School Said To Face '$200,000 NBN Bill' Will In Fact Get It For Free

It was a relatively quiet week on the NBN front, save for one story that caught my attention. A story ran in The Australian early this week, stating boldly that a school in South Australia was facing a bill of $200,000 to secure an NBN connection. It was a heck of a headline -- but as it turns out, it wasn't the case at all.

The Australian is noted as a paper that's largely anti-NBN -- in its worldview, it might say it was "highly critical of", I guess it's a horses-for-courses type thing -- so spotting an NBN bashing story didn't surprise me. The headline really says everything about the paper's position: School faces $200,000 bill to join NBN

What did surprise me was that on reading through it, the key information was buried right under a lot of indignation about a school having to pay for an NBN interconnect. It sounds reasonable on the surface, but further down in the story was the following paragraph (emphasis added for effect):

". . . an [NBN] spokeswoman conceded that Tatachilla Lutheran College would only be able to gain access the NBN at no cost if it sat within the fibre footprint. Mr Minke said an NBN Co official had yesterday told him options were being considered to connect the school, including co-funding or a free connection."

This was buried, mind you, ten paragraphs down, underneath all the bluster about how terrible it was. Nevermind that it essentially negates the headline, which may as well read "School to get either free or co-funded connection", because that's not quite sensational enough.

In any case, I was curious about this whole affair, given that one of the core planks that the NBN resides on is that it's a national broadband network, so I put some calls through to NBN Co to get the full picture. After checking the scheduling maps (some of which aren't publicly available yet, although many are due to be released as part of the next three year plan due by the end of the month), the school in question is directly within the fibre footprint.

It will be connected, and there will be no charge. End of story -- even if it is substantially less sensationalistic. Image: Tatachilla Lutheran College



    Alex I think you just wrote your best piece yet. Nice work.

    And what do you expect from the chief wire tapper himself, Murdoch and his stable of newspapers.

    I think the Printed Media and even TV/Broadcast media is now extremely opinionated and biased.

    I think unless they have 100% proof that is provided about something that there should some sort of fine put in place as plainly they are not doing there jobs as journalists which is to get truth and nothing else. If they can't sell the truth then get out of media.

    Murdoch & co continue their disinformation and nasty propaganda.

      The Australian has written slanderous stories a few times about my company in the past. I don't trust it as far as I can throw it (the printing press that is).

    Actually as much as I dislike Gilliard she is right. A select few rich people are using tools such as news papers and court cases to set their own agenda.
    News corporation works very hard at publishing rubbish to get what it wants, the Telegraph is a classic example, they publis (just like the school story) absolute fabrications with the biggest most dramatic headline they can to swing public opinion.
    Take the current case with Rhinhart, do we really care about what is going on with them and the trust, the only people who do are those who write the headlines. I love it when they say everyone wants to know and is talking about it when it's only them.

      Ahh, but you're talking about it right now... Considering you said the only people who do are those who write the headlines, I must ask; who do you work for?!

    Christ, i live near the Tatachilla Lutheran College, and that is one school that would easily be able to afford the $200,000 connection fee, its not by any stretch of the imagination a poor, underfunded school.

    Sounds like something that should be on Media Watch on the ABC

    Wouldnt stop them craig. About 95% (probably higher) of articles about the nbn in the murdoch press are exactly the same as this article. Headline is a lie and the truth is hidden around the 10th paragraph. or its prefaced with "The author of the article is not suggesting that anything illegal or dubious has happened regardless of what the rest of the article says".

    It's really sad when fucking Gizmodo of all places has higher journalistic standards than our biggest national newspaper.

      I would agree if this were a Gizmodo US article but I find the AU crew to be good value and don't deserve a bash.

        I agree, and I definitely didn't intend to bash the AU staff. It was really meant to be a dig at how terrible our newspapers are (with a slight dig at Gizmodo's terrible reputation, which yes, is mainly earned by their US counterpart).

      its not such a big selling newspaper, ask your newsagent. Its just that its 'national'. And its published to please Rupert's mum though it runs at a loss.

    Can't we have some kind of watchdog for 'broadcasters' that imposes hefty fines if something like this occurs?

      This has just been proposed, but of course the papers and news media cried foul and have used scare tactics to frighten everyone off the idea. Take a look at the excellent report by Mr Ray Finkelstein QC

    Alex. I work at a school that currently has no fibre connection, only ADSL. We are in the fibre footprint (Alice Springs will get the fibre NBN and our school is close to CBD), but where is it written that schools will get a fibre NBN connection either for free or co-funded when it is completed? I do not see any publicly available material addressing this issue or when Alice Springs will get the NBN. Thanks for this great article.

      Hi Dave
      Your premises will get an NBN cable connected for free. Using that cable won't be free.

        Nobody ever promised the NBN cable would be free. It's no more or less free than Telstra's copper wire. Of course you should pay to use it. That's how the government will get back the money spent - from the portion of the ISP bills that currently go to maintaining the old slow copper network. It's user pays, not a government handout or expense.

    Seen on a T-shirt
    "Is it true or did you read it in The Australian?"

    The article says the issue has been in negotiations for 12 months - yet only yesterday (when the story is about to be run by the paper) does someone from NBN Co say that options are being "considered" to allow a free or co-funded connection.

    Being blindly anti-NBN (as it is alleged the Australian is) is just as blinkered as being blindly pro-NBN, as Giz often is.


      That aside, the fact that the free-or-at-least-co-funded connection (as the Aus knew it at the time) got buried paragraphs under a sensationalist headline doesn't worry you? Or the lack of followup?

        Unless the principal is lying, he has been talking with them for 12 months, and a figure of $200,000 has been estimated. Then the day before the paper is going to run the story (and the Minister has been contacted) an NBN person says that "options" may exist for it to be free or co-funded - that doesn't strike you as odd at all?

          It strikes me as VERY odd. This is how I suspect the scenario really occurred. The school was going to get NBN fibre installed someday for free anyway - the whole of Australia is getting NBN installed whether the recipient likes it or not. The problem is that this school was behaving like a spoilt little brat and cried MUMMY I WANT MY NBN NOOOOOWWWWWW!!! And, because they decided to go to the media and behave like total asses, NBN Co have had to let them skip the queue ahead of the more deserving people.

          Or, more likely, the reporter is selectively filtering the facts ...

          The co-funding option is not odd at all - the NBN has stated this many times months ago.

          This is the same paper that reported a suburb getting fibre was mostly occupied by a cemetery, filling half a page with photos and maps of the cemetery, while omitting that the the suburb also contains a large university, factories, a shopping centre and many thousands of homes.

          Have you bothered to look at the demographic for this school? Look at the demographic and then come back and tell us that $200,000 is a lot of money.

            Even though the school could afford it, it doesn't matter because there's not going to be a bill and there isn't any story. Just the "reporter" taking an old story of how ONE school didn't get fibre LAST year and dressing it up as if it's a continuing issue affecting "schools" and a failure of the Govt and NBNco, which it isn't

        I think NBN Co has been verballed - or at very least selectively quoted or represented.

        For one thing, it's pretty clear on the NBN Co website right now that the school is within the area where fibre is due to be started within one year. That puts them in a very privileged position - one that many other schools would like to be in.

        Given this, there was never any likelihood that the school would have to pay an extra $200,000 - or any other figure that Limited News might pull out of their fundament. The headline is, as Alex Kidman very well points out, not just misleading but downright fallacious.

        But of course, that doesn't mean anything anymore. Truth and falsehood are just a matter of opinion to the Murdoch crowd.

    Shouldn't the headline have been "Rich School can jump NBN queue for $200,000". Because isn't the story that the school was told if their area wasn't being cabled now, they'd have to pay to get it cabled now. It reads to me like NBN said, we have a rollout schedule, but you can pay to get your own fibre and avoid the schedule completely. Pretty much as you can now if you're rich enough to be able to organise a cable somewhere Telstra won't, they will let you pay a ludicrous sum and they will. I know of a now ex chairman of a large Australian mining company who paid Telstra just over $500,000 to get ADSL connected many years ago.

    "It will be connected, and there will be no charge. End of story" sorry mate but Newspapers are in the business of creating headlines whether you like it or not much as this site seems to be. Do have your own source for an equally bold statement that this school won't be charged and guaranteed a connection?

      They can say whatever they want, but doesn't stop us taking a VERY sceptical view to whatever comes out of that publication. This episode further reinforces the lack of trust

      Ken, when the scheduled rollout occurs in their area, they will be connected free of charge. That's the NBN way. If they want to connect to the NBN out of schedule, then they'll have to pay for it, e.g. $200k, because they can't wait like everyone else. Now, because they've pulled some political prank, the NBN co has given them special treatment... that's the real headline.

    Alex exposes the facts/truth and he is criticised? Not the OZ.. ? Im dumbfounded..
    Keep up the good work Alex..

    It says that options were being considered. Doesn't mean those options will eventuate. Look at G9 and OPEL they were options being considered too, one nearly eventuated too, but then they both were rejected. Then there was the tender review process (all options were considered, and then rejected).
    If the article is correct (and I'm not saying it is), and the school IS in fact between fibre rollout areas, then what are the options being considered? Changing the rollout ares? Putting in an extra fibre run just for the school? Will all be revealed when NBNco release their 3 year plan "by the end of march"?

    HR, "NBN Co official had yesterday told him options were being considered to connect the school, including co-funding or a free connection.“ There is no doubt it will be connected.. But the Options are either pay to get it early or wait for free connection..

    Interesting that this is a PRIVATE school, not a PUBLIC school....Im sure there is PUBLIC schools which could do with the funding a LOT more than a PRIVATE school...

    I wonder which "Big Wigs" have their children attending this school???

    Probably anxious to get it connected before the noalition cancel the NBN

    The article misleads by saying the school won't get NBN because it is in a no man's land.
    It is not in a no man's land - it is just outside Willunga's area.

    It is in McLaren's area, which will get fibre later. Even if it weren't in a fibre area, it still wouldn't be true they wouldn't get NBN, they would still get NBN wireless

    The reporter does enough research to know that the fibre near the school is for the Seaford-Aldinga fibre rollout, but somehow avoids finding that the same rollout includes Tatachilla Road and the school, which are right in the middle between Seaford and Aldinga. How could they miss that? Very selective "research"

    They make all sorts of inferences about "schools" in general, despite the fact that this school is a very special case. There will be many schools outside fibre areas, but these will generally be small schools in small towns, not with 1100 students. Schools with that many students will usually be in a fibre area. This is a school located kms away from even a small town, surrounded by paddocks and bush, which buses in students from many kms away at a cost of $600 to $1000 per year, enough to pay for the fibre to Willunga if that had been necessary.

    It would be more politically expedient for NBN Co to connect a private school than it would worth to fight the tonnes of mis and dis-information the school and the anti-NBN people would generate. In any large system I'd expect at least a small percentage of morally bankrupt people to try to take advantage.

    What a complete and utter hatchet job Alex. You honestly think this is good journalism? As it stands the school may still have to pay $200,000. After months of negotiations, there is a chance that the cost will be covered. No guarantee. The core arguement of the article is still 100% correct. Schools like this one may be liable for connection fees if they not close enough to connection areas. There is no guidence or guarantee in the NBN rollout plans that all schools will be covered for free.

      Who's talking about ALL schools? The article is about ONE school, that is within the footprint, which told a newspaper about a mythical (did you not read the second last sentence in the article) 200K fee.

        What a complete misrepresentation of the story Brett.

        $200K to connect to the NBN now, because they're not in a footprint to date. FREE if they wait for their turn like everyone else.

      Or it could wait a year and get a shock horror FREE connection. No story here move along.

      There are not many "Schools like this" at all. Most schools with 1100 students will be in an area with several hundred if not a thousand premises (houses+businesses) within several km - enough to get fibre. Most schools in wireless only areas won't have hundreds of students - maybe not even 100 students.

      THIS SCHOOL (which has fibre) could easily afford a $200,000 investment that will last decades, at only $20 per student per year over the 10 years of attendance this pales into insignificance to the hundreds per year the school already charges for 1 MacBook per student, the annual $30 "multi-purpose facilities" fee for gym, camping fee etc. See the school's website for a full list of extras they already pay for.

        Sorry - I meant THIS SCHOOL (which WILL GET fibre)

    I hate to be the voice of reason amongst the fanboys of Gizmodo, but do we as a country have $43,000,000,000 to spend on faster internet? If I have $1000 in the bank, I don't think to myself, "You now what, I really need a new Ferrari FF, it's only $550,000, and it will make it heaps faster to get to work".

    If you want to survive in the modern world you spend less than you earn, unless your a Labor government, in which case you spend much more than you earn, and hope someone else comes along and fixes the problem later on.

    Sorry to be the voice of reason.

      Hi Steve,
      The only thing you're the voice of is that of a straggling rabble pack who hasn't yet realised that for everyday Australians, the conversation has long moved on from if we should, to how we should, and let's make sure we do it properly. Labor, Liberal or Independent, that's something we can all agree on.

      Steve, even if we DON'T build the NBN, we will STILL be paying that much, as we AREL ALREADY but for SAME SLOW internet. The $43 billion is actually only $36 billion and will last decades. Right now we are paying at least $30 per month per household for slow copper internet. That hundrend per year times several million premises = $billions per year = more than $36 billion for just 10 year JUST TO MAINTAIN THE OLD COPPER. We should be using that money for a network that provide future needs.

      In 2011 Australia's economy was worth US$1811 billion so $43 billion is not much in the scheme of things.

      Also you don't question the value of, say, our sewerage system. Its something we need. Its infrastructure. The NBN is infrastructure.

    One sided selective journalism combatted with the same ... yawn

      That's utter and complete nonsense!
      On one hand you have a headline which is a lie and a story made to push an agenda. On the other you have an article which uncovers this.
      There is no equivalence here.
      It's like saying that the police who arrest a bank robber are guilty of the same crime.

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