It was a huge week for the NBN, with promises, back room deals, a cut back business plan and a delay set to cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. But at least the Senate have approved the structural separation of Telstra legislation today.
The week started off on a doubtful note for the Labor government, with independent MPs agreeing with the Coalition that the government needed to give them access to the NBN Business plan if they were expected to vote in favour of the Telstra separation bill. And that all makes sense – the notion of “just trusting” the government is doing the right thing is absurd… They are politicians, after all.
Although being outvoted, the government narrowly escaped having to cough up the business plan… until Independent Senator Nick Xenephon decided to not play ball. He wanted to see it or he’d block the vote in the senate, and thanks to him holding the balance of power, Labor had to agree. They released a 36-page version of the 400+ page business plan, which didn’t actually offer too much in the way of useful information, but was enough to get Xenephon and Steve Fielding on side.
Of course, it was a huge struggle to get to that point thanks to some unbelievable stupidity in the Labor government. They originally offered the Greens and Independent Senators a briefing on the NBN business plan with a seven year NDA, which became three years before dropping down to two weeks. Whoever came up with that idea should be taken out back and flogged.
The middle of the week came with the revelation that Shadow Comms minister Malcolm Turnbull actually stands to make a fair amount of money from the NBN thanks to his $10 million investment in Melbourne IT, a company that stands to make a lot of money from the NBN rollout. Needless to say, Turnbull defended himself, even going so far as claiming he should be applauded for “putting [his]public duty ahead of his own financial interest”. You keep telling yourself that, Malcolm. Of course, this discovery led to a farcical session in parliament with Labor trying to get Turnbull to “put his mouth where his money is”. Sigh.
With the release of the NBN business plan, pretty much the only figure on the paper was that the NBN was set to come in $7 billion cheaper than previously thought thanks to the Telstra agreement. Although the overall cost to taxpayers is just over $27 billion, all of which will be repaid to the government by 2034.
Also revealed though was the fact that the cheapest plans through the NBN aren’t going to get cheaper over time, a move that upset some smaller ISPs, although Conroy claimed that they would when you factored in the rising cost of inflation.
In other NBN news, Victoria has decided to only offer opt-out of NBN signup like Tasmania, and NSW has decided to appoint a negotiator for NBN access. And to highlight one of the biggest issues of the NBN, the St Peter Chanel Catholic School that was signed up to the NBN in the election campaign has discovered that the lightning fast speeds have dropped off since the launch, apparently caused by the quality of the cable connecting Tassie to the mainland. So it looks like we’ve still got a way to go before we all get Gbps speeds…