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nbn™’s blog struggles with balance

Bias or truth? nbn™’s official blog just can’t stop attacking the former Government’s Fibre to the Premises policy. Does this fall foul of the GBE guidelines?

Along with last year’s flashy redesign of the then “NBN Co” website, the company introduced a “blog” section to their revamped site.  Whether you liked it or not, at that point the NBN rollout had transitioned to the Multi-Technology Mix strategy. However, it became evident quite quickly that this site is being used to trash the former Labor Government’s NBN policy while parading the current Government’s policy of the “Multi-Technology Mix” rollout.

I’ve completed an analysis of all 127 blog articles posted on the nbn™ blog, as at the morning of 24th June 2015.  The results are not surprising (see the table at the bottom for my full results):

Clear evidence of bias

Not an FTTN party pooper

For example, nbn™’s blog is all too happy to spruik British Telecom’s (BT) headline up-to speed of 76Mbps download.  The figure pops up numerous times in nbn™ blog posts, including here and here.  But when it was revealed that 74% of households could not reach the headline 76Mbps speed at all, nbn™ was silent.  One might say, it’s bad to push a negative impression of its rollout own rollout strategy to the community.  But then, why would nbn™ be more than happy to trash the Fibre to the Premises technology on its blog, given it accounts for almost a quarter of the MTM rollout.

FTTP? Neverrr!

Likewise, even when there’s positive news about a particular FTTP rollout, the company blog always takes a negative spin about the topic on hand.  For example, when Singapore announced nationwide 1Gbps speeds over FTTP – nbn™ immediately went on the negative focusing on the issues of the aggressive competition in Singapore.  Keep in mind, these issues will never affect Australia as no incumbent telco has the money to roll out such a network across such a vast landmass… which is why the NBN existed in the first place.

In fact, of all 22 pieces where FTTP was mentioned, only four (that’s 18%) were written in a positive light.  One of the blog post was not about FTTP, the technology – but rather how Google Fiber has been driving competition using its FTTP network in the US.  The others were about Hong Kong Telecom launching 10Gbps FTTP, CEO Bill Morrow’s reflection on his one year at the helm of NBN Co and Spain ONO’s aggressive FTTP rollout.  To add to that, none of those blog posts were particularly positive – that is, unlike what the positive spin they would normally write about FTTN, FTTB or HFC, the FTTP discussion only permissively positive.  No mention of the benefits of a reliable, FTTP network was afforded.

In stark contrast, there were no articles that described FTTN, FTTB, FTTdp or HFC in a negative manner.  All 22 articles where FTTN, FTTB or FTTdp were mentioned described the technologies in a positive manner or had a neutral opinion.  Likewise with HFC where of the 14 articles where the technology was mentioned, all had a positive or neutral opinion on it.

Why not a more balanced view?

By all accounts, both technologies has its merits and problems. But the blog clearly favours one technology over another.  It continually rehashes the argument that FTTP “costs more than FTTN” and is “difficult to roll out in some areas” and that FTTN “is faster to build”.  These may be valid points, but there are plenty of other advantages and disadvantages for both technologies.

Just as an example:

  • FTTP provides reliable and stable wholesale speeds, it is low-cost to maintain and does not deteriorate over distance;
  • FTTN speeds deteriorate over distance and copper conditions, in-field active equipment costs more to operate and maintain, copper maintenance costs are more expensive.

All are valid points about both technologies, as are those that the nbn™ blog continually rehashes and pushes.  What is blatently obvious, however, is that there is evidently no attempts to balance the articles posted.  They all ignore any problems that telcos around the world have faced using the “new” MTM technologies of FTTN, FTTB and HFC and only talk about the positives.  In stark contrast, any mention of FTTP is immensely negative and ignores any positives a full fibre network has to offer.

The nbn™ blog is evidently one-sided and provides a narrow-minded view of reality.

Is this acceptable for a GBE?

Being a company owned wholly by the Government, nbn™ is subject to the Government Business Enterprise (GBE) guidelines.  Sections 2.5 and 2.6 of the GBE guidelines clearly states that employees must “avoid activities that could give rise to questions about their political impartiality” and “being professional and apolitical”.

2.5       In particular, the government expects GBE boards to establish and maintain a code of conduct for directors, employees and contractors and ensure that GBEs, in undertaking their business, avoid activities that could give rise to questions about their political impartiality. For example, GBEs should not make direct or indirect political donations or participate in activities sponsored or in support of partisan political causes.

2.6       The code of conduct may cover the following matters: being professional and apolitical; customer service; work practices and performance; conflict of interest; relationship with suppliers; gifts and benefits; outside employment; appropriate use of assets and resources; and confidentiality of information, including in electronic form. It is desirable that the board establish and maintain a formal register of directors’ interests to ensure potential conflicts can be identified and managed.

Given these blog posts can clearly be interpreted as being a political attack on a previous Government policy and continually strives to rehash arguments against the former Government’s NBN policy – it raises questions about the impartiality of the authors of the blog posts.

Whichever way you look at it, I think the company’s blog is at the very least, verging on the borders of appropriate content for a GBE’s website.  Whether it was the intent of the author to publish politically questioning pieces is not the issue here.  It is the simple fact that it “could give rise to questions” about their impartiality that challenges the GBE guidelines.

The analysis:

Below is a list of blog posts posted since 15th December 2014.  Depending on the content and its reflection on particular technologies in the MTM (or even the concept of MTM itself), I’ve flagged it as either positive, negative or neutral.  Some articles do not reflect on any of the technologies.

Blog Title Published FTTP MTM FTTN FTTB FTTdp HFC
Faster broadband bears fruit for NT farmer 15-Dec-14
NBN delivers happy ending for Armidale ‘tree-changer’ 16-Dec-14
FTTN trial fast-tracks NBN Co arrival for Central Coast 17-Dec-14 Positive
Smoothing the way for a better network 18-Dec-14
NBN helps Tassie business to “grow and grow and grow!” 18-Dec-14
Flagship Hong Kong telco deploys super-fast VDSL to non-urban subs 22-Dec-14 Positive
KT’s GiGa Wire technology delivers super-fast broadband to Korean MDU’s 23-Dec-14 Negative Positive
Bandwidth-starved Londoners eye FTTB trials hungrily 6-Jan-15 Positive Positive
Ultra-fast 10Gbps broadband arrives in America – for a lucky few! 7-Jan-15 Neutral
NBN rollout opens the way for new era of OTT entertainment 9-Jan-15
NBN helps pave the way for next-generation farming 12-Jan-15
NBN helps CKAS soar to new heights… 12-Jan-15
Consumer Electronics Show 2015: What’s around the corner? 13-Jan-15
The NBN will get Australia up the broadband speed ladder… just ask the Swiss 13-Jan-15 Negative Positive Positive Positive Positive Positive
How much speed will we need in 2023? 15-Jan-15
The Cloud – What’s all the fuss about? 16-Jan-15
NBN Co announces location of first 6,000 homes to receive Fibre to the Building 19-Jan-15 Negative Positive
The Cloud – What will it do for Aussie broadband users? 20-Jan-15
The Cloud: What can it do for Aussie businesses? 21-Jan-15
4KTV looms large – but it’s a very complicated picture 22-Jan-15 Neutral
The Internet of Things – What is that exactly? 23-Jan-15
LTE-Advanced: Why our future isn’t mobile only 27-Jan-15 Neutral Neutral Neutral Neutral
Will wi-fi calling put mobile operators out of the picture? 28-Jan-15
Three ways broadband will change how we learn in 2015 29-Jan-15
Vectored VDSL – turning copper from laggard to lightning fast 30-Jan-15 Negative Positive
Flipping Aussie classrooms 2-Feb-15
BT ready to kick off G.Fast broadband revolution 3-Feb-15 Negative Positive Positive
South Korea: What happened to the broadband wonderland? 5-Feb-15 Neutral Positive Positive
Confusing convergence – why are telcos and broadcasters trading places? 6-Feb-15
Aussie kids to shoot for the stars with NBN 9-Feb-15
Singapore’s Gigabit dream arrives – but with a catch 10-Feb-15 Negative
Net neutrality – What’s the big deal? 11-Feb-15
Weaving your way to wicked wi-fi 12-Feb-15
How much speed do you need? 13-Feb-15
Video analytics: Shaping the future 16-Feb-15
Hong Kong Telecom launches Asia’s first 10Gbps service 17-Feb-15 Positive
Lift off! Our satellites will bridge Australia’s digital divide 19-Feb-15
Google Fiber: Leading from behind? 20-Feb-15 Positive
NBN Co’s HFC Network: Start the engines! 23-Feb-15 Positive
Telcos are changing fast – and how! 23-Feb-15
HFC: Tried and trusted for high-speed broadband 24-Feb-15 Positive Positive
NBN Co: On track to meet our targets 26-Feb-15 Neutral Neutral
FTTP or HFC? How about both? 27-Feb-15 Neutral Positive Positive
Swisscom: Leading the world on multi-technology broadband 3-Mar-15 Negative Positive Positive Positive Positive Positive
NBN Co launches new community activity in Coffs Harbour 4-Mar-15
5G: The future edges closer 5-Mar-15
Hacking’s white knight makes his mark on the world… from Armidale 10-Mar-15
HFC – How it works 12-Mar-15 Positive
NBN Co: At the cutting edge of global broadband 13-Mar-15 Positive
Tyre franchise revs up with NBN hook up 16-Mar-15
Brunswick tech firms ramp up for the future 16-Mar-15
Chopper company’s need for speed finally met 17-Mar-15
Silver surfers ride a new wave of learning 18-Mar-15
Heat’s on for booming energy-saving business in Melbourne, Victoria 19-Mar-15
Women’s health gets ‘appy’ 19-Mar-15
What to look for in your long term (streaming) partner 20-Mar-15
Carry on camping: the Airbnb for nomads 23-Mar-15
The school excursion goes digital 24-Mar-15
Game of drones: new ‘hive’ trial to target wild dog menace 25-Mar-15
Is there life out there? The biggest eyes on the sky will see 26-Mar-15
Facebook farmers are bringing the paddock to the plate thanks to the NBN 27-Mar-15
Connecting the community in Ballarat 30-Mar-15
For rural kids broadband is more than just downloading movies 30-Mar-15
Broadband for homes and businesses in high rise buildings 31-Mar-15 Positive
Broadband pilot puts small business in the fast lane 31-Mar-15 Positive
Half a million more homes added to NBN rollout footprint 1-Apr-15
Bill Morrow: My first year at NBN Co 2-Apr-15 Positive Positive Positive Positive Positive Positive
The homes of the future are smarter than ever…and they are already here. 7-Apr-15
ComHem: A cable king in fibre country 7-Apr-15 Neutral Positive
Remote learning for future earning 8-Apr-15
ONO: Spain’s cable king holding back the fibre tide 8-Apr-15 Positive Positive
Slingshot entrepreneurs hit target with novel net startups 9-Apr-15
Life’s a Silicon Beach: how the Gong got its mojo back 10-Apr-15
Super brainstorm about to hit Australia 13-Apr-15
The Switch: how an old town became a future town 14-Apr-15
Geraldton is fishing for new IT entrepreneurs 15-Apr-15
Image conscious: a snappier way to do business 16-Apr-15
A Windsor artist draws online business 17-Apr-15
NBN Co increases fixed wireless download speeds for regional Australians 20-Apr-15
Time to see the doctor? It’s just a click away 21-Apr-15
Dreamtime to cloudtime: how fast internet will change life in the desert 22-Apr-15
GenNBN: Australia’s most connected generation unveiled 27-Apr-15
How fast internet speed can help save truckies’ lives 28-Apr-15
Cox Communications are looking for the next step in the speed race 29-Apr-15 Neutral Positive
The place where speed is a game changer for people at play 30-Apr-15
The next BIG thing: streaming home movies in luxury Hollywood style 1-May-15
The shining stars of Australia’s tomorrow: winners of the nbn™ Shoot For the Stars competition revealed 4-May-15
Inspiring Australians to make the most of better broadband 4-May-15
Australia: An isolated country achieving global connectivity 5-May-15
3 online privacy mistakes and how to avoid them 6-May-15
Blinking obvious: the crucial internet device we overlook 7-May-15
How Tamworth’s one-bar blues found a new tempo 8-May-15
The Australian home of the future, today 11-May-15
Online education expert sings praises for Sydney Opera House digital education report 13-May-15
Are you concerned with your home’s security? Fast internet is the key. 14-May-15
Outback glory: meet our competition winner Bailey Brooks 15-May-15
Hands, hearts and hard-drives: students take to the airwaves for remote learning 18-May-15
The future of work: When, where and how you want 19-May-15
Committed to keeping you informed 20-May-15
Raising cyber kids in GenNBN 21-May-15
Tablets and toddlers: with a fast connection you get their attention… but how connected should they be? 22-May-15
Achieving the great Aussie way of life 25-May-15
Turning passion into a profession 26-May-15
Local pub raises toast to faster broadband 27-May-15
Fast and free: where to surf the net for nothing 28-May-15
Saving lives and money with telehealth 29-May-15
nbn Lands in Top Employers List 1-Jun-15
Regional residents unite for the nbn™ network 1-Jun-15
China gears up to create world’s largest broadband operator 2-Jun-15 Neutral
One million servicable premises 3-Jun-15
nbn picks up two wins at the 2015 Australasian Law Awards 3-Jun-15
A Big Screen thrill… in your luxury home theatre 4-Jun-15
Home alone: switched on to a new way to work, rest and play 5-Jun-15
Fastest broadband operator in the world visits Sydney! 9-Jun-15 Neutral Positive Positive
Open wide: how teledentists save time and money 10-Jun-15
Can Australia be the next Silicon Valley? 11-Jun-15
Every breath you take: virtual singing hits a note for quadriplegics 12-Jun-15
SORPRESA! It’s an nbn™ family feast! 15-Jun-15
KDDI: Japanese master of the Multi Technology Mix 16-Jun-15 Neutral Positive Positive Positive
The parenting sites that are keeping young Aussie families informed 17-Jun-15
Putting the IP in Ipswich 18-Jun-15
Fast internet rockets Planet Homes business into outer space 19-Jun-15
The rise of the ‘GranTechie’: closing the generational gap 22-Jun-15
Ziggy Switkowski: Industry and Workforce Futures 23-Jun-15
Chunghwa Telecom: Puts faith in G.Fast to deliver super-fast broadband 23-Jun-15 Neutral Positive
Fast broadband at the beach 24-Jun-15

Kenneth Tsang

I'm the author of jxeeno™ blog and co-founder of HSCninja.com. I'm a bit of an #NBN and public transport geek. You can normally find me juggling work and my studies at UNSW where I'm currently completing a degree in Geospatial Engineering.

  • Mr Creosote

    For a company that is supposed to be technology agnostic, they certainly don’t present themselves that way. Its not just their blog that shows bias against FTTP. Much of their social media interactions and mainstream media releases follow in the same biased vein as their blog, and often in a very aggressive manner.The brownfield FTTP has shrunk from what Labor had already had underway and the replacement is FTTN. There appears to be no eagerness to increase or encourage FTTP at all. The scramble to cover up Project Fox is ample evidence of that as well. NBN Co representatives even went to the drastic measures of trying to say it didn’t exist. Their anti-FTTP stance is simply bizarre!

  • Mr Q

    Listen to 31 mins into this. Their negative campaign has fooled ===> http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-01/national-press-club-peter-strong/6587662