• NBN attracts equal amount hysteria and panic
  • Most feedback is positive
  • Follows the passing of two new NBN related bills

Poking fun at some of the media coverage regarding the National Broadband Network (NBN), NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley has reeled off some of his favourite headlines emerging in the media so far relating to the contentious scheme, including:

“Internet piracy could be fuelled by NBN”
“Telcos fear NBN will crush them” 
 “AFP raises cyber-crime fears over NBN”
 “SBS warns of digital ‘ghettos’ as a result of NBN”
 “Australia?s NBN Co is the Trojan Horse for Internet Censorship”

Quigley also added his own headline, reading “NBN Co harbours Aliens,” joking that it “wouldn’t sound out of place in the list of “actual hysterical headlines.”

In his address to the Melbourne Press Club, Quigley looks over the rollout of the NBN up to now, covering aspects such as price, progress, politics, myths, funding and disruptions.

Quigley notes that the project didn’t receive significant media coverage till it became a focus in the election last year, and admits up to now NBN Co has remained relatively quiet, particularly in the recent deal with Telstra.

“It’s something we’ve been reticent about doing until now because our focus has necessarily been on writing our Corporate Plan, building our test sites and seeking to conclude the deal with Telstra,” he said.

“But assuming the Telstra deal does go through – and I hope that it does – we will have an obligation to explain the change the NBN will bring about. In fact we will have no choice. We are required to fund a public information and education campaign that explains the implications of the migration from copper to fibre to householders and businesses.”

The NBN Co CEO maintains that the company have made considerable progress in the last 18 months, noting that the three test sites in Tasmania have been launched, along with the near completion of the five mainland First Release Sites.

“If you were to ask me what we’ve been doing in NBN Co for the past 18 months I’d say: building a telco and getting ready to pass 6,000 premises a day at the peak of construction and maintaining that rate for a number of years.”

Network tests at the First Release Sites are expected to begin at the end of April, which will be conducted with the retail service providers.

“We will start these trials with a handful of individuals, increasing to several hundred test customers,” he said.”

The selected First Release Sites are Brunswick in Melbourne, Townsville, Minnamurra and Kiama Downs, an area of west Armidale and the rural town of Willunga. NBN Co announced the selected second release sites in July last year, which include South Morang in Melbourne and the inner north of Brisbane.

In his address, Quigley defends the need for fibre, and argues the debate on fibre vs. wireless is futile because the two services are complimentary.

“Wireless gives you mobility but fibre provides the bandwidth for applications that you cannot easily handle on mobile – such as video. When I talk to the biggest telecommunications companies in the world – British Telecom, France Telecom, Deutsche Telecom and AT&T – they’re amused that this debate is even happening in Australia.”

In addressing the public vs. private funding debate, Quigley says, “We expect competition and innovation to be very robust on the NBN. Service providers will need to be focussed on the development of better products and services at the retail level rather than investing in the underlying infrastructure.”

Quigley concludes his address by noting that given the large amount of media coverage the NBN has generated, the coverage has been relatively positive, particularly in the telecommunications industry media.

“I would count our industry engagement as one of the success stories of the NBN so far. However, we should be making our case, not only to industry and politicians, but also directly to the Australian people. So we welcome the scrutiny you place us under (even though some of the coverage itself may cause us to wince sometimes).”

The NBN had made Australian headlines once again, this time following the push of two broadband bills through parliament yesterday.