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The key documents in establishing the NBN have been included here in one convenient place.




The National Broadband Network - Establishment

The NBN has had three phases. NBN Mark I was the original FttN plan, Mark II was the FttP plan, and Mark III is the Multi-Technology Mix (aka Malcolm Turnbull's Mess). This is a guide to the history and collection of the original documents.


While the prehistory would properly include the strange history of Australia's duplicated HFC networks and the practical realities of unbundling the local loop, as a policy debate the real kick to the development of the NBN occurred on 11 August 2005. On that day Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo took a broadband plan that included significant regulatory concessions tp Prime Minister John Howard and various Ministers. The briefing was in part unusual because it went to their 50% shareholder on the same day as  they released their results. Within days a copy of at least part of the presentation were circulating freely. The document, The Digital Compact and National Broadband plan [PDF], was released by Telstra on 7 September.

NBN Mark I

The National Broadband Network had its origins in Kim Beazley's Budget Reply speech on 11 May 2006 [PDF] before Labor announced its full policy in 2007  [PDF] .

On election Labor proceeded to issue a tender on 11 April 2008 for participation in accordance with the policy. [PDF

A critical but not well understood component of the policy was the desire to achieve structural separation. The issue of structural separation had been around since the original "Review of Structural Arrangement", however part of the difficulty had been finding a defining point. My predecessor at AAPT had as far back as 1993 proposed that structural separation be achieved in conjunction with a fibre to the premises network [PDF].

Telstra was unable to cross that line. In September Telstra Director for Regulatory Affairs Tony Warren announced [PDF]:
the growing consensus of regulators and experts around the world that separation doesn't work demonstrated the need for the regulatory debate in Australia to be refocussed."
In a speech in October Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo said
 "And let me make clear. To even contemplate the prospect of further separation while embarking on such a massive and complex project is ludicrous in the extreme. If further separation is part of the NBN, Telstra is simply not in a position to bid or to build. It is just not feasible - technically or financially - to do this other than in a fully integrated way."

When tenders closed on 26 November Telstra submitted only a short form response [PDF], saying that a full response would be submitted once a range of issues had been addressed - one of which was the further separation of Telstra. In the briefing to analysts on the same day [PDF] Telstra Chair Donald McGauchie said "What Telstra is proposing is subject to a number of enablers being in place, including no further separation and regulatory certainty over the life of the investment."

In submitting its short form bid expecting to continue to engage on regulatory and other dimensions, Telstra made a very simple error. Their bid simply failed to comply with mandatory bid requirements. The Minister announced on 15 December 2008 that their proposal had been excluded from consideration [PDF]. The Department really had no alternative to the decision. As a consequence the very extensive bid showcased at Telstra's technology briefing remained a private document  [PDF], though it is a useful resource as the MTM is considered.

In the conference that followed Telstra's announcement [PDF] of its exclusion Sol Trujillo claimed [PDF] "The important point at this stage, I think, for everybody to understand is that our proposal is still the only one that is funded, is the only one that has true technical capability and workforce and trucks and all the things that many of you have heard us talk about, to actually deliver and to actually be able to integrate into our existing network."

On 3 February 2010 the Australian National Audit Office issued a report on a process audit of the RFP [PDF].


Telstra was certainly surprised when on 7 April 2009 the Labor Government announced [PDF] it was proceeding with a completely different NBN model using Fibre to the Premises for 90% of premises together with the advanced satellite and wireless options referred to in Telstra's technology briefing. At the time the Government also released an excerpt from the report of the Expert Panel that explained there were no proposals that presented value for money, that FttN did not represent a cost effective path to FttP and that the panel could "see a way forward to achieve the outcomes sought by the Government and has provided that advice in confidence to the Government"  [PDF]. Subsequently, in response to pressure from the Opposition, the Government also released the ACCC's advice to the panel, and in doing so accidently released the un-redacted version [PDF].

The process by which the decision was reached was the subject of great speculation. This was partly fuelled by a story by Peter Hartcher in the SMH. [PDF] This story was presumed to have emanated from the office of Prime Minister Rudd to reflect the go-go style of Government. Instead it resulted in a refrain that the plan had been "dreamt up on the back of a drink coaster on the VIP jet." The truth of the matter was outlined by Senator Conroy at Estimates in May 2009 [PDF] and in subsequent questions on notice [PDF]. Interesting substantiation of some of this history can be found in James Button's Speechless: A Year in my father's business (Trove link). Wayne Swan's The Good Fight reveals that the NBN plan was very nearly announced as part of the February 2009 stimulus package (Trove link).

While the decision announced in April 2009 was to proceed with the network, the Government also undertook to complete a full Implementation Study of the NBN. The Implementation Study was released on 6 May 2010 [PDF], with the Media Release [PDF] headed 'Landmark Study confirms NBN vision is achievable and affordable.'

In December 2010 NBN Co released its first Corporate Plan [PDF] and the Shareholder Ministers issued the first Statement of Expectations [PDF]

In August 2012 the second Corporate Plan was released [PDF]. This plan recognised that the Definitive Agreements reached with Telstra had become operative nine months later than assumed in the 2010 Corporate Plan and shifted all the targets for rollout accordingly. This plan also announced the shift to a "build drop" model for making household connections from the "demand drop" that NBN Co originally chose (despite the Minister urging them to adopt build drop). There was a small increase in peak funding but nothing substantial. Unfortunately the Coalition was able to continue to hold Government to account on the earlier targets.

In January 2013 the Ministers Office noticed that modules of work kept slipping while NBN Co still had scheduled completion dates for work to meet the targets. Questions from the MO triggered investigations by NBN Co that revealed that there had been misreporting by contractors on their work program. In reality the contractors had not scaled up to be prepared for the work, they were reluctant to make the investment to support two year contracts, especially when the politics indicated that the FTTP rollout would be abandoned after the election. (Note: Signing two year rather than four year contracts had been another NBN Co decision that was contrary to the Minister's preference). In March the Government had to announce revised expectations for the rollout to June (an event Mr Turnbull claimed had been conducted under the cover of the non-challenge by Kevin Rudd on PM Julia Gillard).

In June 2013 the Government had received a Corporate Plan 2013-15 from NBN Co management. As remediation of Telstra's pits was suspended at the time the Government did not accept the plan but asked NBN Co to resubmit it once remediation recommenced. This plan - often referred to as Version 12 - was subsequently leaked to (and published by) the AFR. [PDF]

In September 2013 the Board of NBN Co received a further version of the 2013-15 plan, but as the bulk of the Board resigned (at the request of the Minister) that day it was not accepted by the Board. It is unclear whether the Minister ever saw the whole of that plan, but at least one data point (the forecast Brownfields premises passed number for June 2014) was referred to in a statement by the Minister. That plan - referred to as Version 13 - was subsequently leaked to (and published by) ZDnet. [PDF]

Two good summaries of the NBN Mark II period were given soon after the election in speeches to a then fracturing Telecommunications Society.

Senator Conroy presented to the Sydney rump that stayed within the Australian Computer Society on 11 October 2013 ([Speech PDF] [Slides PDF]). Mike Quigley presented to the reformed TelSoc in Melbourne in 2 December 2013. ([Speech PDF] [Slides PDF])


{Pre-history - Tony Smith leading and Tony Abbott leading up to 2010 election}

{Turnbull press club speech August 2011 [PDF]}

In April 2013 Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull released the Coalition Broadband Policy [PDF] at a memorable event at FoxSports studios where Abbott looked bemused by a hologram of a Rugby League Player. They announced that anyone could do anything they needed with 25 Mbps and promised that everyone would have 25 Mbps by the end of 2016 [Transcript PDF].

The policy release was accompanied by a Background Paper [PDF] that purported to be the 'real cost' of Labor's NBN - a massive $94B. That detail had been screamed across the front page of the Daily Telegraph as if it was a fact, rather than a Coalition concoction.

The Coalition policy committed to a number of reviews, including a Strategic Review, a review of the NBN Policy Process, a Governance Review and a Cost Benefit Analysis.

The Strategic Review was commissioned soon after the change of Government once Minister Turnbull had dismissed most of the Board and installed Ziggy Switkowski as Acting Executive Chair. The Review was completed in under three months and tabled by the Minister in the Parliament in December 2013 [PDF].

The review concluded that completing the original plan would cost over $70 M and take longer than planned, and of a range of alternatives favoured a Multi Technology Mix - the acronym MTM was said by critics to refer to Malcolm Turnbull's mess. The Review used similar assumptions to those used in the Coalition background paper - crunching the revenue line by assuming lower uptake, assuming higher fibre costs and assuming a slower rollout. Importantly it dismissed all the technology proposals included in the version 13 plan provided to the Board in September by the former management.

Crucially the review abandoned the commitment to 25 Mbps by 2016. When questioned on the ABC (Lateline or 7:30) the Minister said "NBN Co was in worse state than we thought" - except that his own review team came up $20 billion short of the number he had spruiked in April.

The Strategic Review contained another deviation from the Coalition policy by including the HFC networks of both Telstra and Optus as technologies in the MTM.

The Minister expected the review of the NBN Policy Process by Bill Scales to reveal some monumental failure in the policy process. The report delivered in May 2014 [PDF] did claim that there was a rushed process leading up to the April 2009 decision, but noted this occurred in the context of a chaotic Government rather than being a chaotic process itself. It failed to note that apart from initial funding the Government did not fully fund the NBN Co until after the Implementation Study and Corporate Plan were completed over a year after the initial announcement.

The Governance Review by KordaMentha was also expected by Turnbull to reveal a Board cowed into dreaming up targets to satisfy the Minister's demands but the August 2014 report revealed no such activity [PDF].

Final the review of regulation [PDF] and Cost Benefit Analysis [PDF] were delivered in August 2014 including an attachment on Broadband needs  [PDF]. Together these reports restated the claim that no one needed more than 25 Mbps, and introduced a policy that the NBN be operated as separate companies for each platform with a view to a future break up so that they could compete.

The NBN in 2016-17

Despite the move to an FTTN architecture NBN Co continued to test the implementation of the FTTH technologies central to the version 13 plan - and some documents made their way into the public domain explaining "Type 2.1" architecture [PDF]

The policy document the ALP released for the 2016 contained a detailed analysis of the Turnbull mess up to that point [PDF]. A feature is the analysis of how Mr Turnbull constructed his highly artificial counterfactuals.










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