There are two issues that I’d like to provide a quick update on today — the nbn, and the Assistance and Access Bill (2018). As you’re aware, ITPA has spoken strongly on the nbn in the past. We absolutely support the notion that a national broadband network built to deliver access for the nation is a positive concept. It not only allows us to compete on an international stage, but also to deliver critical services and capabilities domestically in an equitable fashion between city and country areas that never would have occurred had the job been left to the private sector. Indeed, some of the arguments against the nbn have been that no private sector company would build such a network due to the risk and lengthy ROI projections attached to it — which is precisely why it needed to be done as a government-driven ‘nation-building’ project.
That isn’t to say that the execution has been ideal, under either ALP or LNP government leadership.
Allowing the ACCC to drive some of the decisions (like the number of POIs) certainly causes issues, as does the continued reliance on a CVC pricing model (which is unlike anything else on the planet, and not in a good way) to drive profitability in preparation for sale. The change to the MTM (multi-technology mix, though some like to call it the multi-technology mess) model introduced serious complexities to the project in the interest of saving money (money that’s largely been burned in dealing with those complexities). The sale-hold on HFC connections not only slowed down nbn delivery for hundreds of thousands of premises, it led to ongoing issues for those in HFC-serviced areas — as late as December 2018, 58% of premises slated for HFC were still “unserviceable”.
Even aside from technology issues, many people are reporting that nbn technicians are simply failing to show up for appointments on a regular basis, delaying delivery of service, whilst at the same time, traditional services (ADSL, basic telephone services) delivered on the old copper lines are being switched off ahead of schedule, leaving people without basic telephone or internet connection services, sometimes for months at a time.
So, how did a good idea go so wrong in execution? Mike Quigley (the first CEO of NBN Co), recently wrote an article for The Monthly that goes into a lot of detail — and certainly aligns with what many of us outside of the bubble of government and NBN Co itself have thought for a long time. You can read his article here. What’s possibly more interesting than the contents of the article itself is the timing (a federal election will be called shortly).
ITPA will be doing everything it can to ensure that fixing the problems with the nbn will be a matter that both parties take very seriously going into the election… and that they follow through on the promises they make. If you have particular concerns about the nbn that you’d like to see us raise, please let us know!
Turning to the Assistance and Access Bill (2018). When it was first proposed by (then) Prime Minister Turnbull and Senator George Brandis that the government might try to bypass encryption (I’m sure we all remember the “The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia” comment from Turnbull), warnings were given to government that not only was what they were proposing technically infeasible (if not actually impossible), but that if they did pass laws requiring this, doing so would have serious impacts on the ability of Australian businesses to offer their services on a global market.
Of course, as we all know, the bill became law, with commentary from several supporting agencies that it would have no impact on Australian businesses at all. Fastmail, an Australian company that offers “secure, reliable email hosting” tried to put on a brave face and blogged about the bill. But it turns out that the agencies supporting the bill were wrong, and Fastmail is seeing existing customers leave, prospective customers turn to their competitors, and even receiving requests for the company to relocate to somewhere not subject to the bill — you can read a PDF of its submission to the PJCIS (dated 21 February 2019) here. We’re sure that Fastmail is only one of many Australian businesses to be affected by these laws.
We will continue to work, along with other industry associations, to either have this law repealed, or at least have the negative impacts of this law on law-abiding people and organisations reduced to a more acceptable level.
You can look forward to more public comment from ITPA on these matters and others in the coming months. To support our efforts in these areas, please consider becoming a financial member — it’s less than the cost of a cup of take-away coffee a week, and is generally tax deductible for Australian IT Professionals (do check with your tax accountant on this, of course!).