According to an article published in the Australian newspaper this morning, the outgoing NBN CEO has taken a swipe at Malcolm Turnbull’s multi-technology mess as the key driver of consumer complaints.

However these latest musings of the departing CEO raise more questions than answers, foremost being the HFC rollout championed by Turnbull himself as game-changing technology – so game-changing that its rollout had to be halted because it didn’t work.

It took until a Senate hearing in April 2018 for the CEO to admit he had presented a secret proposal, directly to Mitch Fifield, to dump the entire HFC network and instead deploy fibre to the curb (FTTC).  

Fifield rejected the proposal out of hand, dismissing the CEO’s proposal as a ‘blue sky dream’.

However, this description is at odds with Senate testimony that the proposal had been costed and taken to the Minister with both the knowledge of the NBN Board and Chief Financial Officer.

Senator O'NEILL:
And the option of wanting to get rid of the HFC network and replacing it with fibre to the curb is a proposal you took with the blessing of the board at the time?

 Mr Morrow: Yes. That is correct.

                [Senate Estimates, 10 April 2018, Page 26]

The fact that NBN is now falling over itself to dump copper and HFC for fibre is a stark illustration that the long-term economics of fibre are superior.

Given the expected resumption of the expensive HFC rollout, Mitch Fifield needs to answer four questions:

  • What did NBN management know about the HFC network two years ago that prompted it to propose dumping the entire network?
  • Why did the Government reject a proposal by NBN to dump HFC and expand Fibre to the Curb to a further 2.7 million premises?
  • Who ultimately rejected the proposal – Mitch Fifield or Malcolm Turnbull?
  • Did the Turnbull Government also reject a proposal to dump large parts of the copper network as well?

In the meantime, as the CEO notes, too many consumers are being left with an unsatisfactory experience with Malcolm Turnbull’s second-rate NBN.  With complaints soaring by 204%, it’s no wonder the multi-technology mess has become emblematic of Turnbull’s track record in getting all the big calls wrong.