28 November 2008

Turn on and drop out

Telstra has, hopefully, overplayed a weak hand in their bid for the National Broadband Network.

If you want to use your market power to crush competitors, go your hardest - but don't whinge about the prospect of enforcing anti-competition laws. If you are enjoying a monopoly gifted to you by the government, enjoy it - don't complain when the carnival ends, just lift your game. Just because Eddy Groves hasn't learned the lessons he's been taught doesn't mean that Telstra can't and won't go the same way. Incompetence burns market share and credibility, no matter what base you work from.

Hopefully anyone but Telstra get the gig of rolling out the NBN, and unless Conroy is more craven than I think he is then they won't. A letter from the chairman might have been sufficient back when western-district graziers lkike McGauchie ran the country, but it goes against everything that the telecommunications revolution of the past twenty years or so has promised/threatened. A new player has the ability to leapfrog Australia out of the backwater in which Trujillo would have us languish. Telstra is not about best practice in telco delivery - it's about keeping marginally ahead within a market it is actively depressing. It is really hard to respect this approach, let alone rally to its defence.

Yeah, thousands of Australians will lose their jobs if Telstra reverts to its cardigan culture and goes down. Given my earlier comments about the car industry I must seem pretty insouciant about jobs, eh. Then again, that's what you get when history moves on: thousands of Australians lost their jobs in the demobilisations of 1919 and 1945, many more when Cobb & Co and Qintex went to the wall. Nothing kills jobs like mismanagement.

If TransACT win their corner of the continent, it could transform Canberra in ways not foreseen in their bid. Canberra is the second-biggest IT market in the country and to have the country's best broadband will see it become an innovation hub. Canberra's public-service culture isn't ready for this. You are going to have dynamism and stasis side-by-side, economic and population growth - any politician who thinks they can ride such a tectonic shift is kidding themselves.

If a bidder other than Telstra rolls out the NBN, the challenge will be on the incumbents to roll out a solution that beats the winning bidder, preferably before said bidder completes the job. They would also be free to concentrate on the economical parts of the country, the part which bushies call the SCAM triangle (which would have to include SE Queensland these days). This would require a reversal of the sloth of Telstra's traditional culture, or the just-enough-and-whinge culture of Trujillo, McGauchie and Phil Burgess. It will require a realignment of which Telstra is just not capable, and they'll end up begging for the disaggregation that should always have preceded privatisation. If Telstra don't win the NBN contract Trujillo and McGeachie should be sacked immediately.

If Telstra win, the Rudd government is shot in terms of credibility on forward-thinking and innovation. They'll take the money and roll it out whenever as Australia slips further behind in terms of telecommunications - and just as backwater status starts to bite economically, Trujillo will piss off with the sort of plunder that leaves us all poorer.

The less said about Conroy's anyone-who-opposes-it-is-a-child-molester firewall, the better. Nobody believes Conroy is any sort of moral guardian, nobody believes the thing will do its intended job, and neither that nor anything else will keep Xenophon and Fielding voting with the government.

1 comment:

  1. "...it's about keeping marginally ahead within a market it is actively depressing. It is really hard to respect this approach, let alone rally to its defence."

    A perfect summary of TLS.

    I've been meaning to leave a comment for some time about your writings; they're humorous and thoughtful, and even though I'm a leftie I agree with pretty well all you say, or at least the way you say it.

    Keep it up.