Clearly "a once in a generation opportunity" the Labour Party's National Broadband Network policy was an excellent strategy that could have provided individual benefit to millions of Australians but most importantly put our growing digital economy in a strong competitive position against the likes of Europe and Japan.

But being in opposition and putting up a policy in much easier than being in government and getting it implemented; particularly with an 800 pound Gorilla controlling the telecommunications landscape, and a hostile Senate blocking some of your key legislation required to make it work. While many strongly supported the Labour Party's policy, the implementation of that policy so far has left a lot to be desired.

The first thing that really bugged many has been the public consultation on the NBN. Many organisations (particular the FTTH Special Interest Group) made considerable effort to met the government's 3 week time frame to submit their views, only for the Expert Group to take little or no notice of the contributions made. The SIG compiled over 100 pages of issues and recommendations from 40 contributing members - an enormous effort which seems to have gone to waste as the Request for Proposal document was released only two weeks after the closure of the public consultation period. There is no way the tender was written after reviewing all those submissions, and it was most likely written in parallel (or even started before), making a mockery of the open process and value of the contributions from industry.

Secondly, and this has has been supported by many in the industry, is the extremely short time frame for the bid. As Bevan Slattery from Pipe Networks has said, the government gives more time for responding to a tender on photocopies than it has on the NBN. This is a $10billion investment, half of which is coming from government, and it requires detailed investigation to ensure a quality submission is made. So is the Government serious in making this an open process in which all players have at least a reasonably even chance of winning. At this stage, the only organisation who has committed to responding on time is Telstra.

I am a consultant to several companies (not the G9) wishing to form a consortium. The group already has commitment from two large international players (including a Telco), but they will not be making any submission unless the deadline is extended by at least 3-5 months, and only if the critical network information is released immediately. The disappointing aspect if this group does not get up due to time constraints; they are proposing to bid a predominately FTTH (rather than the Telstra or G9 FTTN) network.

Finally, the whole RFP has been widely criticised by the industry as a lost opportunity to fix a massive blunder by the previous government not to have kept the Telecommunications infrastructure within government (or structural separation if you wish) when selling off Telstra and deregulating the Telecommunications industry.

Lets hope the Senator Conroy does have second thoughts on the time frame and getting it right is more important than getting it quick.


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