by Byron Connolly

NBN Co chairman defends NBN reporting

Feb 26, 20143 mins

NBN Co chairman Dr Ziggy Switkowski has defended the organisation’s reporting of key rollout data for the national broadband network saying feedback from construction partners and analysts suggested it is “the best it’s ever been.”

Switkowski was responding to a barrage of questions at yesterday’s Senate Estimates hearing from Senator Stephen Conroy, the former communications minister, on NBN Co’s transparency and reporting of the NBN rollout.

Conroy asked why NBN Co felt it was a unnecessary diversion of resources to publish detailed information from weekly program summary reports detailing the date services were switched on, number of premises connected and contract instructions issued among other details.

He also cited a monthly ready-for-service spreadsheet, which shows historical footprints and predicted forecasts for services becoming available.

Information from these reports is shared with NBN Co’s retail service providers (RSPs).

“These things have been taken down off your website,” Conroy said.

Switkowski told the hearing that NBN Co is trying to make sure it publishes meaningful and accurate information about the roll out.

“We get feedback from our construction partners, from analysts who follow telecommunications companies and fund managers, and as recently as last Friday [they were] saying that the level of reporting, disclosure, transparency and updating of data is the best that it’s ever been,” said Switkowski.

“So we take that as encouragement to continue doing what we are doing.”

Switkowski said he was happy with the progress NBN Co had made in terms of disclosure and regular reporting and release of data.

“I’ve had regular conversation with the minister about the process by which information flows into his office and information flows to the various stakeholders – the finance minister and external stakeholders.

“You’ve seen changes over the last few months in terms of the maps we have released, the weekly stats on the rollout footprint, and a commitment on a quarterly basis to provide a full commentary around the financial and operational performance of NBN,” he told the estimates hearing.

Last year, communications minister Malcolm Turnbull reiterated the need for NBN Co to improve the transparency of its reporting.

Conroy claimed that since the change of government, NBN Co has removed publicly available information about the roll out.

“You’ve also refused to provide this information and direct answers to questions on notice even though you produce the information that the Senate has asked for monthly.”

“Information provided in weekly stats contains only a fraction of the information that is actually available to you in the program summary reports. The core information that was being provided by the organisation has been withdrawn,” Conroy said.

“You’ve become exceptionally secretive about the roll out.”

Switkowski said this was “low quality information.”

“We are providing, every week by state, a break down of the progress of the roll out – brownfields, greenfields, fixed wireless and satellite and we’ve been doing that since shortly after the management changed.

“In other words, we are trying to put out data that meets the needs of our retail service partners, which we think is helpful to the community at large. The previous information – well intended when it was originally designed in terms of its format – increasingly contained information that had a distant connection to reality.”