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STANDING COMMITTEE ON INFRASTRUCTURE AND COMMUNICATIONS
18/04/2011
Role and potential of the National Broadband Network

CHAIR —Thank you for your patience, Mark. I welcome you as the representative of the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee to today’s hearing. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath I should advise you the hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. We have a written submission to the inquiry from you. Would you like to make some opening comments? If you could, keep them reasonably brief, because I am sure committee members have read the submission, so that we can have a question-and-answer session.

Mr Needham —Yes, Chair. It was a very brief submission indeed, so I would like to make an opening statement.

CHAIR —I should indicate to you that pages have been produced of the executive summary of the review for members, so they have got that information as well.

Mr Needham —Excellent, so there is some background detail there.

CHAIR —Yes.

Mr Needham —That is very good, so I will skip some of the background detail and I will make some comments about the relevance of the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee’s report given its references, through legislation et cetera, to look at the adequacy of telecommunications services in rural and regional Australia—and that legislation still exists. The review was not confined just to the internet and broadband. It was on all other aspects of telecommunications, mobiles, fixed telecommunication services and a range of related matters. Five committee members were appointed in August 2007 for a four-year period. The committee had an extensive consultation process with some 25 public meetings around the country, certainly including rural and regional areas, and there were 220 submissions—so we are on par at present. This resulted in a wide-ranging report containing 45 recommendations which was tabled in parliament way back in October 2008. The report was divided into three sections. I know you have the executive summary, but I will reinforce some of the parts of the report so I can again show the relevance of the report to your inquiry.

Part 1 is on significance. It includes chapters on social inclusion, education, health care, emergency services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, local government, primary industry, commerce and transport as well as resource industries. So that is the ‘significance’ part—in other words why telecommunications is significant to all those. I hope that you would find that material of great interest in relation to your terms of reference.

Part 2 relates to adequacy—in other words, the blend of technology. It includes broadband, mobiles, fixed services, pay phones, competition and consumer awareness and things like that. To an extent some of the recommendations talked about separation in relation to infrastructure and, of course, that was in the 2008 time frame so it was relatively early on the agenda for some.

Part 3 of the report is headed ‘Towards the future’ and it has a suggestion of a new framework, and I am emphasising that many of the chapters cover directly material that relates to your terms of reference. If it pleases committee members I would certainly like to table the committee’s report as part of my evidence. If necessary I can arrange for our secretariat to provide copies to you.

CHAIR —That would be very much welcomed by members. I propose it be moved that it be taken as an exhibit.

Mr NEVILLE —I so move, Madam Chair.

CHAIR —As there is no objection it is so ordered.

Mr Needham —You have one copy and I will get our secretariat to liaise and they will organise whatever you require.

CHAIR —Thank you very much.

Mr Needham —For some further background, the government responded to the committee within the statutory time frame way back in March 2009, rejecting only four of the 45 recommendations. But 17 of the accepted recommendations were subject to the outcome of the NBN processes and progress, another reason why the report is intrinsically linked to what is happening with the NBN. Seventeen of those recommendations directly focused on NBN activity.

The challenge we had, one I am sure you may have, is about the framing of recommendations. As a simple example, one that relates directly to your terms of reference about achieving health outcomes is that not only do you need the big NBN pipe wherever it goes—preferably asymmetrically, but, no, symmetrically would be better—for the ophthalmologist who wants to conduct remote consultations but you also need the medical item numbers that go with that particular process, so the patient can claim where necessary. The challenge is that is not a telecommunications matter but another government matter. So, from our point of view, that resulted in a general government recommendation that those things be taken into consideration.

You can have all of the big fat pipes everywhere but—as you are aware—unless the end users, whoever they may be, can get an effective and efficient outcome, then having that big pipe is less than ideal. So that was just a simple example that we had come across where it was important that there were more aspects to it than just the big pipe et cetera.

CHAIR —Can I just observe there that I think that is very useful as an indication. To some extent I think our inquiry’s terms of reference pick up and move on from where some of the work you did left off at that point in time, and it is a good encapsulation of the issues that we are grappling with.

Mr Needham —Yes. That is why I put that example in there. Given the government response date, the legislation requires that the next review be completed by 5 March next year—that is, less than a year away. The challenge, I suppose, is that it will be interesting for the people involved to see if there have been any significant improvements in the adequacy of the telecommunications services in rural and regional over this next 10 month period. What I am trying to suggest there is that, given the timeframes, not a lot has happened in rural and remote to date, and that the next review, due in less than a year, will be difficult for them.

The general background of the legislation establishing the committee goes back to the final sale of Telstra 2005, where it was finally recognised that steps needed to be taken, that rural and regional telecoms were in a woeful state and that things needed to be done in relation to that. The concept of metro-comparable pricing was in its infancy, and the long-term interests of end users—things that are spoken about today—are really only related to metropolitan; they did not seem to relate to rural and regional. At the same time, the legislation also established a $2 billion communications fund whose interest was to fund the government responses to the committee’s recommendations—so there was a process put there.

I should mention as well that another issue at the time that arose was, of course, the ill-fated $953 million Opal wholesale-only venture, which was to deliver that 12 megabits per second by 30 June 2009 with prices that were metro-comparable—again, a time frame indicator. At least the committee’s legislation and maybe some $300 million of the $400 million of interest still remains, but at present where that is seems to be something of a mystery; there could be another $300 million out there.

As mentioned, the 17 NBN process-related recommendations included equitable services to those in the extended zones—that is, the 80 per cent of the land mass that is not what is defined as a standard zone and is instead defined as an extended zone. The last significant injection of moneys for telephone services in those areas was $150 million, and that was way back in 2001. That was for a particular contract, and that contract is now set to expire again later this year.

Subsequently, NBN-related matters such as the USO Co., for which 2014 is a suggested date for enhancements in services, are of interest. That is a 12-year time lag—there was $150 million in 2001, and the next suggested date for enhancements is 2014. Twelve years is quite a reasonable time frame for people to get significant improvements in services. The committee did recognise the economic challenge of providing telecommunications services to many parts of rural and regional, but it also noted that this should not diminish the importance of adequate telecommunications services in achieving both social policy and ongoing rural and remote economic outcomes.

Skipping a few matters that are probably in the summary et cetera, other aspects of the committee’s recommendations are progressing to various degrees. These recommendations were not just left on the shelf; they are part of the processes at present. Yesterday the committee secretariat provided me with an update of the status of these relevant recommendations; I would imagine that, if it were of interest to the inquiry in relation to its deliberations, these updates could be provided from our secretariat to yours so that you can get an understanding at least of our perspective of where the recommendations are up to. As mentioned, the next review is due in 2012 and the subsequent review is due in 2018. Again the time frame challenges will make it very interesting to see if there is continuing inequity in non-metropolitan areas.

I can see that you have nearly had enough of this introduction, but another point I would like to make is about the 93 per cent et cetera, with the potential of the one-gigabit per second service, and the remaining premises with their delivery of the 12-megabit per second service. This potential one eighty-fifth of the throughput for some, compared to others supposedly living in the remote parts of Australia, is of interest. I think it will be a surprise for some people, who live in the seven per cent and who will not have a choice, that these inadequate services are being considered as living in the more remote parts of Australia. The committee identified the specific need and recommendation for the national broadband service standard. It is the same standard for all, so I would imagine that electoral maps and associated analysis of the haves and have-nots would be of interest to members et cetera.

In summary, the committee does acknowledge the potential positives of a national broadband network and the need for a competitive, wholesale-only open access platform. But the committee is, in its more recent discussions, quite disappointed with the interpretation of the government’s underlying broadband policy objectives—I can expand on those if you wish—as well as the current lack of clarity on retail pricing in relation to the seven per cent of non-fibre premises and this entrenched equity for that seven per cent. The committee believes that these deficiencies will continue to challenge the adequacy of telecommunications services in rural and remote Australia.

CHAIR —Thank you, Mark. As you have probably clearly identified, we are particularly keen to ask questions on this committee. I want to go to the executive summary first of all. The committee has identified in that summary an issue that we have grappled with as well: the lack of data. I do not know if you are talking about the same data as those that we have, which is why I would be interested. One of the things that we have found is that there is a lot of acknowledgement of the importance of the home based business sector and the telecommuting sector. We met a company in Adelaide called Rising Sun Pictures who access professionals from around the country. The example we got was a musician living in Byron Bay who is not going to move to Adelaide for the three months of a project but who, with this sort of broadband availability, could be connected in that way; yet I think 2006 was the last time data on home based businesses was collected. I am just interested in what you were identifying and the issues you had with data around those sorts of matters.

Mr Needham —I was looking at the report—I remembered the name of the company, and they may have been in front of us as well in relation to that, so we certainly appreciated their input. The data we were more concerned about was at a lower level. It was really about access and all the things that relate to quality of service et cetera. I think you said earlier that some aspects of your inquiry have, hopefully, moved on from some of ours, but we certainly had in our submissions information—and our submissions, I believe, are still online—about usage, and a lot of that is summarised in part 1 of our report.

CHAIR —What I was getting at was whether there was any capacity to identify whether broadband connection to the home was for the purpose of running a home-based business.

Mr Needham —No, not all. Unless it was mentioned in our submissions that this is what people or businesses were using it for, we do not differentiate. Instead, it was: ‘What comes first—the service or the connection?’ The big pipe for some, not as big for others—which is very disappointing—will be of benefit, but they need to get that pipe before they can put their applications, whatever they may be, on there. We did not differentiate.

CHAIR —It certainly encapsulates one of the challenges in that fundamentally we are looking at what the benefits are and how you maximise the usage of them. But you are saying that until you have the infrastructure it is hard to quantify what the benefits are because people are not applying them. Is that it?

Mr Needham —The argument has been around forever: does the quality connection come first, and therefore you can build on that, or does the demand for particular applications and services rise up, and therefore someone can provide that?

CHAIR —There is also something I suppose I was hoping that you would keep an eye out for as well: Brisbane council was just telling us that they have a telecommuting policy. They have structures in place to enable that to happen, but it is not maximised because current broadband connections mean it is of a limited format—for example, clearly they do not do videoconferencing in work from home. So there is obviously a point at which home based business telecommuting professional connections, both across country and internationally, are happening within what is available. It is really difficult to get a sense of where that is butting up against a productivity barrier which means it is not expanding. You may have got qualitative information about that in your consultations around the country.

Mr Needham —Certainly qualitative; very little quantitative. I suppose that leads me to emphasise that the quality of service provided to the seven per cent will forever—though hopefully not—be far lower than that provided to the 93 per cent. So the ability to provide the remote consultation process on a symmetrical connection to the seven per cent is much, much smaller—possibly nonexistent—in that seven per cent.

CHAIR —I appreciate the point you are making, but you will have had evidence too, as we have had, that there are suburbs of major cities that tell us they cannot get that.

Mr Needham —But again I would suggest that some of the seven per cent will be in your electorates and that that will probably be of interest to you at some particular stage.

Mr NEVILLE —Mark, you are familiar with the terms of reference. They come down to an ‘i)’ which says ‘the optimal capacity and technological requirements of the network to deliver these outcomes’. In your committee’s view, does the NBN in its current ambitions go far enough into regional Australia to achieve that?

Mr Needham —Hopefully, I outlined in my opening comments that we do not believe that that is the case for the seven per cent.

Mr NEVILLE —But I think we have to concede that, no matter what the technologies, you will not get to 100 per cent. I am more interested in the difference between 93 per cent and how much further we could have gone. There will always be some wireless and some satellite at the end of the game, but have we gone as far as we might reasonably have gone in driving the fibre to regional Australia?

Mr Needham —The report included a whole section on backhaul—the importance of backhaul to rural and remote communities. That outcome has not been achieved with the current implementation of NBN, so there is a definite problem in relation to the availability of NBN backhaul to rural and remote locations. It is very significant, hence my comment about the $300 million that is allocated. That would go a long way in facilitating backhaul to those communities.

Mr NEVILLE —Hence the wireless networks that operate at the end of those spines are also going to be limited in their capacity by the backhaul.

Mr Needham —There are many locations around Australia where there is still microwave infrastructure that provides the services in rural and remote areas. Now, that is never going to be able to deliver the necessary outcome. So the challenge is that, without fibre, those communities will be condemned, if you like, to that second-class service. There is a difference between providing fibre to the town and fibre to the premises. I think many people would like to have fibre to their community, at least as a start, rather than even considering fibre to the premises—because, as the deputy chair mentioned, reticulation of services at the end of fibre can still achieve a very acceptable outcome versus not having any fibre and therefore relying on—

Mr NEVILLE —What are you referring to there? Are you referring to fibre to the node or fibre to a wireless outlet?

Mr Needham —Whichever, in that not having fibre to the community to begin with is a very significant issue. Then, of course, you can use whatever methods you wish, because whatever service you get will be better than what people are going to get under the current arrangement.

CHAIR —One more question, Mr Neville.

Mr NEVILLE —Just one very quick one. I would like my colleagues to have a crack at this. You heard the evidence earlier today from Brisbane City Council about wholesaling. Did your independent review committee have a clear view on where wholesaling should finish and retailing start—in other words, where the ISP would cut in?

Mr Needham —No, I am afraid it did not, in that it was more concerned about the break-up into wholesale and retail services and it did make a recommendation about the government looking at that structural separation. That was the first challenge and, unless that was achieved by some method, it was not worth pursuing the secondary and tertiary—

Mr NEVILLE —Does the committee still meet?

Mr Needham —Yes, the committee does meet.

Mr NEVILLE —Has it expressed an opinion amongst its members or more widely on whether or not that wholesaling aspect should be widened to corporations and government departments; or, in the case of Brisbane City Council, even down to small and medium sized industries?

Mr Needham —I hear what you are asking, Deputy Chair, but no, it has not discussed that particular matter.

Mr NEVILLE —Thanks, Chair.

CHAIR —I will go to Mr Husic.

Mr HUSIC —Thank you. I was really interested in the excerpts from your report, Framework for the future, that were distributed to the committee, particularly page 8, where you talked about the USO and the establishment of a communications services standard. What do you think will need to happen to the USO to make sure it keeps pace with the changes brought about by the NBN? Have you given any thought to broadening out those four points that talk about the standard itself? What do you think the standard will need to encompass?

Mr Needham —It is kind of a time frame challenge that I have here. The committee has provided its report, and the government has accepted those recommendations subject to the progress of the NBN et cetera. Probably the only comment I can make in relation to the report is that the current discussion about USO Co. and the 10-year arrangement we will have with Telstra to provide those services has not been clarified to any worthwhile extent. Given time, those things may be clarified, and we can only hope that the detail of our recommendations is accepted and that they progress through to realistic outcomes. So there is still a significant challenge there. And, again, the time frame is somewhat skew-whiff in that the date there—which was a compromise date of 2013—I do not think will be met under any circumstances. Again, I emphasise that enormous delay for rural and remote people in getting any improvement in service or a guarantee of service quality et cetera.

CHAIR —You said it was particularly important that we see the convergence—for example, voice over internet protocol, as opposed to your standard telecommunications services. Have I correctly understood the point you were making?

Mr Needham —There is going to be an interesting dilemma that I do not fully understand yet. The detail is that you may have a service from your USO provider, that being Telstra, that has more capabilities than the service provided by the NBN satellite service. So as an end user you have some choice, but it will be interesting to see what the outcome of that process will be.

CHAIR —Yes.

Mr Needham —As you are aware, we know about the Ka band and the Ku band satellites et cetera but you still cannot overcome the latency issue, therefore those issues in relation to health and education about having a quality service just are not there. Wireless of course is much better but, again, the challenge about the NBN not being able to access the 700-megahertz spectrum even in the non-fibre areas means that the implementation of wireless will be limited and higher cost.

CHAIR —Sorry, Mark, but I am trying to keep us away from the technical construction issues. You were talking about the universal service obligation, particularly around complaints procedures and things like that. You got evidence that under telecommunications there was a level of frustration with that and I understand you are concerned that that would extend and repeat across the broadband and voice over internet sector if we do not have a look at that.

Mr Needham —Very much so, and you have seen the recent press about the enormous increase in the TIO challenges and the need for something to be done in that area. We make a suggestion of a process that we believe would work. It has not been implemented yet, although some aspects of it are moving forward but, again, quite slowly.

Mr FLETCHER —Mark, let me start by congratulating you on your sustained advocacy for rural telecommunications users since I first met you in 1996 when the key issue was farmers complaining that they could not get speeds higher than 1.2 kilobits per second for their dial-up internet. We have come a long way in 15 years, but there is a lot further yet to go. Can I just pick up something that you said in your submission. Are we correct to take away from your submission a concern that in practical terms very little progress has been made in rural and regional telecommunications since your inquiry reported in 2008?

Mr Needham —Yes, that is the opinion of the committee, that to date there is very little significant improvement in all aspects of telecommunications.

Mr FLETCHER —In previous years you talked about, for example, the $150 million for untimed local calls. Is it fair to say there were a range of other programs of different sizes? I am thinking of the National Communications Fund, for example, and others.

Mr Needham —Certainly there were a number of what I would call stopgap measures, which still exist today, in relation to providing people with asymmetric satellite services supposedly at some form of competitive price, but I am afraid that competitive price just is not there.

Mr FLETCHER —The competition restrictions that are now contained in the legislation that make it illegal to build a high-speed network to deliver over 25 megabits per second to deliver retail services: does that have any implications for the kind of hybrid model you were talking about where, for example, there might be government funded backhaul with a view to network operators then building an access network?

Mr Needham —I suppose the answer is yes, but the challenge is: how is the government funded infrastructure incorporated into whatever the outcome might be? At present we know that NBN can accept moneys from third parties to supplement fibre. It is unclear to me, even with the bills that have just gone through, how that would be treated in relation to access—in other words, is the government going to take over effectively the asset that someone else has partially paid for? There are those issues of: yes, a community would like some more backhaul; we have a small amount of money that we would like to put towards that; ‘Give us your money, now it’s all ours and we’ll do with it whatever we like.’ That is a challenge, I think. But, again, hopefully those things will be explained in better detail as time goes on.

Mr FLETCHER —As you think about alternative models for the provision of services in a sustainable way to areas that we all agree are uneconomic to serve on a purely commercial basis, one model is the one that is now before us, which is where the government-owned operator owns and operates the fibre network, the wireless and the satellite. How do you weigh up the pros and cons of that kind of model compared to others where, for example, there are specific subsidies paid to commercial operators for them to extend their network further than they would have done otherwise to receive a payment from the government or indeed other models again?

Mr Needham —The committee certainly had a very strong preference for competitive supply. Competition assists greatly in delivering a worthwhile outcome. In the seven per cent that certainly will be stifled. If the USO provider provides a better quality, lower cost service on their own back than the NBN service, is the provision of the NBN service in those locations a waste of money, in that it has not been engineered to deliver the outcomes that are necessary at an appropriate price using the appropriate technology? That dilemma looks like it will exist relatively soon and I do not know the answer to that. To me stifling of competition in relation to the seven per cent is a problem.

Mrs PRENTICE —In your opening comments you mentioned you would like to be invited to expand on your committee’s concerns. Have you now covered all those deficiencies or would you like to add to those?

Mr Needham —I think all we can do is ask our secretariat to provide the committee with an update of our recommendations and the status of those recommendations. If the committee desires any further clarification on those now that we have been able to table the report, I am sure the committee can facilitate another discussion at a time suitable for the inquiry.

Mrs PRENTICE —Given your recommendations, would it be right to say that the committee views that the priority is connecting what you call the big pipe to communities in the regional area and making sure the boxes and facilities are on each end rather than the FTTP?

Mr Needham —Yes, for the seven per cent. That is certainly a significant comment that came through then and has come through subsequently. The ability to have something other than a second-rate service is what people desire. To be locked into something that is one-85th of the potential of someone just one kilometre down the road could be alarming to some people.

Mr STEPHEN JONES —You have identified the availability of backhaul fibre as critical to meeting unmet demands; is that correct?

Mr Needham —Yes.

Mr STEPHEN JONES —A couple of weeks ago the committee had the benefit of going to Victor Harbor, which benefited from the Regional Backbone Blackspots Program. You are aware of that program?

Mr Needham —Yes.

Mr STEPHEN JONES —You would agree that the provision of that backhaul has been critical in meeting some of the unmet demand in those regional areas?

Mr Needham —You said you went to Victor Harbor, and there is Willunga and a few other places around there. That is great for people there. This is a big map. On this map you cannot really see the places those services have been provided to. Of course, it is of great benefit to those locations but there are many other locations that do not have fibre that could benefit from it.

Mr STEPHEN JONES —That is undisputed—

CHAIR —I think it is disputed.

Mr STEPHEN JONES —The whole idea behind the program is to ensure that that map gets joined up. The point I want to make is that, in view of that and your direct statement just now in response to one of Mr Fletcher’s questions that nothing had happened in meeting that unmet demand—

Mr Needham —Nothing of significance has happened. Again, this is for Australia as a whole, not for one particular location. A simple example is a program that has delivered some fibre through Northern Queensland into the Northern Territory. There is considerable debate at present whether towns of a significant size—certainly less than 3,000—will have the ability to access the service from the fibre that goes past their community. Even though we have seen the stats about how many it will benefit, having access to the fibre that goes past their community would make it far better for a lot more. Again we come back to the 120 points of interconnect and all those technical things. The challenge is that, unless you satisfy those technical things, the ability to utilise the services we all want everyone to have is a problem. Yes, it is great that these things are happening and some of the money out of the communications fund has gone towards improving some things, but unless people have access to that on an equitable basis there is an ongoing challenge.

Mr STEPHEN JONES —To give you some comfort, I do not need to travel very far in my electorate to find instances where there is no access to broadband at all either. So it is something that I am acutely aware of. I want to address a couple of things on evidence of unmet demand. Your committee travelled around regional Australia in the lead-up to the 2008 report and afterwards. I would be interested in hearing some instances from the regions that you travelled to about unmet demand for broadband and what that means for those regional areas.

Mr Needham —From a social inclusion perspective, which is what part 1 of the report is about, people feel isolated. People feel they are not part of the whole. They cannot do the things they see some people supposedly doing on the television or they hear about. The effect of not having equitable services is that they do not feel part of the whole. That is a general comment. There are many examples. You will see from the findings in the report and again in the submissions the myriad of locations where without that service and the service quality you cannot do the things that we possibly take for granted. One of the points that came through was, ‘We have a greater need out here for those types of services. Why aren’t they forthcoming?’ The need they have is that they do not have access to the local government office, the local health clinic and all of those things. Wouldn’t it be better to provide services to those who have a greater need first? The challenge at present is that there is some talk around doing some things, but again they are not equitable services. They are stopgap, second-rate, second-class services.

Mr SYMON —I have one question for you relating to the lack of ongoing assurance of service availability identified in your report in relation to telecommunication services and whether the NBN, if it is put in as it has been announced, actually satisfies that concern. I understand that there are different levels of services through the models—you have obviously got fibre, wireless or satellite—but the ongoing assurance of service availability is the point I would like you to talk on. If there is concern at the moment that a household or a business in a remote area or even in a not-so-remote area has a service today but may not have it next year or may not have a full-time connection to that service, as the NBN is announced and its construction goes ahead, do you think that will overcome the fear of not having service available?

Mr Needham —I do not think it will significantly improve the situation in the seven per cent area. I know I am commenting on the seven per cent again.

CHAIR —We are assuming, because of your comments on the seven per cent, that you are a great advocate of the 93 per cent rollout of the national broadband fibre to the home!

Mr Needham —Is that right?

CHAIR —If the argument is about the other seven per cent missing out.

Mr Needham —Certainly the contrast is there. But, on the service quality in relation to satellite: satellite services are available today, and the interim services that will be provided, possibly up until 2015 or later, are from exactly the same satellite, so the quality issues that occur today, unless there is significant adjustment in some of the technical—

CHAIR —Have you had a look at some of the work CSIRO are doing in that area? They did present, very early, some evidence to us about research work in the expansion of the satellite. Have you had a chance to look at that?

Mr Needham —I think we probably heard from them in our process, but we also heard from one satellite vendor and from third parties who may buy the satellites and produce them et cetera. Unless there is a significant change to the committed rate, if you like, for the satellite service—which we hope there is—there still may be some aspects in relation to the service quality. Of course, it also depends on the uplink. We have only got a small uplink for the time being. Will that be sufficient? There are question marks there.

Mr SYMON —So, for that percentage that are on satellite now and will be then, it is really a question of waiting for new satellites to be put in place?

Mr Needham —It is still a time to wait for more specific—I will mention it—technical information as to the commitment rates et cetera and the technical aspects of the service quality before you can say, ‘Yes, our remote education or medical activity will actually work.’ On the issue about wireless, there are wireless services now that provide those ‘telephone services’ in the middle of nowhere. Some of that wireless service is of high quality and some of it is not. There are competitors that provide services in some of those areas as well. Again, because NBN was not allowed to access that lower spectrum—in other words, fewer towers, goes further, lower cost—I do not know what the outcomes will be in relation to the other 2,300, the other spectrum et cetera.

CHAIR —Thank you for working with me, Mark, to keep us on the terms of reference. I know it is a difficult contrast between the two committees in terms of our reference (i), but I thought the evidence that you had and the report you have done, which I am going to look at with great interest, go to some of those very issues—of the service obligations, the regulation around provision of new products and applications, particularly in the government sector that you have referred to—and are particularly pertinent to what we are looking at. So we really appreciate that information and your time. We will take the opportunity to follow up with the secretariat of the committee to have a look at that. Thank you for your attendance here today. If you have been asked to provide any additional information, would you please forward it through to the secretary. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence, to which you can make corrections of grammar and fact. Once again, thank you very much for your time today.

Mr Needham —Thank you all.

Proceedings suspended from 10.43 am to 10.55 am