ABC News investigation reveals the dark side of the NBN rollout
Posted May 30, 2018 05:16:48The NBN is not yet ready to roll out fibre to the node and the rollout is far from complete.
A new ABC investigation shows the dark underbelly of the project, as well as the role the Federal Government played in its demise.
Key points:The NBN rollout was initially seen as a success but has since faced many setbacksIt was supposed to be the best-performing project in Australia, but in the last few months the project has been plagued by a series of technical glitches and major technical failures.
The ABC’s investigation into the rollout has uncovered a dark side that will have an impact on the future of the nation’s most important telecommunications network.
The project has already had a rocky start.
It started off as a massive undertaking in which it hoped to have a fibre-to-the-node network ready to go by 2022.
But the rollout was put on hold in 2017 when the Government was confronted by a severe rollout fault that had already been identified.
“It’s been a really hard, hard slog,” Infrastructure Minister Josh Frydenberg told the ABC.
“But I think we have made some really important progress.”
The project was meant to have the network ready by 2020, but it has since had a series the most significant failures of the entire project.
The biggest of these has been a series from late 2016 that resulted in the loss of the network entirely.
“The rollout has been quite a lot more complicated and difficult than people thought it would be,” Mr Frydenber said.
“You know, we’re very confident that we’re going to have an excellent rollout, which is why we’ve made it our top priority.”
But the project had faced a series, including the worst failure of the year.
The problem had been identified as an “infrastructure problem” and the Government had to make some difficult decisions.
“That’s when the NBN Co had a decision to make: was it going to continue to be on the road to completion, or do we have to take a step back and assess what the risks were of this particular problem?” he said.
That decision, and the NBN’s subsequent failures, has seen the project’s future in doubt.
“I think the Government took that into account when it decided to put in place a series [of changes] which were really designed to reduce risk and complexity in the network,” Mr Turnbull said.
Mr Frydenbert acknowledged that some of the problems in the project were related to the NBNCo’s design and manufacturing, but he said there was also a concern about the overall quality of the product.
“What was really clear is that we didn’t have a very good design,” he said, explaining that there were “a number of defects”.
“The key thing was the quality of manufacturing that was involved, so there’s lots of things we didn, for example, get the copper to work.”
The Government has since come under increasing pressure to make changes.
It has said that the project was the best of the best and was expected to be completed by 2019.
“We are committed to making the NBN the best, the best in the world,” Mr Cook said in July.
“And so that’s why we’re moving to a new, more modern and flexible system that’s a lot better for the Australian taxpayer and our customers.”
But now, it seems, it will not be the same NBN.
The problems have been blamed on poor communication between NBNCo and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which is responsible for running the NBN.
While the NBN has had a number of technical failures, there are no obvious links between the failures and the project.
Mr Fryder said it was the fault of the ACMA, not the NBN, that caused the network problems.
“There’s no way to tell what the fault is at this point, and we’re not sure that we know what it is,” he told the inquiry.
“A lot of it’s been quite technical, but there’s also been some pretty deep issues about the way the NBN was designed.”
Mr Fryder acknowledged that the NBN had suffered some failures before, but this was the worst he had ever seen.
The Government’s decision to move the project to a more modern fibre network was not without criticism.
“They didn’t want to move forward with it, and I think they should have,” Senator Brandis said in May.
“For the first time, the Government is going to be in a position where they’re not going to know the full impact of this and what will happen to it in the future.”
If we were to do it again, I think the NBN would be far more resilient.