“Internet Australia” has the media and politicians conned: Irrelevant in the NBN debate

sadly, this is an organisation off the rails, throwing the power of one around on the nations behalf

It’s staggering that this even has to be written, but there’s an organisation in Australia which is throwing around its weight like Manny Pacquiao at a pre-fight weigh-in, yet they are a feather-weight in a heavy-weight world title fight.

What makes it worse is, they’re barely qualified to be in the feather-weight fight.

I’m talking about Internet Australia – the organisation which self-identifies as a “not-for-profit peak organisation representing all Australian Internet users.”

For years now I’ve been supporting the need for better internet, a utility like approach to the provision of internet services to Australian homes, faster broadband – whatever you want to call it.  The NBN was the holy grail, the ultimate outcome.

Yet, sadly, it became a political football and has been slowed down by a complete technology shift and despite now being very much on track to delivery that utility like service we’ve still got a ridiculous amount of mis-information in the public space, and perhaps more worryingly in parliament.

You see, Politicians can’t really be across everything going on.  Politicians rely on three key inputs for their information and decisions around what angles they might take and questions they may pose in a place like parliament.

Firstly there are their own advisors.  Without question every politician has them, and this is how they stay on message with their party ideals, and own policy commitments.

Then there’s the constituents, the folks who vote for them and live within the area they are representing.  We the people have the right to call, go to the office of, and write to our local member.  You can contact them about everything from the roads in your area to your concerns about education or the crappy treatment your telco is giving you.  And of course, if you’re a bit angry the NBN hasn’t hit your area, or you’re reading that Fibre to the Node is crap and want something better, you can write to them.

Finally, there are lobbyists.  People who live their lives trying to sway our politicians into going a certain way on policy, understanding the needs and concerns of large groups and businesses.  These folk pickup the phone to the teams of people around our politicians to try and get meetings with them and the members of parliament they work for.

Great, good system.  Lots of info.

But, back to Internet Australia.  Great name.  Great philosophy “representing all Australian Internet Users”- but do they?  Really?

No hiding from the fact that I’m someone who just wants the NBN to get on with the job.  I want the bickering to end and for Australians to get better Internet.

That came to a head a few months ago when Internet Australia’s CEO Anne Hurley wrote an opinion in The Australian stating that the “NBN path was broken beyond repair”.  Utter Rubbish.  Don’t worry,  I responded.

But then I thought, wait, maybe I’m missing something here.

How many members does Internet Australia Have?  Just who are they representing?  Tweet after tweet to both their CEO and the Organisation itself asking that question – no answer, just more narky comments.

So I joined Internet Australia.  I became a member.  If they represent Australian Internet Users, I am one, and I’ll put my money where my mouth is.

There’s no list of members.  There’s also no transparency about their financial accounts, nothing to show just how many members they have.  Nothing.  Crickets.

What I got for my money was access to a mailing list of members.  Good times; some super smart people, many many degrees smarter than I am, discussing technology issues, possible Wireless or next generation technologies.

And Laurie Patton, who sends members a copy of every article he’s quoted in.  Laurie used to be the CEO of Internet Australia.  He’s the voice of Internet Australia, he’s the Face of Internet Australia.

He’s the media’s go-to guy for a comment slamming the NBN.  A quote machine.

Laurie hates the NBN in its current form, and to summarise as best I can his view, he wants the NBN to STOP the roll out of FTTN (Node) to the 4 million homes that are on the roll-out plan and implement Fibre to the Curb. (FTTC).

Great idea Laurie.  This will certainly mean faster theoretical speeds for all those homes.  No Question.  But at what cost? Not in dollars – but in time?  He’s never mentioned how long it would take the NBN to retool, re-plan, re contract, whatever else is involved.  Let me give you a tip – it will delay everything by another two years.

I don’t personally care, I’m getting HFC NBN (Using the Foxtel/Telstra Pay TV Cable) – so, wohoo for me.

Why then do I care?  Because every day I get calls and emails from real people, real Australians, keen to know when they are getting NBN and what it will be like – and the constant media negativity which stretches into our elected politicians questions is doing nothing to give the public confidence.

Laurie Patton’s constant narking about FTTN that has him quoted by Senators in our Parliament during important sessions like Senate Estimates.

Estimates – as we know it – requires the leadership team of government organisations like the SBS, ABC and NBN among many others – to front up, and answer random questions from Senators – representing their constituents (and their advisors, and the lobbyists they’ve heard from)

Sadly, I’m a nerd, and I watch estimates – all the time.  50% of the questions asked are clearly not understood by the Policitian asking it, and are done to rile up a response or headline.  A good chunk of the rest are exploratory and very interesting.

Last night Green’s Senator Scott Ludlam even raised the issue of Laurie being blocked by the NBN on twitter – how on earth is that relevant to the Australian people?  Why does Laurie get some special treatment?  Because the Politicians see him as a person representing the views of the public.

This, despite Internet Australia’s own self declaration that “We are a broad member-based organisation not an industry lobby group.” Ha!

What did I get for my money? An insight into the level of discussion and debate among “members”.  Sadly, very few participants, and frankly that says to me very few members.  I don’t believe Internet Australia has more than 50 members.  To be honest, outside of its “Board and Staff” I doubt there are more than 10.

Last week, CEO Ann Hurley resigned from the position for personal reasons.  This was announced to members via email (the first email she had sent to members of any kind in over two months), along with the news that Laurie would be back as the leader of the organisation.  No discussion, no formal governance process to guide that leadership change.

After watching the usual suspects argue the case for more transparency within the organisation, I wrote my very first and likely last email to the membership base.  Calling for an open discussion on the role of Internet Australia in the NBN and broader internet discussion.  A focus on getting customer service and speed right, not a continual abuse of the NBN and attempts to somehow change policy in a political climate which quite simply would never cop another technology change.

The answer – crickets.  One email of support for Laurie came in from a member – a few emails from the two or three most active participants, and then to me privately, some emails from former board members and existing members who are equally as perplexed by the direction and focus Internet Australia currently takes into its public and government relations.

Quite frankly, Internet Australia in its current form is irrelevant.  It represents fewer than 0.0002% of the Australian Population.  It has no current policy focus other than to knock down the current NBN, and it shows little or no support for any part of the NBN.

Take a few hours to sit and watch Senate Estimates with the NBN and you’ll see some pretty good answers to questions of speed, future planning and the roll out generally.

Listen to Laurie Patton and you’ll just here a twisted truth – like back in March when he gave some quotes to internet IT publications stating that NBN CEO Bill Morrow had told estimates that end users would need to pay for their own upgrades to FTTN if they wanted faster speeds, when in fact, if you were watching as I was – Bill Morrow stated quite clearly that once end users were demonstrating a desire to pay for higher speeds in enough numbers to make it viable, the NBN would fund the upgrades and allow those purchases.

83% of end users are choosing 12 and 25 meg speed plans.  Where is Laurie Patton in representing the needs of those – the overwhelming majority?  Non existent.

Internet Australia is irrelevant in the NBN debate.  Politicians should not be accepting meetings or calls from the organisation, or using any quotes or comments from Internet Australia to fuel their own political fires.

The media too is guilty of looking for a quick quote – bagging the NBN is great clickbait you see – so Laurie will keep getting those calls.  But surely he should be quoted not as the leader of any representative organisation, but simple as a disgruntled hater of the current NBN policy?

Australian internet users need representation, if Internet Australia wants to provide that, they need to drive a higher membership base, they need corporate support and funding from the telcos and other interested businesses, and they need an all-new executive, one that does not include the roll-him-out rent-a-quote antics of Laurie Patton.

I watch estimates with an ear out for every Australian – those on Fixed Wireless, Satellite, FTTN or even FTTP.  It’s a different situation for everyone.  And I’m acutely aware of the issues of speed – but estimates give answers.  Last night much discussion about Speed Qualification Tests – but I don’t hear Internet Australia calling on the RSPs (Telcos) to be required to provide the service qualification results to all users before they sign onto a plan?  Nope? Nothing.  There’s how you could be representing all Australians.

Food for thought.

Categories
Opinion

Trev produces two of the most popular technology podcasts in Australia, Your Tech Life and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He hosts a nightly radio show on Talking Lifestyle, 8pm Monday to Friday in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show and A Current Affair. Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave. Like this post? Buy Trev a drink!
9 Comments on this post.
  • TheOzCynic
    26 May 2017 at 8:52 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Who cares you say. Say that if you are stuck on a 600mtr copper length unable to get more than 25megabits.
    You need to get your neighbours to concur and en mass and pay many 1000’s to possibly get an upgrade. There is no upgrade path from fttn in itself. It is a re-build. So feel great you are on a techology that is capable of gigabit speeds for the future.

    All paid for by the taxpayer. But sleep well at night there is millions of other taxpayers unable to get the same speeds as you got for free.

    • Trevor Long
      26 May 2017 at 9:14 pm
      Leave a Reply

      You’re connected NOW to the NBN on FTTN are you?

      What does your ISP tell you is the Service Qualification Speed as per the NBN?

      Ask that question first – and if you are genuinely unable to get more than 25 I’m keen to hear more from you – email me.

  • Adrian
    27 May 2017 at 12:06 pm
    Leave a Reply

    After a long investigation of NBN I come to the following opinion:
    1.Most ISP’s are bad and have overseas calls centers.
    2.If you need help from the big ISP’s you sit on the phone for a long time.
    Or they just hang up the phone.
    3.NBN speed by many ISP’s to low
    4.To signed up many complains people has to wait weeks for a connection
    Or the phone is not working.
    5.Many have no good package, like any free calls to mobile phones.
    Or you have to pay for the wifi modem.
    6, TPG are the worst of all (And TPG bought iinet, Westnet and AAPT)
    7. many people where disconnected on internet and phone because
    they did not signed up for NBN within 18 moths when NBN was available.
    8. Your switch to the NBN might become even more expensive. The government is pushing for a new $7 tax to be levied on fixed-line NBN users that will help pay for the wireless and satellite portions of the network.
    The local computer guru.

  • Grahame Lynch
    27 May 2017 at 2:57 pm
    Leave a Reply

    It is wrong to claim there is NO upgrade path for FTTN. Presently FTTN works at an average attainable speed of 67Mbps in Australia. It uses the lowest speed vectoring profile (17a) and is underpowered so it doesn’t interfere with the Telstra ADSL2+ signals which use the same copper bundles. After 18 months when the Telstra signals are switched off, that should result in an automatic 5Mbps speed boost. Moving from vectoring profile 17a to 35b should double those average attainable speeds.

    In the future, there are technologies such as long reach VDSL, G.Fast and TDSL from Assia which will increase this further.

    There are many large telcos with copper loops (BT, DT to name two) who tell vendors “we want more bang from our investments in terms of speeds”. They aren’t told to get lost. They aren’t mocked. They are listened to and acted upon.
    Consequently, firms such as ASSIA, Adtran, Nokia, Huawei and more are developing new upgrade techniques on a perpetually improving basis. It is true that these advances often result in greater gains for short loops under 500m than those in the 500-1200 range that represent about 2/5ths of the Australian base. Again there are micronode and other solutions that can shorten those loops without the necessity of a total rebuild.

    Again it all comes down to economics. In some cases FTTH and FTTdp may be a better fit despite all these DSL developments. One thing is for sure. I have heard very few participants in this debate even demonstrate any awareness of the above. This debate contains alot of religion and not enough facts.

    Congrats to Trevor for pointing out the sad reality of what passes for Internet user advocacy in this nation.

  • TheOzCynic
    27 May 2017 at 5:27 pm
    Leave a Reply
    • Trevor Long
      27 May 2017 at 5:32 pm
      Leave a Reply

      Sending links to articles won’t help your situation. As I’ve said if you want me to look at YOUR situation email me your details.

      As for your speed, no, it’s your CHOICE to pay for 50 or 100. If you want more than 25 then you now know 36 is what it’s capable of, it’s YOUR choice to pay that additional cost for a known speed bump.

  • Ben aylett
    29 May 2017 at 9:03 am
    Leave a Reply

    Thanks for taking the time to lift the lid on IA Trevor.
    It is hard to find anyone apart from a technical person able to make a balanced statement on the NBN since it is more a political project than it is a technical project.
    It is a huge project that is complicated enough without having to factor in egos and unrelated commercial interests and in it’s current form I expect the NBN to consistently under-deliver except for a lucky few that have fttp, hfc and fttc.

  • Joe
    30 May 2017 at 9:33 pm
    Leave a Reply

    I stopped reading after you said you had HFC NBN capable of gigabit speeds…a family member of mine only gets 26 Mbit sync on his modem with FTTN. You can talk when you’re on that kind of speed, I’m looking forward to reading your opinion piece then.

    • Trevor Long
      6 June 2017 at 7:41 pm
      Leave a Reply

      What speed has your Friend signed up to?

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