news Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has repeatedly refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of evidence contained in leaked internal documentation, in which the NBN company’s chief network engineering explicitly states that its Fibre to the Node rollout is categorically behind target.
Earlier this week, Delimiter and a number of other media outlets published an internal NBN company document, entitled ‘Scale the Deployment Program: FTTx Design and Construction’. The document was authored by the NBN company’s chief network engineering officer Peter Ryan.
The document notes that the NBN company had at 19 February this year only successfully completed construction of its Fibre to the Node network to some 29,005 premises — far short of its target of 94,273 for that date. The report pins much of the delays on issues with electricity companies, which appear to be having problems getting power to the neighbourhood ‘nodes’ used in a FTTN rollout.
In the document, Ryan explicitly states: “Despite Design Commenced remaining above budget, all other significant milestones of FTTN continue to remain behind target.”
Yesterday afternoon, Fifield was asked about the issue by ABC Radio journalist Rafael Epstein on his Drive program. The transcript of the interview is available online.
“On the NBN it appears their own internal targets aren’t being met,” said Epstein. “That seems very clear from the document, maybe they will get over their inability to meet their own targets in the future. But would you concede that with the documents leaked in the last few days, they are not reaching their own targets?”
In response, and despite the fact of Ryan’s comments in the NBN company’s documentation, Fifield said he “wouldn’t” accept the FTTN delays as documented by the engineer.
“No I wouldn’t,” he said. “I mean, obviously it’s not my job to validate or otherwise, the bona fides of particular alleged leaked document.”
“But if I can make the general point that it’s very easy to pedal a particular document out of context. There are something of the order of 14 steps in the NBN design and construction process when it comes to fibre to the node. That alleged document related to particular steps in the process.”
Fifield said if commentators were to look at the “facts”, they would show that the NBN company itself rejected the claim that it was at risk of not meeting its targets.
“In fact, they’ve met or exceeded every key target for 6 quarters in a row. The company is on track to meet or exceed its full year target on 2.6 million homes read for service which is great. They’re on track to meet their target on 1 million homes, this financial year, using the network. So things are tracking very well,” he said.
However, it appears that Epstein did not accept Fifield’s arguments. The ABC journalist again referred to the evidence contained in Ryan’s document.
“… that document does say that the number of premises that should have been approved at the date of the report was less than half,” Epstein said. “So about 1.4 million premises should have been approved. Only 660,000 were, I mean that’s, if there not meeting their internal targets isn’t that something the Government should acknowledge?”
However, Fifield again referred to the NBN company’s public insistence that it was on track to meet its targets.
” There are currently more homes under construction at the moment than is required for nbn to hit their full year targets,” he said.
“What matters is, can nbn hit their annual targets. And you know one of the best predictors of future behaviour is past behaviour. Nbn, they’ve met or exceeded every key target for 6 quarters in a row. As I say, best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. When our predecessors were in office, they’d only met 15 per cent of their construction target. So the NBN record to date under us is very good. NBN is on track to meet its targets this year.”
What we are seeing here is quite extraordinary.
A document has been leaked from within the NBN company.
That document was authored by the engineer in charge of the NBN company’s network rollout.
It categorically states that the Fibre to the Node component of the rollout is behind its targets on almost every measure.
And yet … confronted with this evidence, our Communications Minister completely rejects the evidence being put in front of him with respect to the rollout of the Coalition’s Fibre to the Node network.
This kind of reaction is why I wrote yesterday that there is “lying” going on with respect to the rollout of the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix approach to the National Broadband Network.
It is almost at the point where it was when, as Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy refused to admit any issues with Labor’s Internet filter policy. The level of denialism is approaching farce, as it did during the Internet filter debacle.
In all fairness, of course, Fifield’s statements are, of course, based on the NBN company’s own denial of the allegations contained in leaked documents this week. To this extent you can understand his comments. Of course, the NBN company’s own denial of its own leaked document is farcical as well … if it will not take responsibility for documents patently written by its own senior executives, what will it take responsibility for?
It’s hard to imagine the company issuing this kind of denial under its previous management led by founding chief executive Mike Quigley.
How much evidence will it take before senior Government figures such as Fifield are forced to admit in public that there are issues with the FTTN component of the NBN? I guess we’ll find out over the next few months. I very much suspect this issue is not going to go away.
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting