Mar 2, 2017

You, yes YOU, own the NBN, so demand a higher goddamn standard

The national broadband network does not belong to millionaire bureaucrats or Liberal MPs. It belongs to you, the taxpayer, and you have the right to demand better.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

Whenever news about the NBN unfolds, I am reminded of a 1990 film called The Bonfire of the Vanities. This comparison, in the case you were one of the few who witnessed Tom Hanks’ failure to play a corruptible man, has little to do with its plot but everything to do with its production process. Everyone was waiting for this newsy blockbuster, based on a Tom Wolfe novel -- it looked so good on paper! Then as news of its Cleopatra-sized budget blowout began to leak, and as personnel compromises were made for peculiar reasons, we began to expect very little.

Very little was what we got. Investors lost money and the book’s difficult social themes, only just upheld by the skill of Wolfe, were swallowed inside a bloated script. An American story that had, in written form, served people with its critical look at both race and the finance sector was hollowed out into a festival of nothing. Not even Hollywood’s best taglines -- "An outrageous story of greed, lust and vanity” -- could save this craven dog.

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

32 thoughts on “You, yes YOU, own the NBN, so demand a higher goddamn standard

  1. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    “I get that this is IT speak and a perfectly acceptable way to characterise the use of a product or service down at the back end. When it is used in public conversation, however, I am led to suppose that some of Bill’s many annual dollars could be better spent on the formation of a tagline.”

    I get that this is IT journalism but WTF is a service down at the back end? Are we talking proctology or DYI mechanics?

    1. Helen Razer

      It is bad punctuation, for which I apologise.
      Reference to (front-end) products or services BY the back end persons.

  2. graybul

    Helen! For all your words, warnings and outright disgust culminating with . . . “Change the script, or suffer a nation’s tragic flop” you know damn well we peasants are completely powerless. Even our trusted ABC no longer acts as our voice of last resort. Turnbull himself was prepared to sell his soul (and all his personal beliefs/values including both ABC and NBN) in order to secure the Prime Ministership says it all about how concerned he is about public accountability.
    Big, non taxed – corporate Business alongside our political elites in truth . . . DON’T GIVE A FLYING ‘GIGABYTE’ about what the electorate (you and me) thinks . . . about anything; including the NBN. We have known from beginning of the Abbott/Turnbull reign that the NBN is a horrendous lemon and will need replacement at a crippling cost sooner rather than later. We, once proud Australians’ have written, debated and raged about the exorcism of the public voice from participation / prioritisation of public ownership to no avail. Helen; your “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” belittles all those of us that continue the fight and will, continue to fight . . . .

    1. Helen Razer

      I agree that we are powerless as we largely act in the present.
      I also agree that there are those who look to forms of solidarity, where, say, we could all agree that the government is there to serve the people and not wealth accumulation for a few.
      If you are among these who continues to believe that it is only together that we can overcome our powerlessness, then I don’t think you’ve been denigrated. Just implicitly acknowledged for what you (unfortunately) are: in a minority of activists.

      1. Helen Razer

        And “don’t say I didn’t warn you” is addressed specifically to the political class. Who will be overturned by racist nationalists if they don’t give back the stuff. I am sorry if you felt maligned or discouraged., but that statement is addressed to them, which you will see if you re-read it.

  3. Jimbo

    Helen. It was an excellent Labor scheme which was a world leader at the time that Turnbull trashed on behalf of the rent seeking Murdoch, yet the mainstream press (Murdoch) and the LNP compliant ABC just publish Turnbull telling us that his government fixed Labor’s mess. That is what most people think because it is the only news they hear. This good article will not go outside Crikey so how will people ever know that they have been so comprehensively done over?

    1. Bill Hilliger

      Oh, do people still watch and listen to ABC programs?

      1. Jimbo

        Most do not even know that Murdoch’s executives now run the ABC. Murdoch won’t tell them.

        1. Bill Hilliger

          Murdoch wanted to destroy the ABC, Malcolm chicken little and his front bench dipsticks complied by weighting the ABC board and some operations divisions with NewsCrap numpties. Difficult to stomach, more difficult to watch. Oh well at least Loopert is happy.

          1. loz

            ‘Loopert is happy’..? Does that mean Jerry does anal and Rupert is a stud and the trophies on his mantlepiece are jealous and he, Trump and that Italian nut job are going to have a gang bang party?

    2. zut alors

      Tony Abbott & his (then) henchman Minister of Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, achieved exactly what they intended ie: botching the excellent Rudd NBN & not-quite-yet delivering a third rate service.

      Julie Salamon’s book (‘Devil’s Candy, The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco’) was an eye-opener. Had she penned an NBN version it would be titled ‘The Anatomy of a Screw The End User Fiasco.’

  4. grimace

    I resent your implication here that the community do not care about the NBN.

    I was originally slated for HFC NBN (I moved into a greenfields housing estate in 2012 just before FTTP NBN became compulsory) which I was most unhappy about, particularly since there is a telecommunications box thing in my front yard with the fibre cable and that it services houses starting 60 cable meters from my house, including the one behind it.

    I made so many calls to NBN that eventually a senior manager from NBN told me that no matter how many times I called them that I wouldn’t be getting FTTP. So I started on my local MP. A check of the NBN website yesterday shows that I’ll now be getting FTTP between Jan 19 and June 19. I don’t know if this was a result of my (and my next door neighbour) efforts, but I most certainly do care and made a number of calls and emails to NBN and my local MP to do something about it.

    The problem is that most people feel that nobody really cares about them, and that even if they do contact their local MP nothing will be done about it. I’m happy to forward you copies of the type of crap that I got out of Christian Porters staff during my efforts.

    1. graybul

      Well done Grimace . . . 2012 – mid 2017. You sure know which levers to pull. Please confirm when connected. To balance the screen so to speak; NBN rocked up to friend’s place to connect. Disconnected existing phone/internet service. No phone/internet access for next nine weeks. Not meant to foreshadow mate; just keep toes crossed.

      1. grimace

        The fight didn’t start until late 2014 for various reasons that are not relevant to this discussion. Going from memory (and I may be wrong), the NBN had released the rollout plan which showed that I’d be getting HFC, not FTTP. I moved into stage 1 of a 4 stage greenfields development; the people living behind me have FTTP NBN, 3 houses away has FTTP NBN, and the cable for the housing development goes through my front yard (we’ve opened up the box thing in the ground and had a look).

        From then on I decided to dig in and do everything humanly possible to get FTTP.

      2. grimace

        Thankyou for that warning, I’ll keep it in mind. I’ve developed quite an email list over the last 2 and a bit years, from the sounds of it I’ll need to keep it handy.

        1. graybul

          The essence of our exchange Grimace is what I think is Helen’s message (which I support). If examples such as we shared are in fact numerically significant and . . . . NBN Australia has gone as posted by Bob Weis “from 38th in World to a woeful 72nd and dropping further behind.” then it would, should, not be unreasonable that electoral displeasure will strongly focus upon those responsible. Political and Public Service distain, rejection of transparency/accountability will be countered not by single issue minorities but widespread public enmity towards those parliamentarians currently in power.

    2. Helen Razer

      Grimace. Don’t take it personally! The language here is clearly addressed to the political class, not to those who oppose them.
      I do think it is fair to say that “We have become very used in Australia to corporate governance of our public institutions.” We have. Over forty years, the sense that we have ownership of our nation has diminished. Why shouldn’t it? Our labour organisations have been crushed and the “(end) user pays” idea has been sold and solt to us to the point that it is normal.
      To sketch what has become the norm is not to say that there is not resistance to it. This piece addresses the political class and reminds the rest of us that, yes, this nation does belong to us. Unfortunately, there is not always time or space to acknowledge that there are those who basically agree with me!

      1. grimace

        Thanks for engaging with me Helen.

        NBN is an issue close to my heart and I’ve put a lot of effort into it. I’m most proud that I’ve been declared a VIP (very impertinent pest) by Christan Porter’s office.

  5. Bob Weis

    And Turnbull who paid for his North Shore mansion from the money he made on an IT play has been screaming himself hoarse about the waste of public money on the ALP’s fibre to the home while delivering a more expensive hybrid system that won’t be any good. Over the period of his lying about this nation building exercise Australia has gone from what was a poor 38th in the world in broadband to a woeful 72nd and dropping further behind.
    Every time you have to wait for an upload or download thank Malcolm. Then vote him out of our lives

    1. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

      Sorry Bob but the ‘harbourside mansion’ is on the south shore.

  6. dandycooper

    Just been connected and here are the results:
    Before NBN: Download 11.29; Upload 1.10; Ping 22
    NBN: Download 13.17; Upload 4.65: Ping 13
    4G network: Download 38.86; Upload 5.88; Ping 27
    Camden, NSW

    1. Lee Tinson

      That’s a dreadful result. Unless you just took the basic package. You could do much better for very little extra … until everyone else gets on it.

  7. archibald

    Nobody ever seems to mention that glorious moment of transparency back when Tones took the LP leadership and named Turnyeller as his minister for communications and gleefully tasked him with “demolishing it.”
    Clearly, Talcum has stuck to his last.

  8. AR

    That was a stunning exposition MzRaz, may I call you Cassandra?
    Cursed with perfect foresight by Apollo for spurning him?
    I’m afraid it’ll be the latter of your points – crunch.
    Garybul ponders why Talcum sold his soul whereas I wonder why anyone would buy it.

  9. Susan Anderson

    No I think the decay goes deeper than that
    I think that these anti intellectual parasites have just about broken the social contract, the one that another commenter elegantly defined as – they don’t grind us into the dust and we don’t kill them in their beds – I think we are getting close to kill them in their beds time
    They are vile, stupid filth – look at Alan T(Sl)udge, you’d have to dig through the bottom of the barrel to find such a repugnant creature !
    We just about need to put these creatures out of our misery

    1. Helen Razer

      To apportion blame to political individuals is to ignore a long policy tradition. If it makes you feel better to say things about hurting individuals, that’s okay. But maybe good to acknowledge that this is all the act is good for.
      I don’t think that “draining the swamp” can be achieved unless we drain it of all its bad ideas, which we see in all political parties. This means that we insist on better from the political class, or turn our backs on them altogether. To say that individual snakes are responsible, over and again, is to overlook that these snakes are bred by a system. And it is our responsibility to reform it. They’re not going to.

    2. Dog's Breakfast

      “…. the social contract, the one that another commenter elegantly defined as – they don’t grind us into the dust and we don’t kill them in their beds” – very good Susan, I don’t think that was me, too elegant, but I have said something like that in the past. Might use that again with your and the author’s permission.

      It’s as good a description of the social contract that I can imagine.

  10. 2bobsworth

    The gutting of the NBN had winners and losers!
    WHO BENEFITED? Lets name and congratulate the winners, smart businessmen, not doing anything illegal, nothing personal, just looking after their shareholders bottom line.
    We know who the losers were!

    1. Dog's Breakfast

      I don’t think there were any business ‘winners’ here 2bobs! Business were going to do most of the work and retail the end product. They were never shut out.

      It was entirely political, Tony Abbott in political wrecker mode, nothing more. Sure though, Murdoch’s feeble business model was going to see the future much quicker than otherwise.

      Murdoch and Abbott can rightfully be remembered as the worst of what Australia has produced. Their sins are legion.

Leave a comment

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details