Only 16 hours after NBNCo let the cat out of the bag, Mitch Fifield has made a humiliating retreat from plans to charge regional consumers on the fixed-wireless network $20 more to access broadband than consumers in the city.
At 6.15pm last night, the NBN CFO revealed plans to charge regional consumers $20 more per month for a 50 Mbps plan than what a customer in the city customer would pay.
By 9.00am this morning, an NBN spokesman doubled down on the position during an ABC Hobart radio interview:
PRESENTER: Is it fair that customers who just, by I guess where they live, have to pay more for a service that’s available in the city?
NBN SPOKESMAN: Well this is one of the realities of the internet.
At 9.45am Labor said the price hike must be dropped, and called on the National Party to step in and pull the Liberals and the NBNCo into line.
At 11.30am the capitulation was on, with an embarrassed Mitch Fifield declaring in a statement that NBN was embarking on a “fresh round of product consultations”.
Come midday, NBNCo was virtually pretending there was no hearing of the Joint Standing Committee last night, that the CFO’s comments had been a figment of everyone’s imagination, and claiming no decision had been taken.
Labor welcomes the capitulation on this unfair and unjust pricing change. This is a win for regional consumers and the principle of equity in telecommunications which only Labor can be trusted to protect.
It is difficult to believe the Minister had no idea what NBNCo was planning, especially given the duration of consultation on these changes.
In the event the Minister had no idea what was going on, as was the case with the NBN HFC halt, he must seriously reassess his commitment to governance of the portfolio.
Australia cannot afford to have a Minister who never knows what is happening, is constantly thrown under the bus by key portfolio agencies, and has not demonstrated a strand of vision for the future of the communications sector.