Matthew Reddin

The NBN: Only 80% done disappointing us

Good news! The entirety of the NBN disaster is not yet complete. In fact, we’ve still got a magnitude of pain to endure. Excuse me while my criticism buffers.



Congratulations, Australia. The new sub-standard broadband network is almost complete.

When it comes to having a slower, more expensive and basically shitter broadband network, the good news is that we’re 80% done on that front. Which is terrific. The folk in orange hi-vis gear near your house digging holes in the road, filling them with what one can only assume is an oscilloscope bound with chicken wire, then covering the hole again and moving on to the next street – they’re almost done.

80% of the construction of a federally funded “Second Telstra” has allowed us to get just that little bit closer from being a hodgepodge of miscellaneous ISPs using an old copper network, to a globally shameful, slower, shittier network using a system that quite literally nobody thought was the better alternative of the two options presented. Nobody, except the then-communications minister, who turns out is the current Prime Minister. For now (tick, tock).

Among developed nations, there are 50 other countries which seemingly have faster broadband speed than us in the Antipodes. The Akamai State of the Internet quarterly analysis has been good enough to show us as having as much heft in the global broadband stakes as we seem to at the Winter Olympics. On these rankings, we’re lagging behind a solid 50 (five-zero) nations when it comes to having faster average Internet speeds. Just to rub it in, Andorra ranks at No. 35, and yes, for the record, they competed at the Winter Olympics (they sent three people, won zero medals; we sent 50 people and won three medals). And yes, Andorra is an actual place (it’s on the Iberian Peninsula, which it turns out is in Europe – who knew?). The point being, they have better broadband than us. I’m still trying to find out how fast one can download a 1080p episode of Game of Thrones (legally) if one was in Narnia.

Now, herein is a bit of a thing. We’re 80% done on this massive infrastructure project, which is nice – we all love a bit of infrastructure (and this is actually the largest infrastructure project in the nation’s history), and getting content from the Internet faster and clearer and whenever we want for as little money as possible is something that most people think is a good idea. In theory. But how much pornography do you really, actually need? (He asked, cynically.)


We’ve almost completed something which doesn’t work as the thing its replacing! Nobody likes it, and it’s almost done.


The broader, non-erotic purpose was to allow rural and regional Australia access to data, information and entertainment at the same speeds and quality as those in metropolitan centres. A recent press release from the Minister for Regional Communications said that the 80% milestone signified we were closer to “…connecting family and friends, ensuring they can take advantage of opportunities like distance education and working remotely with ease.”

Having fast Internet in regional Queensland might push all your buttons, I’m not here to judge. The minutiae of it started as being a plan by the-then (first) Rudd government, which proposed a modern optical fibre telecoms network to provide broadband to 93% of the Australian population at 100 Mbit/s (again, this is apparently a thing). Counter-punching this was the Abbott opposition, who wanted to kibosh the whole thing, and upon gaining government in 2013 compromised, eventually adopting a mixed copper-optical technology with Fibre to the Node (FTTN).

Still with me?

Well, it gets better. Bill Morrow, the CEO of the NBN, has revealed that 15% of those people “lucky” enough to have NBN access are receiving a poor service and are “seriously dissatisfied”. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman released its annual reporting showing a 159% increase in NBN complaints with nearly 40% of NBN customers not satisfied with the service.

And now with the news that the rollout is but 20% from being complete, those figures have nowhere to go but up, which – to quote a Modest Mouse album title – is good news for people who like bad news, or Communications Ministry staffers who are becoming quite adept at turd-polishing. We’ve almost completed something which doesn’t work as the thing its replacing! Nobody likes it, and it’s almost done!

So, here we are. Celebrating 80% of something that doesn’t work almost being finished.

Slow (buffering…) clap.


Matthew Reddin

Matt Reddin has been writing nonsense about film, TV, books, music and live theatre for a touch over 20 years. He’s gone from the halcyon days of street press in Perth, to regional dailies, national magazines and major metropolitan newspapers. Now, in between bouts of sporadically yelling at clouds, he vents his creative spleen at

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