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National Broadband Network Select Committee
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National Broadband Network Select Committee
Conroy, Sen Stephen
Thorp, Sen Lin
Ludlam, Sen Scott
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Content WindowNational Broadband Network Select Committee - 28/11/2013
MIER, Mr David, National Official, Electrical Division, Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union of Australia
MURPHY, Mr Shane, Assistant Secretary, New South Wales Branch, Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union of Australia
Senator CONROY: Did you enjoy that evidence from the department?
Mr Murphy : It was lovely, sitting back there listening to the department of broadband not knowing the true state of the copper network in the areas they want to roll out in! And I do not think they are going to find out.
Senator CONROY: I do not think they are looking, to be honest. So we are looking forward to your presentation.
CHAIR: As I said, I welcome you, Mr Murphy and Mr Mier. Do you wish to make a brief opening statement before we go to questions?
Mr Murphy : Yes, absolutely. Thank you.
CHAIR: Please proceed.
Mr Murphy : The CEPU thanks the committee for the opportunity today to speak on the National Broadband Network and, in light of the proposal by the current federal government to install fibre to the node and rely on Telstra's copper network to deliver the service from the node to the customer's premises, I will today focus on the Telstra copper network. The CEPU covers both Telstra fieldworkers and independent contractors performing installation and repair works on Telstra's fixed access copper network. Recently, the CEPU became aware of a number of comments made by the Telstra CEO and the managing director of Telstra Wholesale suggesting that the copper network is in such a good shape it will last another hundred years.
Senator CONROY: Mr Switkowsky, just last week.
Mr Murphy : Yes; I have brought those comments along. This set alarm bells ringing, to us in the union. Telstra fieldworkers and contractors who we represent have been regularly reporting to the union for many years now the exact state of the Telstra copper network right across the country. Workers' frustrations have boiled over as Telstra has driven a culture of quantity over quality. Since the privatisation of Telstra, maintenance budgets have been continually slashed year in year out, thousands of skilled workers have been made redundant and the end-result is that we are left with plastic bag joint and ring bark cable right across the nation.
Telstra has been consistently pushing workers to simply get the customer services up and running, bandaiding the network and moving the employee or contractor quickly onto the next job. This has resulted in thousands upon thousands of plastic bags and ring bark cables lying bare in the pits and manholes across the country in every major city and regional and remote country town. In every street or road in this country where there is a Telstra pit or manhole, it will either have a plastic bag joint or a ring bark cable lying bare in the pit.
I will bring you one example. Just at the weekend in Sydney I happened to be travelling through a fairly highly-populated area in north-western Sydney along Parsonage Road at Castle Hill past a number of businesses and residential customers. I noticed that there was Telstra worker from Victoria working in Sydney due to the number of customers off the air up there and I stopped to have a quick chat. In the space of 300 metres of this road at Castle Hill where the Victorian linesman was working, in five different pits were three plastic bags and two ring bark cables. This was all in the space of about 200 or 300 metres—and we did not walk the whole street. Some of those photos are provided for the committee today.
This provides the committee with a sample of just how bad it is out there, and Telstra relies upon statistics to continually hide the real problem of how bad the Telstra copper network is. The union relies upon actual evidence provided by workers such as CNI reports, photographs and videos taken by workers at the jobsites around the country. The union currently has a collection of thousands of photos and videos showing the true state of the Telstra copper network. These have been collected now for some time and the collection is still growing by the day. Today the CEPU provides this committee with a good sample of photos recently taken on a job by Telstra fieldworkers across various states and territories, and I will come to this slideshow shortly.
Telstra has a process in place for workers to report faulty cable joints through the CNI process, which is obviously classified as customer network investigations. CNIs have continually been reported by workers on numerous occasions, with CNIs re-reported only to be re-reported time and time again and for the same plastic bag joint or ring bark cable to remain and continue to cause outages to telephone and internet services across the country. When we come to the photos, you will note the identification on some of the tags in a small number of cases where there are CNI dates back to 2003 and 2004 when they were originally reported. Yet they still sit there today in 2013 and have been reported multiple times—some 16, 20 or 30 times.
Many Telstra workers or contractors have simply stopped re-reporting CNIs into the Telstra system. The frustration out there has been maintained where, if we report faults regularly and nothing is done to rectify them, they will not keep reporting them. So now Telstra cannot even determine the exact damage or how bad the Telstra copper network is.
Telstra's internal business processes for the fixing of CNIs is, firstly: a customer must make a complaint to the Australian Media and Communications Authority and the customer must have reported their faulty service more than three times in a 60-day period for Telstra to act to address the outstanding CNI—and I will just elaborate a bit on that point.
With the number of Telstra workers and contractors out there who are being monitored on the statistics of re-reported jobs coming back on the work they perform and with difficulties out there in actually getting the customer services back and up and running, contractors and workers have had to take shortcuts. In such cases, the current customer with an existing problem on his service will be swapped to a customer who has not got a problem, and that customer will end up with the problem. Telstra will just transfer the lines across to avoid that customer continually re-reporting service. That will avoid the three reports in 60 days.
For wholesale customers, those that are choosing other carriers, as I understand it, the internal business process is that when wholesale customers are affected by CNIs they must report their service more than three times in a 30-day period. And whilst even though this is the internal process for CNIs and they may have achieved three reports, many of the CNIs are left unrepaired across the country for wholesale customers. I will now take you to a sample of photos provided by Telstra workers and contractors, to give you an example of just how bad the Telstra copper network has become.
Slides were then shown—
Mr Murphy : The Howard government privatised Telstra and the copper network in the late 1990s. At the time of privatisation, I was an employee of Telstra, a line serviceman, and the network was in reasonably good condition. Today, in 2013, the Telstra copper network has degenerated to being an absolute disgrace and to being nearly beyond repair.
CHAIR: If you could just hold it there for a second, Mr Murphy. I understand your presentation will be made available on the committee's website. I am just seeing if I can get the lights dimmed here now so I can see a little more clearly, but I understand it will be available on the committee's website as well.
Senator CONROY: We don't mind working in the dark! We are trying to build an empty-tier network, so turn the lights off!
Mr Murphy : That was my opening statement. I am open to questions now.
Senator THORP: You were being quite literal when you mentioned plastic bags, Mr Murphy. I thought it might have been a euphemism for something.
Senator CONROY: No, no. They really meant plastic bags. They really do mean it.
Mr Murphy : I am sure there is a serial item number—this is a joke—for a plastic bag at Telstra now!
Senator THORP: You don't have to bring your own from the supermarket!
Senator LUDLAM: Can you define for us what you meant by ringbarking?
Mr Murphy : The ringbarked cable is there before you right now on the slide. It is where they have ringbarked below the actual joint. The black piece at the top of the cable there is the actual proper joint to be sealed in to keep the water out. That is the ringbark there below it, when the joint has gone faulty. They do not have time to replace or repair it, so they simply ringbark a strip of cable, cut the two wires away from the joint and reconnect them so that the customer is clear of that faulty joint. It then sits there in the pit, allowing water in—and, once water gets into the network, it degenerates for the many thousands of customers. For example, in Sydney alone today we have 10,000 consumers off the air and that does not include the data service; that is just the regular, normal internet and phone services. It gives you a clear example of how bad the Telstra copper network is. These have been taken from regional areas and country towns, and from capital cities across the country.
Senator THORP: What is that, in that slide?
Mr Murphy : That is the same. That is just wires openly sitting in the pit. They have been ringbarked and they are sitting open in the bottom of the pit.
Senator THORP: So ringbarking is where they have split the cable open—
Mr Murphy : They take the sheath off it.
Senator THORP: to sort the fault—
Mr Murphy : Yes, and leave it there in the pit.
Senator THORP: and they just leave it. Rather than putting it all back the way it should be, it is just left like that?
Mr Murphy : Yes.
Senator THORP: What does the plastic bag do?
Mr Murphy : Really, nothing.
Senator CONROY: It is supposed to keep the water out.
Mr Murphy : The plastic bag is simply there to try to keep water out, but there would be many here, you can see, that when they tip the bag up—
Senator THORP: I hope they're not recyclable!
Mr Murphy : it is full of water. This is an absolute disaster, and for the government to be considering rolling out fibre to the node and relying on this copper network—let me assure you the union is about to commence a campaign in a number of seats around the country to highlight to the constituents of the parliament how bad this is.
CHAIR: Thank you very much for your opening statement, Mr Murphy. As I said before, these pictures will be available on the committee's website. We cannot dim the lights any further in here because that affects the recording of these proceedings, the visuals—
Senator CONROY: I am sure we will be able to see the pictures and, certainly, me, Senator Lundy—perhaps not you! They have not turned off all the lights around me.
CHAIR: We are seeing what can be done, but I think this is good as it gets. Senators, I invite you to ask questions of the witness.
Senator CONROY: I have been learning lots about copper over the last few years and months. Do you have any pictures there of a bridge tap? Because I keep hearing that a bridge tap is something that is a significant inhibitor to—
Mr Murphy : No, I do not believe I have any.
Senator CONROY: No pictures of a bridge tap? I just thought you might have one handy—just so I knew what one looked like.
Mr Murphy : No, I did not have one handy, sorry.
Mr Mier : We would be able to get one for you.
Mr Murphy : I will be able to take that on notice.
Senator CONROY: Okay. And what is your understanding of the impact of bridge taps, how many are deployed and what impact they have on the service quality?
Mr Murphy : I understand there are a small number of bridge taps in the system, and they do affect the quality of service provided. As I understand it, they actually cause a number of dropouts in the system as well. I would be more than happy to take on notice to provide an actual bridge tap. I could bring one along or forward it on to show the committee and then explain exactly how it works and why it is causing the problems it is.
Senator CONROY: Great. Now, the quality of the joints—there is a lot of discussion about joints, and I think you have been demonstrating some. Could you just show as a couple of pictures where the joints are causing problems? Help us out here. Can we just stop this film?
Mr Mier : I was just going to say this is a movie. The slides have been made into a movie, so we cannot stop it.
Senator CONROY: It is just cycling? Gotcha.
Mr Mier : Yes. It is on a loop.
Senator CONROY: No worries. It's a horror movie, right!
Mr Mier : Clearly!
Senator CONROY: What is the white casing there?
Mr Murphy : The white casing is the actual top. It is the proper lid on a joint. Then obviously that joint inside there is faulty, and then below it is the plastic bag where they have ringbarked the cable and then put a bit of plastic around it after they have rectified their one pair. Let me assure you that what used to occur is that workers were given the time. If that job had been faulty when I was on the job in 1999, I would have been provided with adequate time to sit down and remake the joint or replace it with a new joint so it would be sealed from water and damage from weather. What has been occurring since the privatisation of Telstra, as I mentioned before, is that there is absolutely no time on the job. Workers with contracts are simply told, 'Fix the one you're on and move to your next job,' and that is the damage left behind where they are simply wrapping them up because they do not have the time to seal them or do them properly. The result is that, each time it rains now, thousands and thousands of customers across the country are without services.
Senator CONROY: I do experience this, as I said. I live in Williamstown in Melbourne, Victoria. Are people exaggerating when they talk about the impact of water on the voice and the data?
Mr Murphy : No, absolutely not. Water is the main contributor to the damage to the Telstra copper network. Once the water is set inside the joint, it then filters into the cable sheaths and eventually it breaks through the cable and the cables break down. Water is the biggest inhibitor of having a decent and proper service to customers. With the current network the way it is, there is absolutely no way to keep water out of that network. All of those joints are continuously wet regardless of how long there has been no rainfall. As I said, the water has now seeped through the cables.
Senator CONROY: So they do not dry out.
Mr Murphy : No.
Senator CONROY: It is not just, 'Oh, okay, we've got a puddle,' the puddle is dried out and service is resumed as normal. It is actually progressive deterioration in the cable.
Mr Murphy : Correct. These are breaking down day by day by having water just lying in the sheaths of the cables, right through them. It is then eating into the copper and it will cause a number of problems, such as a battery fault, a crossed line with another customer or the phone just dropping out because the circuit becomes open. It is not only the joints that now need to be replaced; a number of these cables around the country need replacing to be able to provide an adequate service to customers.
Mr Mier : Where you live, in Williamstown, obviously it is near the sea, so the salt water has an even greater effect. That would be leaching into the pits and pipes as well.
Senator CONROY: Mr Murphy, you mentioned that when you were doing this yourself you would sit down and repair it.
Mr Murphy : Remake the joint.
Senator CONROY: Remake the joint. How long have you been a union official?
Mr Murphy : Fourteen years.
Senator CONROY: Mr Mier?
Mr Mier : About the same.
Senator CONROY: In your experience, following the privatisation the maintenance of the network—
Mr Murphy : Has disappeared.
Senator THORP: Can I just get some clarification, because I do not pretend to be an expert on this stuff. Is this the network that NBN Co. are considering purchasing from Telstra to run out our state-of-the-art internet service?
Mr Murphy : Yes, absolutely. This is the network that sits outside every customer's home and business across the Telstra pits. They are going to run the fibre to the node instead of the home. It will stop roughly where the grey telephone pillar would be today for the copper network, and from there all this copper will remain. This is what is going to be fed between the node and the customers' premises.
CHAIR: That is what I wanted to follow up from Senator Thorp's question. The copper we are looking at in these images is not going to be replaced; they are not proposing to change this copper. This will be the asset that NBN purchases if they build this fibre-to-the-node network.
Mr Murphy : After reading Dr Switkowski's comments before the committee, and I believe those of Greg Adcock last week, I understood that they were looking at buying or leasing the network from Telstra. If that were the case, this would be a fraud on the Australian taxpayer. This is the exact network that will be sitting outside there, tying into the National Broadband Network that is built to the node.
Mr Mier : So, Senator Thorp, when you walk down the footpath you see the pits. That is them.
Senator THORP: My God!
Senator LUDLAM: Is this infrastructure all downstream of the nodes?
Senator CONROY: I have seen the minister saying—
Mr Murphy : This sits outside the customers' premises.
Senator LUDLAM: Yes, this is the actual distribution.
Mr Murphy : This is in the pit outside in the streets and outside the customers' premises.
Senator LUDLAM: Would you want to hazard a guess as to what proportion of the pits are in that kind of condition? Parts of this network are decades old.
Mr Murphy : I would say 75 to 80 per cent of the network is in that condition.
Senator LUDLAM: It is as rotten as that, held together with plastic bags and duct tape?
Mr Murphy : Absolutely. It does not matter what state—whether it is Perth, Sydney, Adelaide or Melbourne. Look at the spike immediately after a drop of rain comes along or there has been a bit of rain and then there is a bit of humid weather, because we are at that time of year now. If you check the ACMA report, you will see the spike automatically go bang. For example, Sydney alone had two or three days of rain. Yes, it was heavy at times. It was not consistently heavy all day, but there were some heavy showers. There were definitely some storms. Normally Sydney runs at 2,000 or 2,500. It was actually at 14,000 last week. It is now at 10,000, and climbing again by the day. That gives you an example of just how bad it is. It is okay for Mr Switkowski to say, yes, they see a spike in calls when there is a bit of rain around. The proof is in the pudding of why exactly that is occurring. It is because the copper can no longer withstand the water.
CHAIR: Mr Murphy, we took evidence earlier this morning that as part of a survey to assess where broadband constraints exist the department will be accessing the data from major service providers. Are you able to shed any light for the committee on how accurate the record keeping by Telstra is of the state of their assets and, indeed, the location of their assets?
Mr Murphy : I will come back to the copper, but initially I will go to a big issue that was before the Australian community earlier this year with the asbestos issues for Telstra where, for example, their record keeping has been pretty poor. While they were aware they had asbestos pits, they could not tell anyone how many pits there were or where they were located. That gives you an idea of how their records are kept.
In relation to the copper, as a previously mentioned, they had the customer network investigation process, the CNI process. It has been in place now since around 2006-07. To get the exact number of CNIs in the system is very difficult. It is protected by what they call the TOM system. I understand that this is highly secretive. I have been trying to get some information, I will admit. There is one individual within Telstra who manages it. But, as I reported in my opening statement, Telstra would have absolutely no idea just how bad things are. They are in denial. As I said, workers and contractors are so frustrated with what they are now working with and without being given the adequate responsibility to be able to fix it appropriately they are not reporting problems. They have time and time again reported these CNIs. I spoke to a group recently in Tasmania that worked for Telstra and handled a lot of the regulatory stuff. They told me that workers are simply no longer reporting CNIs. When a contractor or a Telstra-filled worker books the fault repair with Telstra and it pertains to plastic bags and ringbarked cables the second last number in the code they book with is a 7. It is their protection from a re-reported job coming in. They can see there is already a CNI in the system and they will not re-report it because they will know it has been reported a number of times from what is sitting before them and therefore Telstra really does not know how bad it is. The only system they have in place for reporting network problems is through people in the field. If they are no longer reporting them then the statistical data is way behind the times.
Senator LUDLAM: This is going to be a really key issue because the present government proposes that the Australian taxpayer take over this infrastructure. Nobody will tell us at what cost it will be remediated so that it is in a fit state to be handed over and then maintained in an ongoing way. Can I run two statements past you. The wholesale boss at Telstra, Stuart Lee, was reported in the Australian on 19 November saying:
Service disruptions are not going up and up and up. They correlate to weather events, and the weather events we've had in the last nasty season—
I do not know if that is a meteorological term—
are about five to six times the previous ones, so—surprise, surprise—there is a lot more damage.
That is consistent with what you are telling us, I guess. If you have a violent winter it is going to flood and your guys will be called out more. But then he says:
It's like grandfather's axe; it's had five new handles and three new heads. When it breaks, we replace the broken bit. So it's much the same as it always has been and always will be. It's just an older technology, it's not that the asset itself has deteriorated.
What you are telling us is that this is in direct contradiction?
Mr Murphy : The proof is in the pudding. Absolutely. And I think my comment that followed in the Sydney Morning Herald that day I was interviewed, under Stuart Lee and the CEO, is an absolute bollock. There is absolutely no way, on what Stuart Lee says, that the network is in the shape it is in. The proof is in the pudding. I have gathered these as evidence, and they are still ticking on my phone while I am sitting here before the committee today—photos rolling in as we speak, from Telstra workers out there who know I am appearing today and who are supplying them. I just got some through from Albury and Wagga in the Riverina area, clearly showing how bad the network is down there. The proof is in the pudding. I can say no more than what I have provided to the committee today, and that is the evidence provided by the workers on the job.
Senator LUDLAM: But who is responsible for auditing the condition of that kit?
Mr Murphy : There is no auditing. It is similar to an issue I raised earlier with asbestos. And they were not here to talk about asbestos, but there was no auditing there, and there has not been any auditing going on of the Telstra copper network—of quality work—for many, many years. They made them redundant.
Senator LUDLAM: But presumably as soon as we get figures on the remediation costs we are going to find out who is right, because either it is going to cost very little to remediate the network, because it is in tiptop condition, or it is going to cost an absolutely appalling fortune. If you are seriously telling us that 70 per cent of the pits are in that condition—
Mr Murphy : I will give you an example. Telstra obviously was well aware that I am appearing today, and I received an email this morning from contractors across the country whereby Telstra last night put out an urgent email—and I am happy to share it with the committee and table it—urging everybody to find bodies and arms and legs because they need to sit down and work out a remediation program for the Telstra copper network. So I say—and I stand by what I have already put to the committee—that the proof is in the pudding, in what has been before you. And I am happy to share further correspondence from Telstra with the committee that they put out last night, asking for a large number of workers across the country to start trying to remediate some of these problems.
Senator LUDLAM: They are leaving that a bit late.
Mr Murphy : Yes, and I think it all has to do with an announcement coming on Monday.
Mr Mier : Senator Ludlam, you are from Western Australia?
Senator LUDLAM: I am.
Mr Mier : We can get John O'Donnell, the secretary of the coms division over there, to take you around and show you some of the pits in your electorate.
Senator LUDLAM: I would appreciate that—having long given up on Senator Conroy's failure to deliver the NBN to North Fremantle before the change of government! We are now in your hands, I am afraid. But, as you are well aware, it is going to be a significant cost issue for the Australian taxpayer if this is to go ahead.
Mr Murphy : And I never got to that mark. I said in 2013 the copper network is a disgrace and beyond repair. Considering that they sold it around 1998, I think it was—that was the first tranche of shares—and it was in a pretty good state when it was sold by the government, to consider using taxpayers' money now to buy it back would be a fraud. And I intend campaigning on that.
Senator CONROY: There are suggestions that Telstra will just give it to the government. Mr Turnbull is convinced that he can get them to just give it to them.
Mr Murphy : Well, if you look at the state it is in, I wonder why they would not want to get rid of it real quick—and probably free of charge! The proof is in the pudding. Telstra does not want to remediate this. They have not had a remediation program or maintenance budget in place to fix this for some five to 10 years, since the privatisation. I do not see that changing now that we are talking about NBN and the government looking at taking the copper network over.
Senator LUDLAM: What is the difference in terms of time and cost for doing it the old-fashioned way whereby you would show up and properly remediate, do the cable join—
Mr Murphy : It would just mean that it would take an extra hour or two on the job to remediate it properly and then move to your next customer. Instead of being there for only half an hour or an hour now, it might have taken two or three hours to remediate it. It simply comes down to a cost saving for Telstra—well, over time there is not going to be, because of the network damage—by having less staff on and pushing them to do more work. And there is the damage.
Senator THORP: It at least gets them out of it.
Senator CONROY: So, when you hear about high-level reviews to determine where broadband is worst, where it is the least accessible, and you hear the sort of evidence you heard earlier—and I know you were in the back of the room—and then you hear that they are going to make assumptions in other reports, would you invite any of those people, whether they were Mr Robinson from Communications or the gentleman from the Department of Finance, or any of the people involved in the reviews that are currently taking place, to come and get a first-hand look in the pits that you can show them?
Mr Murphy : I urge anyone who has appeared before the committees on the national broadband—senators, members of parliament—to get out there in their areas, open the Telstra pit, have a look for yourself. Do not just go on what I am saying here today, even though I believe it to be actual fact, but check it for yourself. The proof will be in the pudding and you will be actually quite surprised, and many Australians would probably be absolutely alarmed, to see how bad it really is outside their home in the services they are paying for.
Senator CONROY: I would like a picture of the senator's face when she actually realised that it really was a plastic bag that you were referring to. I wish it could have been captured for everybody. Mr Adcock, as you would have seen, has recently come on board to basically oversee this. What was Mr Adcock's most recent position at Telstra?
Mr Murphy : He was in control of the National Broadband Network for Telstra.
Senator CONROY: He was in charge of the remediation?
Mr Murphy : Yes, he was overseeing the whole lot for NBN in Telstra. He was the go-between, as I understand, between NBN Co. and Telstra.
Senator CONROY: So the bloke that was in charge of stalling the rollout of the NBN because of Telstra's poor remediation work has been put in charge of the NBN rollout.
Mr Murphy : Correct.
Senator CONROY: The bloke that was actually in charge of Telstra's debacle of pit remediation with asbestos is now the man that is in charge of the rollout.
Mr Murphy : Correct.
Senator CONROY: Do you see the irony in that?
Mr Murphy : I think it is right before your eyes without having to say too much more. I mean, how do you, to put it bluntly, stuff up over here and fail with your remediation program that delays the rollout of the National Broadband Network in a number of areas to a number of constituents across Australia, and then elevate that person to the top job? It certainly leaves me with alarm bells ringing on just where the national broadband is heading. When he could not get it right on remediation for Telstra, he is now being asked to take on a bigger role.
Senator CONROY: Thank you.
CHAIR: Mr Murphy and Mr Mier, is there anything you want to say before we close off? Also, the opportunity is there for you to provide a supplementary submission as new information comes to light and the committee will certainly be considering your invitation to have a field trip at some point to view these pits for ourselves.
Senator CONROY: Did you want to table an email, did you say before?
Mr Murphy : I have only got it on my phone at the moment. I am happy to provide it to the committee when I get back to the office. That will provide you with an insight to what Telstra put out last night in panic, in reaction, I think.
CHAIR: It may be that we call you once again before this committee as things evolve.
Mr Murphy : I would be more than happy to appear. The last thing I want to mention in a couple things on the regional and remoter towns where already today in 2013 there are many customers who cannot access ADSL-VDSL type services. I pick up on a point made by you, Kate, before in relation to RIMs that you have a cable size coming in and that RIM works as a repeater to enlarge the number of customers and if a number of customers are all using it at the same time then some will drop out and miss out. Unless the RIMs are integrated around regional Australia they still cannot provide ADSL services. The RIM must be integrated for customers to get access. More importantly, in a lot of these country towns and regional centres Telstra is still relying on what they call DCS20 20 remote telephone exchanges, RCMs, RAM 8s, two-channel pair digital gain systems, four-channel pair gain systems, 616s that were out in about 1985 and 615s. None of these areas, which are obviously part of the copper network using these systems, can today access any form of internet services. So I am uncertain what it holds for these people relying on the copper network. This may come into play if the government is talking about this being one of the areas they are moving into first because they do not have access. It certainly would be the most expensive way to go. These are areas that currently do not have access today and still will not have access in the future if they remain the copper network the way it is.
Also, I want to mention high frequency interference. In a number of areas through current copper where there is large or high electrical interference coming from electrical sources, a number of customers are having high frequency problems already through the current copper network. It is prevalent a lot in metro areas where there is a lot of electrical static coming through the lines. It is prevalent in some of the country towns. It only occurs through the copper network. If fibre was to be rolled through these towns or streets obviously it would remove any form of high-frequency interference with the customer. At the moment, in the areas where there is a problem with high frequency there are continually high rates of drop-out right across the country on internet and telephone services. Whilst Telstra adds additional little items and components to try to limit some of the electrical interference on high-frequency, they certainly do not absolutely stop the high-frequency interference and the customer call dropouts. I urge the committee to have a good look at areas—
Senator CONROY: In terms of frequency, obviously ADSL uses a particular frequency—
Mr Murphy : Correct.
Senator CONROY: VDSL and vectoring use a higher frequency and therefore are more susceptible—
Mr Murphy : They are very much more prone to the interference of high frequency. What is more important here, with the state of the Telstra copper network, in areas where there is high frequency and for ADSL and VDSL, they must work off a pair that has continuity of the wire. In a lot of cases now because of the state of Telstra copper network, workers have had to split the pair: they have one pair from here and a pair from this group of wires and they make that the pair to go to the customer. That then causes massive amounts of dropouts and faults across the copper network for those on ADSL and the DSL services. They must have a single paired service. With the amount of damage and faults within the network today and the many cables that are damaged, or failing, workers have had to split the pairs and therefore there are ongoing problems. That will continue regardless of what network we put to the node if the copper remains the way it is.
Mr Mier : With the high-frequency interference, all it needs is a faulty roller door—the motor on the roller door playing up—and that can drop-out your ADSL. If you are in the bush, an electric fence—most farmers have got electric fences—sends a pulse that can drop-out the ADSL or VDSL if it goes to the right frequency. It commonly occurs. People in the bush will tell you that when they are on their phone they can hear 'beep-beep, beep-beep' just silently. Unless they change it and put fibre all the way they going to struggle. They may never achieve it. Faulty washing machines are the same: they send high frequency.
CHAIR: Thank you, very much, for your evidence today.