once they actually got into power? The party faithful can always be counted on to back them up, but those on the fence, and those marginal Labor voters aren’t going to be convinced by the Abbott era blame game.

    • Unfortunately the inconvenient truth is, the person responsible for this retrograde policy, for the lies and deceit and waste at all cost to destroy this national infrastructure for political and ideological purposes (while appeasing Murdoch / Foxtel / Telstra in the process), who has flown in the face of reason, facts, engineering and economic reality and who can be proven to have deliberately lied and misled the public pretty much every time he has opened his mouth on the subject for the past five years, that man is now Prime Minister, with soaring satisfaction ratings from all sides of the electorate. That demonstrates that politics and charisma trump facts and reason, that the vast majority of the electorate both don’t understand and don’t particularly care about Malcolm’s track record or the NBN.

      It also demonstrates that journalists and news outlets barely touch the subject, and no one (that I’m aware of) has been willing to analyse the trustworthiness or competence of the new PM by reflecting on his track record in the Communications portfolio for the past five years – it’s as though he’s been immaculately conceived, newborn into the Prime Minstership, his only track record considered – his legal experience and fortunate investment in Ozemail. Oh sure, they talk about his previous bout as Opposition Leader, but the actual job he’s been doing for the past five years, the one with tangible metrics and known facts, he gets a free pass on.

      So unfortunately, at this stage, as counter intuitive and intellectually dishonest as it may seem, right now the LNP strategy actually seems to be winning out.

  9. Here is the problem. HFC was never supposed to be purchased. Copper was never supposed to be remediated. Fibre was supposed to replace the crap. They are trying to prevent Labor’s plan at all costs vandalising the economy in the process.

    If they went and told the dumb before the election, the copper is crap we have to spend more than fibre to fix it to prevent giving you fibre. Would the dumb still accept it ? Easy to get away without criminal charges telling voters it will cost some random low number, and then throw limitless tax payer money at it after.

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