[LINK] NBN Watch: When reality and transparency is the enemy of marketing

David Boxall linkdb at boxall.name
Thu Feb 2 21:05:26 AEDT 2017

First order of business for the next government should be a Royal 
Commission into the Coalition's sabotage of the NBN.

> The evolution of NBN Co from a transparent, publicly funded, 
> engineering-heavy telecommunications utility to PR-heavy, 
> marketing-driven, closed shop was steady and swift. It began almost 
> immediately after the Coalition won the election in 2012, as then 
> communications Minister Turnbull launched his many reviews. As the new 
> policy regime began to drift through the organisation, so did the 
> gloss. NBN Co became “nbn™”, the website changed from a nice mix of 
> technical information and guides to a Telstra or Optus-esque mess of 
> marketing jargon and stock images, complete with a hard demolition of 
> its once open API.
> There are dozens of PR staff on Twitter who attempt to hide or dispute 
> hard truths about the NBN when published by journalists. Almost 
> nothing they don’t carefully announce is available on the record – 
> even information that isn’t politically sensitive and mostly 
> well-known on communications message boards – which allows the company 
> to completely control the narrative. Even getting basic information 
> about your own connection is next to impossible – where once there was 
> a three-year plan that contained locations, dates and the likely 
> technology that was going to be installed, there is now nothing.
> Sure, they’ll give you information on the various parts of the mix, 
> but searching for your residence either brings up a fat lot of 
> nothing, or a rough month and a very general “type” (Fixed Line or 
> Wireless) in regards to your connection. If your build is commencing, 
> there is no one you can call about when someone will be out at your 
> house, or if they will be digging up your lawn, or attaching things to 
> your walls. In my own personal situation, someone came out, lead some 
> fibre to my garage through existing conduit and then left it there – 
> this was three months ago.
> Hiding the type of connection being offered helps NBN hide from 
> accountability. Much of its connection equipment is built, coloured 
> and labelled in the same way, making it difficult for people who 
> aren’t tech savvy to understand what they have once it’s there. If you 
> aren’t aware of what you are getting or what you have until you have 
> it, it is much more difficult to complain or request a different 
> product, or raise complaints with your MP, or NBN itself.
> Then there are speeds. NBN’s recent rebranding of its own speed 
> profiles to the laughingly basic “nbn 25/nbn50/nbn100” is almost 
> condescending in its lack of transparency. What are the upload speeds? 
> Every single other telco once clearly defined what speeds you could 
> expect to get on their networks. NBN’s change has not made it easier, 
> instead, obfuscating the values removes the ability of customers to 
> complain about substandard performance.
> For example – if I purchased a service that claimed to offer 100mbps 
> down and 40mbps up and this was not being provided, I have a clear 
> benchmark to compare against. But if my service is called “NBN 50”, 
> that could mean practically anything. You could be getting 
> 21mbps/1mbps and they could claim that “50” is more of a guiding 
> principle, and that it only relates to downloads. Or that “50” is an 
> aggregate. This also assists NBN retailers to gain valuable cover to 
> skimp on their CVC bandwidth. The site conveniently does not explain 
> the restrictions of each technology, outside of fine print that 
> babbles on about how different factors affect speed.
> This full circle PR nightmare is then completed via spending money on 
> advertising that, almost comically, imagines an Australia where 
> everyone has superfast broadband. The NBN is a now a feeling, rather 
> than a network, a “possibility” of a “brighter future”. It 
> conveniently fails to mention when these businesses, schools and 
> households will have their access, if it will deliver the speeds 
> promised to make much of this minority report nonsense possible and, 
> most importantly, if the network will be able to keep up with further 
> growth and demand for data and speeds. Hell, one of the businesses in 
> the ad isn’t even connected yet.
> All this feeds into the narrative that NBN is a private company, when 
> it is very much not, and is only accountable and accessible to the 
> government, not taxpayers. It’s no surprise that its CEO used to work 
> for Vodafone, because the company now looks, feels and acts like 
> Telstra or Optus. That NBN is playing the Telstra Wholesale card in 
> refusing to deal directly with end users even during the build stages 
> is straight out of that playbook, when they have a right to know when 
> and how equipment being installed on their property will be completed.
> Taxpayers don’t want the NBN to be slick. They don’t want Telstra 
> style ads that carry on about “the magic of technology”. They want a 
> government utility that is open, honest, and communicative. They want 
> to talk to someone about their options and what they should expect. 
> They want an API that allows third parties to track the build and keep 
> their government accountable. They want clear instructions on how to 
> lodge complaints about wholesale service quality, rather than being 
> pushed into their RSP’s support queue. They want clear graphs and 
> figures on network performance, average speeds and heat maps.
> Turtling behind a glossy border wall may very well get NBN to the end 
> of its construction phase deadline in 2020. But it won’t hide it from 
> the likely scrutiny of a future government, as it pours over the 
> hidden failures and exposes them as evidence of a failed 
> administration. It also won’t save it from reality, as more and more 
> Australians are switched over, sooner or later the chickens will come 
> home to roost.

David Boxall                    |  All that is required
                                 |  for evil to prevail is
http://david.boxall.id.au       |  for good men to do nothing.
                                 |     -- Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

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