NBN: Turnbull fights back against "Twitter Outrage"

Malcolm Turnbull has struck back at the backlash against comments he made on Twitter, accusing social media of “craziness” surrounding broadband issues. The response from the instigator of this mess does rather tell the whole story, though.
I wrote up the initial brouhaha surrounding Malcolm Turnbull’s comments to a Victorian small businesswoman here; it’d probably be easier to read those first and then come back here.
All up to speed? Good. Anyway, Malcolm Turnbull’s not a man to back away from a fight, or at least to put his particular spin on it, which is what he’s done in his latest blog entry at his own site. You can read that over here in full.
Necessary disclaimer: Turnbull’s journalistic target in this case was Harry Tucker at News Limited. As should be obvious, I’m doing some work for News right at the moment, but I wasn’t involved in writing up this particular story, and in any case, I have this feeling that News can probably defend itself with its own resources anyway…
Malcolm’s central thesis was that he was genuinely inquiring as to her particular circumstances, and that he was being misrepresented as a result in terms of suggesting that perhaps people with broadband as a priority should buy where there’s available broadband.
The point he’s missing, however, is of course that he didn’t respond in that way; instead his tweet has elements of condescension in it, and that’s what sparked the whole furore in the first place.
There’s also holes in his arguments later on, which delve into the exact same “highly politicised” spin that he decries (but has undeniably been the architect of) himself in recent years. To just grab a few:
“unlike Labor we have actually done the homework with our broadband availability and quality study to find out where broadband is good, bad or indifferent.”
Which is why the reported quality of Malcolm’s own MyBroadband portal has been so relentlessly attacked as being either out of date or hopelessly optimistic, or both?
“Labor was rolling out fibre in a Labor marginal seat in streets where residents had a choice of not one, but two, 100 mbps HFC broadband services.”
Ah, the marginal seats play. A favourite, usually of oppositions, but leaving that aside, the “choice” of “100mbps” HFC services is all too often a “choice” of two monopoly players who up until incredibly recently charged like a wounded bull for these services, and shared them in the community so while it is feasible to hit a near 100mpbs speed test, the reality is that real world speeds are much lower.
Then again, the new-look NBN apparently isn’t in the business of speeds anyway.
Also, as with Ms Keady’s case, from my own experience at least one telco wasn’t actively pursuing new HFC connections in any case due to the impending rollout of the NBN. Which would be a network with real competition on it, unlike HFC. Somehow I would have thought that was preferable within the Coalition’s “let the market sort it out” idealism, but then we’ve seen how well that works over the past two decades with the large telco players, haven’t we?
“The Coalition’s approach means the NBN can be completed sooner (about four years sooner), cheaper ( $32 billion less) and consequently much more affordably.”
The one thing I’ll agree with Malcolm is that NBN Co did not do a good job of project management; I’ve no doubt that they were on track to run over budget, although again here I could point out that Malcolm’s favourite pre-election strategy was to point out how far behind they were based on early rollout figures.
If I held the Coalition to the same standard, then everyone should be on track for 25mpbs FTTN by 2016, because that’s what they promised pre-election, and all for less than they’re now saying the mixed-mode mishmash technology approach they now favour will apparently cost. That’s the plan that Tony Abbott declared to be “bulletproof” prior to the election, by the way. I guess somebody came up with better bullets.
Also, that “much more affordably” claim isn’t without its critical detractors, either; it’s hardly a “fact” as Malcolm would like to put it.
I’m also quietly amused by the fact that Malcolm’s still touting the four year advantage of a mixed-mode rollout given that his own appointee to NBN Co, Ziggy Switkowski won’t guarantee its utility beyond ten years from now. Or in other words, by the time a FTTP NBN would appear feasible to build (according to Turnbull’s own estimates), the FTTN/HFC/Wireless might only have a year’s relevance left. Yes, future predictions are a tough business, but still that seems on the ridiculous side to me.
But ultimately, the best response I’ve seen wasn’t one of my own. Within the comments field of Turnbull’s blog, Julia Keady’s responded as follows:
Dear Mr Turnbull
I am very happy to learn today that you’d like to have a rational conversation. I offered for you to call me today, but haven’t heard from your staff. I am more than happy to receive advice on the best way to optimise my broadband in my new home.
That twitter conversation would have looked like this:
Bought a house in Ocean Grove. No NBN. No Cable. No ADSL 2 or 1. Back to the dongle. Prehistoric. @TurnbullMalcolm. Not good enough! #nbn
Hi Julia. Sorry to hear. What’s your number so my office can call you and see if we can assist to make this better for you. You shouldn’t suffer because you are moving to regional Vic.
Wow – that would be great. Thanks. Here’s my number. 🙂
I would then go onto explain to your staff that I had done by own due diligence about the broadband capabilities, and upon registering the property for services, we were told that the information provided was actually false. As evidenced today in the hundreds of tweets about the matter, this is a common issue for property buyers and renters. I would have then said to your staff the the same thing on my original tweet “it’s not good enough”.
As said in my tweets, the government’s inability to move any faster on ‘any’ solution means that there is no incentive for telcos to invest in their infrastructure / exchanges. Is this an issue for the telcos or the government? That is a matter of opinion. Either way, it is certainly worthy of the attention of the Federal Minister in charge of such areas. Hence, my original tweet.
My position has not changed. Modern essential services should be available to everyone, regardless of location. We should not be entering the dark ages on modern broadband services. As the Federal Minister responsible for this, the buck stops with you. It’s not good enough. I look forward to reading more about how you plan to remedy the situation.

Absolutely. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Malcolm Turnbull seems stuck in a “blame Labor, they’re in power” mindset — but they’re not. You are Malcolm, and as such it might be nice to see some action from your side, rather than the endless “the alternative is worse” rhetoric.

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