Government urged to investigate deployment

The Morrison government is under pressure to call a Senate inquiry into the deployment and management of the national broadband network as the company behind the program faces protests from workers.

On Thursday, NBN technicians marched to the head office of NBN Co in Melbourne to protest the alleged “pyramid-style” bogus contract deals, their rates of pay and the management of the company. Deployment of the NBN.

The protest was just the latest move in the ongoing industrial action against NBN Co, with NBN workers protesting outside the company’s Sydney office on Monday and ahead of a $ 1,500 communications summit attended by the NBN Co boss, Stephen Rue Wednesday.

The union representing the workers has called on Communications Minister Paul Fletcher to announce a Senate investigation into the deployment and management of the NBN.

“The NBN deployment is plagued with problems, not the least of which are shady and fictitious employment arrangements, and the workers will not stand it anymore,” CEPU National Deputy Secretary James Perkins said.

“We need an independent investigation to shed light on the questionable transactions of the NBN deployment, how workers were treated unfairly and the impact of customer service.”

NBN’s current job setup amounted to a government-backed pyramid scheme, said Perkins, who further criticized NBN Co.’s controversial pandemic bonuses.

NBN technicians protest against wage cuts and mismanagement. Photo: Provided

In February, the Senate passed a motion slamming the $ 77.5 million bonus paid by NBN Co at the height of the pandemic last year as “excessive, unreasonable and without justification.”

“You have managers with high salaries and multi-million dollar bonuses while workers are pressed for salary and terms on the other end and service suffers,” Mr Perkins said, accusing NBN Co and the Federal Government to “turn a blind eye to these shady job setups and system flaws.”

A spokesperson for NBN Co said the company has met with CEPU representatives and will continue to engage with the union.

“We are working constructively with CEPU and seek to maintain and support strong and productive working relationships with our delivery partners and their respective subcontractors,” the spokesperson said.

“NBN Co appreciates the continued dedication and diligence of the thousands of highly trained field technicians and network engineers who are not directly involved in the industrial action and continue to work hard to maintain the reliability and performance of the NBN network. across Australia. “

The new daily asked for Mr Fletcher’s comments on the protests and asked if he would consider calls for a Senate inquiry.

A spokesperson for the minister declined to comment.

Telco criticizes NBN Co’s pricing system

This week’s protests weren’t the only headache for NBN Co, with the company’s pricing system criticized by a popular telecommunications company.

On Wednesday, Aussie Broadband warned that package prices would increase or the customer experience would suffer if NBN Co’s wholesale pricing system was not urgently recalibrated.

The company’s chief executive, Phillip Britt, criticized NBN Co’s recently announced “soft cap” on pricing, which was released in response to criticism from retail service providers.

In 2020, as more Australians than ever before were working from home due to the pandemic, NBN Co temporarily suspended charges for additional bandwidth, known as connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) charges.

Mr Britt said HVAC fees should be phased out permanently as demand for data continues to increase.

“There is no doubt that consumer data usage continues to increase year on year, with industry figures showing between 20 and 30 percent,” he said.

“In most telecommunications companies, the prices go down or the included value increases over time. For example, over the past three years we’ve seen backhaul prices drop from 15 to 5 cents per Mbps on common routes, and in retail circles, customers have seen the included value of mobile plans considerably. increase.

“Yet in NBN’s pricing model for CVC, if data usage increases by 20%, the cost to retail service providers doubles. “

The call follows warnings from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network that consumers could look for other home broadband solutions, such as 5G, if NBN prices are not factored in.

“As home broadband alternatives like 5G become more accessible in more and more parts of the country, NBN Co is going to have to demonstrate to cost-conscious consumers why they should choose an NBN service over these alternatives,” said the general manager of the network Teresa Corbin in March. .

“This means they are going to have to offer more competitive wholesale prices if they are to keep their customers in these areas.”

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