Malcolm Turnbull defends NBN rollout, says comparison to Kenyan internet is 'rubbish'

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he is “keenly aware” of the pain and disappointment NBN installations are causing the public, but says the issues are related to marketing and customer service, not the network’s technology itself.

“[NBN Co has] got to improve the installation experience. That’s a people management, a process management issue. And they’re getting on top of that”, Mr Turnbull said in an interview with 3AW’s Neil Mitchell, adding that complaints about poor installation experiences were one of the two areas causing the majority of the strife.

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The second, he said, was that retail service providers were “not buying enough capacity” to deliver the speeds they are promising to consumers.

“People are being told by the telecom retailers that they’re going to get speeds which are not being delivered at peak times. And we’ve got a number of changes to ensure that that problem doesn’t continue”, Mr Turnbull said.

“We are restructuring it to make it more transparent so that people will know that, if they’re not getting the right deal, it is a Telstra or an Optus or a TPG problem”.

The comments echo similar statements from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which as accused telcos of using unrealistic speeds to sell ‘NBN services’.

ACCC chief Rod Sims described telco advertising on the NBN as “frankly terrible”.

Asked about recent reports that Australia has slumped several places on a global ladder of internet speeds, behind Kenya, Mr Turnbull dismissed the statistics as “complete rubbish”.

Far fewer people connected to the internet in Kenya, and those that do can afford fast connections, Mr Turnbull said, which skewed the averages.

“One-and-a-half per cent of people in Kenya have access to broadband. In australia it’s 90 per cent”, he said.

“You might have a handful of wealthy people with apartment buildings that have got first world telecoms in a country where the vast majority of people have got no access at all”.

The reports, based on Akamai’s most recent state of the internet findings, put Australia 50th in the world for average connection speed, below other Western nations like the US (10), Canada (20) and New Zealand (27), and with less than half the average speed of world leader South Korea.

People are being told by the telecom retailers that they’re going to get speeds which are not being delivered at peak times.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Australia also ranked below many Asian nations and all but five European countries, but was only beaten by three countries in Africa and the Middle East: Qatar (32), Israel (33) and Kenya (43). In peak speeds, Australia ranked 64th.

Mr Turnbull said the choice to use a range of different technologies for the network, in contrast to the fibre-heavy plan favoured by the ALP, had meant the rollout was the “fastest, biggest” in Australia’s history, and that NBN Co was “doing an extraordinary job”.

As for the issues with botched installations and sub-par speeds, Mr Turnbull said the government is working with NBN Co, and the ACCC is working with telcos, to resolve them.

“The vast majority of NBN’s customers are happy with it, but there are too many that are not, and I am determined to fix it,” he said.

“Mitch Fitfield and I are not leaving this to bureaucrats. We are dealing with the management directly.”

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