Establishment of the Committee
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network (the
committee) was established on 14 September 2016, pursuant to the agreement of
the House of Representatives and the Senate, to inquire into and report on the
rollout of the National Broadband Network.
The committee's establishing resolutions require the committee to report
annually to each House of the Parliament until the National Broadband Network
is declared built and fully operational on:
- rollout progress with
particular regard to the NBN Co Limited Statement of Expectations issued by
Shareholder Ministers on 24 August 2016;
- utilisation of the national
broadband network in connected localities in both metropolitan and regional
areas, and the identification of opportunities to enhance economic and social
- Australia's comparative global
position with regard to residential broadband infrastructure; particularly
relative to other large, developed economies;
- national broadband network
activation rates, user demand, usage patterns and trends, and any identified
impediments to the take-up of national broadband network services;
- any market,
industry, or regulatory characteristics that may impede the efficient and
cost-effective rollout of the national broadband network; and
- any other
matter pertaining to the national broadband network rollout that the committee
Conduct of the inquiry
Details of the inquiry were placed on the committee's website. The
committee also wrote to individuals and organisations, inviting submissions by
31 March 2017. The committee continued to accept submissions until August 2017.
The committee received 191 submissions to its inquiry from a range of
individuals and organisations. A list of the submissions received by the
committee is provided at Appendix 1. Other documents authorised for publication,
including answers to questions taken on notice, are listed at Appendix 2.
The committee held 15 public hearings and took evidence from every state
and territory. In developing its public hearing program, the committee
recognised the importance of taking evidence in regional areas as well as
capital cities. A list of witnesses who appeared at the hearings is at Appendix
The committee also undertook three site visits to inform its inquiry:
nbn Discovery Centre in Sydney, Innovation NQ in Townsville and the Royal
Flying Doctor Service base in Port Augusta. The committee thanks those three
organisations for hosting the site visits.
The committee thanks the individuals and organisations who contributed
to the inquiry. In particular, the committee notes the witnesses who travelled
to give evidence at public hearings and the individuals who provided detailed
submissions about their experiences related to the NBN rollout.
Note on terminology
The company named nbn co limited was established in 2009 to design,
build and operate Australia's new high-speed broadband network. References to
the company name throughout the report will be abbreviated to the lower case nbn.
Quotations and other sources that use variations of the company name will remain
in their original form.
The acronym NBN will be used throughout the report when referring to the
National Broadband Network.
References to Hansard
Some of the references in this report are to Proof Hansard transcripts.
Page numbers may vary between the proof and the official Hansard transcript.
Structure of the report
The report is divided into the following chapters:
Chapter 1 provides some context and background information about
the development and rollout of the NBN;
Chapter 2 provides detail about the current status of the
rollout, including future planning and upgrade pathways;
Chapter 3 provides evidence about the consumer experience when
connecting to and using an NBN service;
Chapter 4 focuses on the experience of consumers using the Sky
Muster satellite service;
Chapter 5 brings together the evidence received about the
customer experience and proposes some actions to enhance the customer experience;
Chapter 6 provides detail about the faults and customer data
currently available and how this could be better collected and analysed;
Chapter 7 discusses the evidence received about the market,
industry and regulatory characteristics of the rollout; and
Chapter 8 provides evidence about the future opportunities of the
NBN, including a discussion about the innovation already achieved on the
Context of the inquiry
nbn was established in 2009 to design, build and operate Australia's new
high-speed broadband network. nbn is wholly owned by the Commonwealth of
Australia as a Government Business Enterprise (GBE) and is accountable to two
Shareholder Ministers: the Minister for Communications and the Minister for
The nbn regulatory framework came into force in April 2011 and was set
up by two Acts: National Broadband Network Companies Act 2011 and Telecommunications
Legislation Amendment (National Broadband Network Measures—Access Arrangements)
In addition to the two establishing Acts, nbn operates in accordance
with a range of other legislation including: Corporations Act 2001,
Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013,
Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and the Telecommunications Act 1997.
The delivery of the NBN to the Australian community in accordance with
the legislative framework requires interaction with a range of stakeholders in
the telecommunications industry. In its submission to the inquiry, the
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) provided the following table
explaining the different roles and responsibilities of government, regulators,
consumer representatives and industry associations.
Table 1.1: Roles and responsibilities in the
|| DISPUTE RESOLUTION
|Federal Minister for Communications
Federal Minister for Regional Communications
Department of Communications and the Arts
- collectively responsible for setting overarching telecommunications
policy and coordinating implementation
- administers the mobile blackspot funding program
- some contribute to mobile black spot funding
- administers the telecommunications licensing and conduct regime
- enforces compliance with TIO scheme membership and Ombudsman
- approves industry codes
- regulates the network and market competition
- administers the Australian Consumer Law, including ensuring fair
|Australian Communications Consumer Action Network
Financial Counselling Australia (FCA)
- peak body for consumer education, advocacy and research
Other Consumer Law Centres
- consumer case work and advice
- contributes to policy debates; hardship and debt focus
CHOICE and Consumers Federation of Australia
- consumer case work and legal advice
- develops industry codes, standards and guidelines
- advocates for industry
Other associations for internet and mobile
- monitors compliance of industry codes
|Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
- facilitates the resolution of residential and small business
- identifies and resolves broader issues
- makes determinations on land access objections
A broad overview of the activities undertaken by these stakeholders is
provided later in this chapter.
Previous parliamentary inquiries
Since the establishment of nbn, there has been a number of parliamentary
committees established to inquire into various aspects of the NBN: a Joint
Standing Committee in the 43rd Parliament and Senate Select
Committees in the 42nd and 44th Parliaments.
Whilst noting the previous parliamentary inquiries, the primary focus of
this report is the evidence gathered throughout the current inquiry.
Activities throughout the inquiry
The committee notes that it is conducting a 'live' inquiry about the
rollout of the NBN. As this report is being tabled, NBN infrastructure is being
constructed and NBN customers are choosing plans from their Retail Service
As such, the committee is aware that new policies and changes to the
rollout schedule have been occurring at the same time that the committee has
been taking evidence about the rollout experience from individuals and
In addition to specific NBN rollout activities and announcements, the committee
notes other reviews currently underway or recently completed related to matters
that fall under the broad scope of the committee's terms of reference
the independent review of the Telecommunications Industry
Ombudsman (TIO) Scheme in accordance with the Telecommunications (Consumer
Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999. The review report is due to the
Ombudsman by 29 August 2017;
the Productivity Commission (PC) review into the Universal
Services Obligation, referred to the PC by the Government in April 2016. This
inquiry analysed what changes may be required to support universal access to a
minimum level of retail telecommunications services. When releasing the PC
report on 19 June 2017, Senator the Hon. Mitch Fifield, Minister for
Communications noted that the Government is considering the PC report and will
undertake targeted consultations to inform the Government's response;
the Review of the Migration Assurance Framework being
undertaken by the Department of Communications and the Arts;
the legislation presented to the House of Representatives on 22
June 2017: Telecommunications (Regional Broadband Scheme) Charge Bill 2017 and
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer) Bill 2017.
The Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee conducted an
inquiry on these bills and tabled its report on 6 September 2017;
the consideration by the Australian Competition and Consumer
Commission (ACCC) of nbn's variation to its Special Access Undertaking (SAU)
which was resubmitted to the ACCC on 27 June 2017. The ACCC published a
consultation paper on 2 August 2017 and invited submissions by
25 August 2017.
Whilst providing some context, this report will primarily refer to these
reviews as they relate to evidence received throughout the inquiry.
Broad overview of the NBN rollout
nbn is a government owned entity which is providing the infrastructure
to enable the Australian community to connect to the NBN. nbn is party to an
Equity Funding Agreement with the Commonwealth, which formalises the intention
of the Commonwealth to provide equity funding to nbn.
This Agreement imposes a cap on the maximum amount of equity funding
that will be provided by the Government of $29.5 billion. On 18 November 2016,
the Government announced that nbn would be provided a loan of $19.5 billion on
commercial terms to fund the remainder of the rollout.
As a wholesale operator, nbn sells capacity on the network to RSPs who
then enter into contracts with consumers (individuals and businesses) to
provide broadband internet and phone services.
nbn is deploying a range of technologies to deliver the NBN to premises
across Australia. The technology types are summarised in the table below.
Table 1.2: NBN rollout—network technology
|Fixed line network—93 per cent of premises
||Fibre to the Premises (FTTP)
||FTTP deploys fibre optic cable to the household or business.
|Fibre to the Node (FTTN)
||FTTN deploys fibre into neighbourhoods and then uses existing copper
infrastructure to the premises.
|Fibre to the Basement/distribution point (FTTB/dp)
||FTTB deploys fibre optic cable to the basement of a building,
utilising existing wiring in the building for connections to apartments or
|Fibre to the Curb/Kerb (FTTC)
||FTTC deploys fibre to a footpath telecom pit and then uses existing
copper infrastructure to the premises.
|Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC)
||A HFC connection uses existing 'pay TV' or cable network to deliver
fast broadband. A HFC line will be run from the nearest available fibre node,
to the premises.
|Outside fixed line network
||Fixed wireless transmits data from towers to a rooftop antenna using
||Two Sky Muster satellites deliver broadband to premises outside the
fixed line network.
The decision to deliver the NBN through a multi-technology mix was a
policy shift that occurred with the election of the Coalition government in
2013. Prior to that, nbn was rolling out a fixed line network using
The shift away from FTTP was informed first by the Strategic Review
(December 2013), and then by the subsequent Vertigan review (October 2014),
which argued there was some prospect that an FTTP network would be surplus to
Australia's broadband needs and would, therefore, represent a waste of capital
Under the Migration Assurance Framework, once an area is
designated as Ready For Service (RFS), customers have 18 months to migrate to
the NBN before the existing copper network is switched off. Fixed line
broadband services will replace existing landlines. A separate landline service
will continue to be available on the copper network for NBN consumers on fixed
wireless and satellite services.
As the wholesaler, nbn has a number of responsibilities including to
build and operate the network, ensure open access to the network through
non-discriminatory treatment of retailers, regulate wholesale access prices,
and provide public information about migration responsibilities.
RSPs are the first point of contact for individual and business
customers. RSPs are responsible for setting retail prices and selling services
to the public, as well as providing equipment such as modems.
The delivery of the NBN rollout requires a major transformational change
in the telecommunications industry. In order to facilitate this transformation
and enable a competitive market, a range of regulatory and oversight mechanisms
have been established. An overview of these activities is provided in the next
Department of Communications and
The Department of Communications and the Arts (the Department) advises
the Government about ensuring that all Australians have access to high quality,
reliable and affordable internet services. The Department has a key oversight
role to monitor the activities of the NBN rollout.
As one of the shareholder departments (as well as the Department of
Finance), the Department provides government with an independent assessment and
advises government on nbn's Corporate Plan.
Competition and Consumer Commission
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has a number
of regulation responsibilities in accordance with the Competition and
Consumer Act 2010, including determining the terms and conditions of access
to services provided over the NBN, and publishing and maintaining explanatory
material about the non-discrimination obligations that apply to nbn. 
The nbn Special Access Undertaking (the SAU) is a key part of the
regulatory framework that governs the prices that nbn, as a wholesale open
access telecommunications network, can charge for the services it supplies to RSPs,
as well as other terms.
The SAU is considered and approved by the ACCC. The current SAU was
accepted by the ACCC in December 2013 following an assessment and consultation
The SAU works in conjunction with the Wholesale Broadband Agreement
(WBA). The SAU will shape price and non-price terms until 2040, while the WBA
is a commercial contract between nbn and its customers, and currently has a
standard term of 2 years.
The ACCC issues industry guidance to assist RSPs to comply with their
legal obligations under Australian Consumer Law. Building on the industry
guidance for RSPs it issued in 2007 and 2011, in February 2017 the ACCC
published the Broadband Speed Claims—consultation outcomes report
summarising the outcomes of its 2016 consultation about advertising of retail
fixed-line broadband speeds.
The Broadband Speed Claims report included principles to guide RSPs in
informing consumers of the speeds that they typically deliver on their
- Consumers should be provided with
accurate information about typical busy period speeds that the average consumer
on a broadband plan can expect to receive.
- Wholesale network speeds or
theoretical speeds taken from technical specifications should not be advertised
without reference to typical busy period speeds.
- Information about the performance
of promoted applications should be accurate and sufficiently prominent.
- Factors known to affect service
performance should be disclosed to consumers.
- Performance information should be
presented in a manner that is easily comparable by consumers, for example by
adopting standard descriptive terms that can be readily understood and
- RSPs should have systems in place
to diagnose and resolve broadband speed issues.
On 21 August 2017, the ACCC released detailed industry guidance on
implementing its six principles concerning the marketing of broadband speeds.
Further detail is provided in Chapter 5 of the report.
On 23 March 2017, the committee wrote to the Minister for Communications
asking whether the Government was intending to support and resource the
Broadband Performance Monitoring and Reporting Program (BPMR) proposed by the
On 24 March 2017, the ACCC appeared before the committee at a public
hearing in Canberra and gave evidence about the successful 2015 trial of a
broadband speed monitoring program which had since been proposed as the BPMR to
On 7 April 2017 the Minister for Communications, Senator the Hon. Mitch
Fifield, announced that the ACCC would be implementing the BPMR program.
Evidence received about the regulatory responsibilities of the ACCC will
be discussed in further detail in Chapters 5 and 7 of the report.
Australian Communications and Media
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is an independent
statutory authority tasked with ensuring most elements of Australia's media and
communications legislation, related regulations, and numerous derived standards
and codes of practice operate effectively and efficiently, and in the public
With respect to its telecommunications role, the ACMA administers and
enforces rules for all businesses in the telecommunications industry. These
rules may be technical in nature and relate to operational activities (such as
building infrastructure) or consumer focused with respect to the relationship
between consumers and RSPs.
The ACMA described their activities in relation to the NBN:
To date, the ACMA has supported the NBN rollout by planning
and allocating spectrum and licenses for satellite and fixed wireless services,
through making or registering various code based rules that apply to
participants in the industry, by providing information on the NBN via our
website, by focusing our Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code
compliance work on issues that we see have a real NBN relevance and also by
Furthermore, on 1 August 2017, the ACMA advised its intention to
commission research to examine the current consumer experience before, during
and after migration to the NBN.
This research will update and build on research published in 2016 titled
Migrating to the NBN—The experience of Australian consumers, but will be
the first survey of customer experience of the multi-technology mix. The
2016 research focused exclusively on FTTP connections, and found that
three-quarters of residents connected to the NBN within three months of a
service being becoming available and eight in 10 businesses connected within
six months. The 2016 report also found that consumers would have a more
positive service experience if further information was made available about:
(a) how to get connected, (b) when the NBN is available in an area, and (c) the
effect of connecting on landline and other services.
Additionally, the ACMA will also collect information from businesses across
the NBN supply chain. Twenty one industry participants including retailers,
wholesale providers and nbn will receive notices seeking a range of data on
issues such as fault handling, connection timeframes, appointment keeping,
telephone number porting, and more.
The Communications Alliance is the telecommunications industry association
and has both an advocacy and co-regulatory role. The Communications Alliance
engages with industry and nbn on a range of matters and coordinates nine
working parties and committees to develop industry codes, guidelines and
standards, 'with an overall objective to assist in facilitation the effective
rollout of the NBN'.
In consultation with the Department, the ACCC, ACMA and the TIO, the
Communications Alliance has developed an online broadband education package to
assist the community to make more informed choices when choosing broadband
Consumer Action Network
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is the peak
communications consumer organisation representing individuals, small businesses
and not-for-profit groups as consumers of communications products and services.
ACCAN receives funding from the Commonwealth Government under section 593 of
the Telecommunications Act 1997. This funding is recovered from charges
to telecommunications carriers.
In addition to ACCAN, the committee notes there are a number of
organisations representing and advocating for consumers with respect to the
NBN. Evidence about the consumer experience will be discussed in Chapter 3.
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
The TIO is an independent dispute resolution service for the
telecommunications industry. The TIO does not regulate or monitor the
performance of the NBN rollout.
In its submission, the TIO explained its activities in relation to complaints
about services delivered over the NBN:
In the context of services delivered over the NBN, the TIO
records and resolves complaints between consumers and their retail service providers,
based on the consumer's contract for the provision of services. The TIO also resolves
complaints against NBN Co Ltd (nbn) for certain issues such as entry onto land
and property damage.
As well as resolving individual complaints, an additional function of
the TIO is to undertake investigations of systemic issues it identifies with a
particular provider or providers.
The investigation and resolution of complaints received by the TIO with
respect to NBN services will be explored in more detail in later chapters of
Statement of Expectations
In addition to the legislation outlined above, nbn must also have regard
to the Statement of Expectations issued by Shareholder Ministers. The Statement
of Expectations provides guidance to nbn 'to help ensure its strategic
direction aligns with the government's objectives for the delivery of the
The Statement of Expectations is updated as required to reflect any ongoing
decisions made by the Government. The current Statement of Expectations was
issued on 24 August 2016 with previous statements issued on 8 April
2014, 24 September 2013 and 20 December 2010.
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page