LAURIE PATTON. Miscommunication. Paul Fletcher spins his top like turvey

Communications minister Paul Fletcher spoke at an industry conference and outdid his Coalition predecessors in an extraordinary attempt to defend the beleaguered National Broadband Network. These are just some of the comments he made to an incredulous audience of IT professionals who know so much more than he does.

1. According to Mr Fletcher 10.2 million premises can now connect to the NBN. However, 40 percent haven’t even bothered. That’s not exactly a great endorsement of the project in my opinion.

2. He said “But last year the ACCC confirmed what we knew to be true – NBN Co is by far the dominant player in the fixed line market”. Yep. That was the whole idea! To ensure that everyone has access to fast and reliable broadband just as we’ve always had universal telephone access.

3. He said “Labor’s plan to scrap the HFC networks and then overbuild them with new fibre networks was extraordinarily wasteful”. Yet NBN Co has dumped the entire Optus HFC network and it’s costing a bomb to remediate the Telstra HFC. In my area they are ripping out Telstra’s HFC and replacing it with an inferior alternative from a speed perspective.

4. He said “I spoke earlier about the many legacy problems which Labor’s NBN has left. A whole class of those problems concerns regional and remote telecommunications”. Well, his Government increased reliance on satellite and fixed wireless rather than superior fixed wire connections. In any case it has had six years to do something positive and broadband is still buggered in the bush.

5. He said “90 percent of premise’s can receive at least 50Mbps and all can receive 25Mbps”. Well, not according to the complaints being received by the ACCC and the TIO. Too many NBN Co customers just cannot get 25Mbps and I very much doubt 90 percent can get 50Mbps.

6. He said “The rollout of the NBN has been a massive turnaround exercise – after we inherited a colossal mess”. It was actually then prime minister Tony Abbott’s instruction to communications minister Malcolm Turnbull to ‘destroy’ the NBN that created the mess NBN Co is in now. As I’ve noted previously, Turnbull subsequently failed to fix the NBN when he was prime minister.

7. He said  “Next year NBN will begin trials of the protocol – which holds real potential across Fibre-to-the Node (FTTN) and Fibre-to-the-Curb (FTTC) footprints”. Someone should tell him that in-field applications of in Europe are proving problematic and in fact will not work on FTTN due to the length of the copper wires involved.

8. He said “NBN Co is on track and on budget to complete the rollout next year”. Well IMO the project will not be complete until everyone has access to 21st Century broadband. That won’t be the case until they replace the 30 percent of fixed line connections using FTTN. And as for being on budget, NBN Co’s own financial reports reveal that it is not securing the revenue needed to pay back its $19 billion debt to the Government when it falls due and they have nothing budgeted for the inevitable replacement of FTTN.

9. He said “I suspect if Labor were in Government they would be plotting how to restrict the operations of 5G networks lest they pose a threat to the NBN”. The big threat from 5G mobile is that it will be embarrassingly faster than premises stuck with FTTN. This risks a huge loss of customers for NBN Co at a time when it is not reaching its revenue targets.

As I have commented previously, it’s time for bipartisan agreement on how to fix the NBN. It is a huge drag on our productivity and limits the ability of people to use the Internet for so many positive things.

Laurie Patton was CEO / Executive Director of Internet Australia, the NFP peak body representing the interests of Internet users, from 2014-2017. He is a former journalist and media executive. This article first appeared in The Lucky General ().


Laurie Patton is vice president of TelSoc and a prominent advocate for #BetterBroadband to maximise the benefits to our society from a digitally-enabled world.

He is a former political advisor, journalist and media executive – managing Channel Seven Sydney, regional network Seven Queensland, Pay-TV channel World Movies and community station TVS (Television Sydney).

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7 Responses to LAURIE PATTON. Miscommunication. Paul Fletcher spins his top like turvey

  1. Avatar Richard Ure says:

    In the good old days, the Murdoch media would be uncritically shouting this presentation from the rooftops for days. Does it mean the worm has turned now that it cannot be denied that NBN 2.0 is the love child of Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull and its shortcomings can no longer be ignored?

    Meanwhile for the want of understanding information can be processed anywhere, their colleagues in NSW prioritise $20 billion of public money to duplicate the main western railway lines between Parramatta and the city, a subsidy to those who would develop more office building there. The alternatives are to allow commercial development in suburban centres currently being over-developed with residential accommodation and linking these centres with far cheaper high-capacity broadband at minimal cost to taxpayers.

  2. Avatar Kim Wingerei says:

    Thanks Laurie, the most damning part of this is that Fletcher actually must know that so much of what he was saying was lying. There is no other word for it. He spent a long time in the industry and even though it wasn’t in operational or technical roles, you cannot be working for a telco in an executive role for that amount of time without gaining a basic understanding of how it all hangs together. Fifield and most of predecessors on both side of the party aisle at least had the “excuse” of being ignorant, Paul does not.

  3. Avatar Michael Rogers says:

    “another LNP ignoramus”
    Fletcher is an ‘LP of NSW’ ignoramus. There are no ‘LNP’ ignoramuses in the Federal Parliament as members of the only actual ‘LNP’ in the land, the ‘Liberal National Party of Queensland’ when elected to the Federal Parliament, do not sit as ‘LNP’ MPs but distribute themselves between two separate ‘Liberal’ and ‘National’ parliamentary parties or ‘rooms’ (entities which have no existence outside of the Parliament.)

    The current Federal conservative/reactionary concoction ‘government’ is made up of MPs from 10 separately constituted state and territory-based ‘Country Liberal’, ‘Liberal’, ‘Liberal National of QLD’, and ‘National’ parties. Political groupings which are mainly beholden to local vested interests and have a political heritage of regarding ‘Australia’ as no more than a glorified customs union of six British settler colonies under the the Crown of the U.K.

    How things are named in a nation of considerable political and historical ignorance can be of great significance. Outside of reference to the Queensland Frankenstein-like amalgamation the use of the acronym ‘LNP’ which suggests the existence of some nation-wide coherent and cohesive entity when the is no such thing, should be avoided at every instance.

    • Avatar Jim KABLE says:

      Thanks for your teaching, Michael – but it’s so far been a useful shorthand term for many of us out here in political observer land so I’ll probably continue to use it – rather than the far longer coalition- (ugly/ignoramus/vested interest server/ideologue). And is there really much difference – apart from at election time when each of the joined-at-the-hip entities otherwise try to pitch their tiny shades of difference and claim their patch? I think not.

  4. Avatar Bill Legge says:

    One of the KPIs for a modern minister is to ensure they are well shielded from the actual realities of the lives of ordinary citizens. This is so they can tell astounding lies and then claim they were acting on advice. While most of us have to manage some kind of firewall around our connected devices to protect them from unwanted intrusions, the modern minister surrounds themselves with liar walls to protect themselves from unwanted truths.

    • Avatar Jim KABLE says:

      Reminding me of the exposure of exactly your point – the wall of liars – surrounding the Home Office in Britain/Theresa May/Amber Rudd – David Cameron, indeed – by Amelia GENTLEMAN – Guardian journalist – and coincidentally the sister-in-law of Boris Johnson – no wonder his brother Jo resigned from the Boris Cabinet – in her long series of Windrush articles and now all outlined in her book The Windrush Betrayal. Our politicians are just as ugly – Morrison, Dutton, Cash, Coleman, Frydenberg… on and on – uglies of the most uncivil kind.

  5. Avatar Jim KABLE says:

    Why is this man not being sacked! Yet another LNP ignoramus elevated above his level of incompetence – à la the long understood lines of the Peter Principle.

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