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nbn™ chair Ziggy Switkowski says HFC remediation mess is business as usual

'Every time we launch a new platform we got through processes learning how to do it well'

nbn™ chairman Ziggy Switkowski last night told a Senate Estimates hearing that problems with the hybrid fibre-coax (HFC) network it bought from Telstra first emerged in July.

In November, nbn™, the company building and operating Australia's national broadband network (NBN), put the HFC rollout on hold. nbn™ has stated that it did so even though complaints ran at just 1.1 per cent of installations. The Reg understands the company also observed network faults rising and customer satisfaction falling.

Zwitkowski also told the hearing nbn™ is not certain how many households will remain within the HFC footprint once the current network remediation is complete. He noted at one point that some of those premises might be moved to fibre-to-the-curb connections.

Speaking remotely (over a network connection that repeatedly stalled and buffered) Switkowski said: “Whether the HFC endpoint numbers get varied in the light of our pause in the rollout … are decisions that are still in front of us,” he said, in response to a question from Australian Labor Party communications spokesperson Michelle Rowland.

He told the committee he remains confident in HFC, however, saying: “We know HFC works around the world and we expect it to work here”.

Switkowski said that when the HFC implementation began, the board expected issues: “early on, the commentary around HFC was reasonably familiar. Every time we launch a new platform we got through processes learning how to do it well”, he said.

However, as the rollout expanded, the number of complaints as a proportion of connections remained stubbornly high, based on “customer complaints, and the volume of tickets required to address the issues”.

At some point, apparently not recorded in board minutes, the “concept of a pause” was raised by management in “conversations of increasing gravity”.

“When management made the recommendation in November, board members were of the view that management were right”, he said.

Discussing the likely financial impact of the pause, Switkowski said delaying the connection of 350,000 customers for six months would cost nbn™ around AU$50 million in foregone revenue. The Reg understands that nbn™ is yet to determine the cost of remediation. ®

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