The board of NBN Co has comprehensively failed in its core mission and should resign to allow an incoming government to save the project, according to Commpete, the Australian alliance for competition in digital communication.
Commpete said the NBN board has shown no appreciation of the issue, “let alone any imagination in how to promote bold action to reverse it, and should let new blood take over.”
The alliance said the huge public investment in building the NBN was predicated on the understanding that the rollout of the national broadband network would transform Australian communications markets.
“This was not just, or even primarily, about transformative technology,” added Commpete chair Michelle Lim. “It was about driving a more competitive telecommunications sector to end the raw deal consumers have suffered for years due to inadequate competition.”
Lim acknowledged that building a separate, national, wholesale only access network had taken out the main barrier to competition, creating a level playing field to provide competitors with equal access to customers.
“But the evidence is now in that NBN has failed to deliver against the core objective,” she said. “Market share data from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission shows the proportion of NBN connections to challenger retailers has flatlined at below seven percent. The goal should be 30 per cent market share to challenger retailers.”
In addition, Lim said the lack of information from NBN about how it plans to change to fulfil its core brief of lifting competition was even more damning.
“The board has presided over this complacency and now must take responsibility for it,” she said.
“The NBN is the most important Australian infrastructure project of the past 50 years because it is about so much more than just a piece of infrastructure,” Lim said. “It is about affordable, innovative, responsive communications markets capable of making Australia the world’s leading digital economy.”
“Without a refreshed and passionate new vision, there is a risk more than A$40 billion will have been spent for nothing,” she warned. “The board should now allow a refresh of the project to commence immediately to achieve the original competition goals.”
Commpete – which comprises a slew of Australian digital communications companies – advocates “real competition for consumers, small business and the economy.” The alliance was founded in 2004 and was known as the Competitive Carriers’ Coalition.