Monday, June 29, 2009

NBN Update

The NBN continues to be an unfolding story of step-by-step announcements, some speculation and some misreporting.

I blogged about the legislation introduced last week. The Bill has been referred to the relevant Senate legislation committee - the actual reference to the commitee in the report of the "selection of Bills Committee" identifies a reporting date of 17 August. However it refers to two appendices (12 and 13) as bases for the referral. The first is "detailed consideration of the requirements and the confidentiality protections" with a suggested reporting date of 17 August. The second is "need to assess the privacy provisions are adequate, and that the powers conferred are commensurate with need" with a suggested reporting date of 28 October and a list of possible submissions from GetUp!, Electronic Frontiers, Peter Black (an academic lawyer) an academic from Bond University and Trevor Barr. It also suggested hearings in late September/early October.

On the strength of the latter reference Stuart Corner wrote this up in Exchange Daily as a possible serious delay to the legislation. The actual 17 August date actually fits with the return of the Parliament for Spring - effectively its next sitting day. Meanwhile writing in Communications Day Richard Chirgwin has noted that almost all the infrastructure referred to is already shown on standard topographic maps. In my blog I had my own go already on why this stuff isn't "confidential".

What is most confusing about all this remains the coalition strategy. Surely if you want to hold the Government to account and really have something to hammer them on come the election you'd get out of the way so that you can hold them to account on delivery not planning. The way we are going the NBN might not get started till afterthe next election but the delay can be sheeted to legislative obstruction in the Senate.

In other developments Dan Oakes has reported in the Smage that this should be a big week for Conroy. Supposedly he will tomorrow announce the routes and the tender for the first $250M for additional backhaul. Also supposedly Egon Zehnder is delivering proposed names for a Board on Tuesday. This would be quick for a contract only issued on 4 June but as I noted the types of candidates are relatively straight forward, but not all those that have been speculated about. Finally Oakes is expecting that tomorrow is the deadline for the three shortlisted lead advisor. Oakes' original story makes it clear this is juast the cut off for the final tender with a selection due in July.

Now while this generates some excitement, a pedant might note that at the joint press conference on 7 April the Minister said "we will be having an implementation study over the next eight to nine months to work through all of those sorts of issues." By the time the lead adviser is appointed three months of the "eight or nine" will have passed.

A pedant would also note Minister Conroy's comments in his speech to the National Press Club on 28 April;

In addition, the first legislation required to underpin the National Broadband Network will be introduced in the winter sittings. This includes a Bill to require greenfield developments to use FTTP technology from 1 July 2010 and for the Government to acquire network information needed to assist in the design of the national FTTP rollout.

The legislation that was introduced in the winter session only addressed the second of these two elements.

Finally today ZDNet is reporting that the Department has extended the consulting contracts for Consultel and KPMG for assistance with the Tasmanian deployment. How these fit with the overall NBN implementation study remains one of the pieces of confusion in the marketplace. (Note, the ZDNet report was that these two contracts worth $410,000 were additional to earlier contracts worth $250,000. However as they are listed as amendments to the earlier contrats, and as they have common start dates of 29 April it looks like the $250K is included in the $410K).

an aside
Looking through the Department contracts on the I came across a few others of interest. The first was the contract for executive search for the Deputy Chair of ACMA. It will be interesting to see how that goes. Interesting to note that its value is just about half of that for finding an entire Board for NBNCo.

The second was a contract to Trish Benson for a review of Departmental activities, priorities and resources. The outcome of that has at least been partially released on the Department website. The reason for the only partial release was given as;

The Department will not be releasing the recommendations which were not accepted, because this would unnecessarily unsettle staff, distract them from the business of the organisation and negatively impact productivity.

I found this a quaint reason at best, as if I were a staff member I'd find not knowing what was rejected more "unsettling". After all, that could come around in the future and I don't know wht I can do to mitigate the impact. I am also personally distressed at the idea that the physical library be replaced with an online one. There are many things that are only available in books, and following the demise of the Telstra libraries and the Telecom New Zealand libraries I wonder if all policy will now be derived from blogs and opinion pieces.

Other interesting contracts were the many contracts for legal services, but the mother of them all is the $2M+ for probity advice from the AGS. That's a lot of money to be told you can't talk to anyone about anything. (Note I have a personal view that the probity advice was wrong and was verly restrictive - and that this in part led to the failure of NBN 1.0 to reach a result).

And the final one of interest is the nearly $100K for Edith Cowan University for a Review of existing Australian and international cyber-safety research. I'm just wondering whether that piece of work will see the light of day as a public document or not.

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