House of Representatives Committees

| Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network

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Preliminary Pages

Chair’s Foreword

This month’s announcements by Australia’s two largest media outlets, Fairfax Media and News Limited, on the rapid ascent of their digital platforms, are important examples of how important the new wholesale broadband platform will be for Australia.  This week’s announcement by the National Library of Australia of its embrace of a greater digital platform is the latest example.

The National Broadband Network (NBN), over the coming decade, will deeply impact each and every one of us, either through the way we receive our news and information, the way we do business and communicate with clients and customers, or the way we manage our health and education.

Building anything other than the best wholesale platform is not acceptable.  The speed and capacity of a ‘gold standard’ platform offers significant and obvious quantitative and qualitative benefits for consumers when compared to a ‘copper-standard’ platform.  With an end sale also written into legislation, this asset is ultimately being built to be sold – so the better the build, the better the return to taxpayers.

The Joint Committee on the NBN assesses a range of issues in this Third Report that are relevant to this pursuit of the best possible build. Included in this report is consideration of an eight month delay, workforce issues, and performance compared to the soon to be updated NBN Co Corporate Plan.

So despite several performance issues being identified, the focus remains on the quality of the broadband asset we will construct, initially own, and from which we will derive significant economic benefit.  We seek high quality, and therefore high consumer benefit, from our broadband assets – assets that are becoming as fundamental to our lives as housing or transport.

This Third Report raises a range of issues that I urge the Government and NBN Co to respond to in detail and in depth.

I thank all Committee Members for their commitment to this process in what is a hotly contested area of policy.

I particularly thank the Secretariat for their on-going work – they deserve credit for producing a quality Third Report.

Robert Oakeshott MP

Chair


Committee Membership

Chair

Mr Robert Oakeshott MP

 

Deputy Chair

Mr Rob Mitchell MP (from 14.3.2012) Mrs Yvette D’Ath MP (until 14.3.2012)

 

Members

Mr Paul Fletcher MP

Senator Simon Birmingham

 

Mr Luke Hartsuyker MP

Senator Carol Brown (until 21.6.2012)

 

Mr Ed Husic MP

Senator Doug Cameron

 

Hon Sussan Ley MP

Senator Mary Jo Fisher

 

Ms Amanda Rishworth MP (from     21.11. 2011)

Senator Alex Gallacher (from 16.3.2012)

Senator Scott Ludlam

 

Ms Michelle Rowland MP (until 21.11.2011)

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald

 

Mr Mike Symon MP

Senator the Hon Ursula Stephens (until 16.3.2012)

 

Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

Senator the Hon Lin Thorp (from 21.6.2012)

Participating Members

 

Senator the Hon Eric Abetz

Senator the Hon David Johnston

 

Senator Judith Adams (until 31.3.2012)

Senator Barnaby Joyce

 

Senator Chris Back

Senator Helen Kroger

 

Senator Cory Bernardi

Senator Gavin Marshall (from 24.3.2011)

 

Senator Catryna Bilyk (from 24.3.2011)

Senator the Hon Brett Mason

 

Senator Mark Bishop (from 24.3.2011)

Senator Anne McEwan (from 24.3.2011)

 

Senator the Hon Ronald Boswell

Senator Claire Moore (from 24.3.2011)

 

Senator Sue Boyce

Senator Fiona Nash

 

Senator the Hon George Brandis SC

Mr Paul Neville MP (from 10.5.2011)

 

Senator Carol Brown (from 21.6.2012)

Senator Stephen Parry

 

Senator David Bushby

Senator Marise Payne

 

Senator Michaelia Cash

Senator Helen Polley (from 24.3.2011)

 

Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck

Senator Louise Pratt (from 24.3.2011)

 

Senator Mathias Cormann

Senator the Hon Michael Ronaldson

 

Senator Trish Crossin (from 24.3.2011)

Senator Scott Ryan

 

Mrs Yvette D’Ath MP (from 19.3.2012)

Hon Bruce Scott MP (from 26.5.2011)

 

Senator Alan Eggleston

Senator John Williams

 

Senator the Hon John Faulkner (from 24.3.2011)

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

Senator Mitch Fifield

Senator Mark Furner (from 24.3.2011)

Senator Nick Xenophon

 

Senator the Hon Bill Heffernan

 

 

Senator Gary Humphries

 

 

Committee Secretariat

Committee Secretary

Mr Peter Stephens

Inquiry Secretaries

Ms Stephanie Mikac

Dr Kate Sullivan

Research Officer

Ms Lauren Wilson

Administrative Assistant

Miss Kane Moir

 


Terms of Reference

The resolution of appointment establishing the Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network was passed by the House of Representatives on 1 March 2011 and by the Senate on 3 March 2011 and provides:

(1)               That a Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network be appointed to inquire into and report on the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN);

(2)               That every six months, commencing 31 August 2011, until the NBN is complete and operational, the committee provide progress reports to both Houses of Parliament and to shareholder Ministers on:

(a)                The rollout of the NBN, including in relation to the Government’s objective for NBN Co Limited (NBN Co) to:

                                             (i)                    connect 93 per cent of Australian homes, schools and businesses with fibre-to-the premises technology providing broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, with a minimum fibre coverage obligation of 90 per cent of Australian premises; and

                                            (ii)                    service all remaining premises by a combination of next-generation fixed wireless and satellite technologies providing peak speeds of at least 12 megabits per second;

(b)                The achievement of take-up targets (including premises passed and covered and services activated) as set out in NBN Co’s Corporate Plan released on 20 December 2010 as revised from time to time;

(c)                Network rollout performance including service levels and faults;

(d)                The effectiveness of NBN Co in meeting its obligations as set out in its Stakeholder Charter;

(e)                NBN Co’s strategy for engaging with consumers and handling complaints;

(f)                 NBN Co’s risk management processes; and

(g)                Any other matter pertaining to the NBN rollout that the committee considers relevant.


List of Abbreviations

ACCAN

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network

ACCC

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

ADSL

Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line

AEW

Automatically Eligible Workgroup

AIG

Australian Industry Group

AIP

Australian Industry Participation Plan

ARA

Australian Retailers Association

BOT

Build-Operate-Transfer

CEO

Chief Executive Officer

CP

Conditions Precedent

CSG

Customer Service Guarantee

Cth

Commonwealth

DBCDE

Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

DEP

Digital Enterprise Program

DLG

Digital Local Government

DSL

Digital Subscriber Line

FAN

Fibre Access Node

FY

Financial Year

GB

Gigabyte

GBE

Government Business Enterprise

GHz

Gigahertz

GPON

Gigabit capable Passive Optical Network

HFC

Hybrid Fibre Coaxial

IID

Implementation and Interpretation Deed

ISS

Interim Satellite Service

IT

Information Technology

ITU

International Telecommunications Union

JCNBN

Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network

KPI

Key Performance Indicator

LTSS

Long Term Satellite Service

Mbps

Megabits per second

NBN

National Broadband Network

NBN Co

NBN Co Limited

NSW

New South Wales

NT

Northern Territory

PEA

Public Education Activity

PoI

Point of Interconnect

PON

Passive Optical Network

RDANI

Regional Development Australia Northern Inland

RF

Radio Frequency

RFD

Retraining Funding Deed

RFT

Request for Tender

RoA

Resolution of Appointment

RTO

Registered Training Organisation

RSP

Retail Service Provider

SAS

Satellite Access Service

SA

South Australia

SAU

Special Access Undertaking

SME

Small and Medium-sized Enterprise

SSU

Structural Separation Undertaking

VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol

VSAT

Very Small Aperture Terminal

WA

Western Australia

WAS

Wireless Access Service

WBA

Wholesale Broadband Agreement

WuW

Work Under Way

 

Recommendations

2     Performance Reporting

Recommendation 1

The committee recommends that the NBN Co and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy review the efficiency of their current clearance processes for providing answers to questions on notice so that:

  • Responses to the majority of questions placed on notice by the Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network can be received by the due date;

  • Its answers to parliamentary committees are consistent, thorough and complete, so that ambiguities are minimised in public debate.

    Recommendation 2

    The committee recommends the Government include key performance information in its six-monthly National Broadband Network performance report, listing and detailing: (1) established Business Plan targets and (2) actual results for:

  • Homes passed;

  • Homes connected; and

  • Services in operation.

    Recommendation 3

    The committee recommends that the NBN Co as soon as possible, provide further key information on its website in a user-friendly format, and also include this information in the six monthly Shareholder Ministers’ Performance Report. This information should include:

  • The date of the commencement of work in individual service areas;

  • The progress of the rollout in each service area (expressed as a percentage);

  • The exact date of completion of the National Broadband Network rollout in each service area;

  • Information about how to connect to the network; and

  • A list of retail service providers active in each service area.

    Recommendation 4

    The committee recommends that the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, in the development of future public education activities, undertake a study of similar international networks, with a view to adoption of:

  • International best practice;

  • Strategies employed by governments and companies building these networks; and

  • Concrete examples of how this technology is being used and maximised by individuals, business and governments.

    3     Regulatory and Pricing Issues

    Recommendation 5

    The committee recommends that NBN Co include the consumer protection components of the Customer Service Guarantee in its Wholesale Broadband Agreement.

    Recommendation 6

    The committee recommends the Government more effectively deliver its Digital Enterprise Program to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with the aim of improving SME access to online resources and enabling interested SMEs to achieve an online presence.

    4     Contracting

    Recommendation 7

    The committee recommends the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy review its internal processes where the public interest test is used to assess whether material is commercial-in-confidence, and provide details of this review to the committee.

    Recommendation 8

    The committee recommends that, as a matter of urgency, for all future contracts the NBN Co update, and regularly maintain, its tender registry to include the following basic information:

  • A list of works included in the original request for tenders;

  • The dates at which the tender opened, closed and was awarded;

  • The name of the awarded company or companies;

  • The length of time the services or goods are expected to be completed;

  • The value of the contract, or where commercial sensitivities prohibit disclosure, the aggregate value of the contracts;

  • The details of any extensions and variations to contracts as well as the value of an extended contract;

  • The value and percentage of local content in the awarded contract; and

  • Any other relevant accompanying information.

    5     Services in Regional and Remote Australia

    Recommendation 9

    The committee recommends that the NBN Co revise its terminology and language to clarify community understanding of what the three National Broadband Network services can and cannot support, to enable the community to prepare for the network’s services appropriately and become fully informed.

    Recommendation 10

    The committee recommends that the NBN Co include in its web-based interactive rollout map specific information on the provision of voice services for communities in fixed wireless and satellite access areas.

    Recommendation 11

    The committee recommends that the NBN Co finalise its policy for the provision of costing extensions to its planned National Broadband Network fibre footprint:

  • And publicise the policy and its process for communities in the fixed wireless and satellite service areas; and

  • At the point of announcing new areas within these footprints, ensure that the policy is attached to media releases and known to the relevant local government associations.

    6     Private Equity Funding and Telstra Workforce Issues

    Recommendation 12

    While noting possible revisions in this area in NBN Co’s next corporate plan, the committee recommends that NBN Co progress its consideration of debt financing arrangements as a priority.

    Recommendation 13

    The committee recommends that the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy publicly disseminate a reporting document on annual progress under the Telstra Retraining Funding Deed.

    Recommendation 14

    The committee recommends that NBN Co publicly communicate major areas of emerging training need and workforce demand with regard to the rollout of the National Broadband Network, to assist with future Australian workforce planning in this sector.

    Recommendation 15

    The committee recommends that the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy publish, on an annual basis, a detailed statement outlining the direct and indirect employment benefits of the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout, including in terms of local/regional employment and major areas of emerging NBN workforce demand.

     

     

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