What’s Missing From The NBN Conversation?

What’s Missing From The NBN Conversation?
Image: Aussie Broadband

Opinion: I won’t be the only one putting pen to paper after last night’s Four Corners article on the nbn. In fact, it appears many did that already, overnight. Me — well, I went to bed. To those of us who work hands-on in the industry, last night’s article was disappointingly light on detail and disappointingly heavy on politics.

AU Editor’s Note: We’re republishing this comment from Aussie Broadband managing director Phil Britt in the context of Four Corners’ report on the NBN last night. As well as its timeliness, we actually think it has some pretty good advice contained within. — Cam

The nbn has always been a political football. Last night, it took a step into a new outrage stratosphere to become something more like a political cannonball.

Outrage makes great headlines. It builds audiences. It may, eventually, lead to new policy. What it doesn’t do, is provide any sort of practical help right now for the average person on the (fibre to the node/curb/basement/whatever) street.

While the politicians bash this out, and the pundits predict an ever-closer write-down, we are left to try to help people reach practical solutions to get on with their day-to-day lives.

So here’s our (non-outrage, no bullsh*t) list of tips for just getting on with it:

  • Don’t go near any company that offers unlimited plans. Yep, they’re great in New Zealand and one day, we hope they will be great in Australia. But right now, while companies are grabbing for as many customers as they can without putting in enough resources, unlimited equals a high risk of evening congestion.
  • Find a company that manages its back-end network well. Product Review or Whirlpool will give you a good idea of who these are. So will the new ACCC speed monitoring program when it’s released.
  • Don’t’ believe any ISP that implies you have no choice about rolling over with them when the nbn comes around.
  • Go for a no-contract plan – yes, there are plenty out there – and start at a lower speed. When your nbn is connected, your internet service provider CAN test and tell you how much speed your line is physically capable of. Then you can make an informed decision about how high you want to go.
  • Home Wi-Fi interference is a thing. Dodgy internal cabling is a thing. Water in pits is a thing. All these things – and a fair few more – can make a difference between the speed your line is capable of, and the speed you’re getting. Be prepared to do some work with your ISP’s technical support people to resolve some of these. Be prepared for a lengthy wait if the problem lies on the nbn side of the network, and your ISP has to battle it out with them for a resolution.
  • You get what you pay for. Cheap plans are cheap for a reason.

So back to our original question: what’s missing from the nbn discussion? We accept that political angles are always going to be a part of the nbn discussion. Politics happens. But perhaps, whilst the political melee continues, there’s room for another kind of nbn discussion – and that’s the one about how to help people right now.

That’s the one that we’re interested in.

Philip Britt is the managing director of Aussie Broadband. This opinion piece has been lightly edited for tone and clarity.