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Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications
Role and potential of the National Broadband Network

GARLICK, Ms Mia, Assistant Secretary, Digital Economy and Convergence Strategy Branch, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

HEAZLETT, Mr Mark, Assistant Secretary, NBN Implementation Division, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

NJUGUNA, Mr Emmanuel, Acting Director, Digital Economy Policy and Analysis, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

RIZVI, Mr Abul, Acting Secretary, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

SPASESKI, Ms Sylvia, Assistant Secretary, Digital Initiatives Branch, Department of Broadband and the Digital Economy

SPENCE, Ms Pip, First Assistant Secretary, NBN Implementation Division, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

WINDEYER, Mr Richard, First Assistant Secretary, Digital Economy Strategy Division, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy


CHAIR: I welcome representatives of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to today's hearing. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that 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 from you. Do you want to make some opening comments to that for no more than five minutes?

Mr Rizvi : Yes. First, may I thank Mr Jones for his offer of Tim Tams. I cannot recall the last time I was offered Tim Tams at a committee hearing. I do appreciate it. The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy thanks the committee for the opportunity to appear before it. We made a submission to the committee on 24 March 2011 which addressed each of the committee's terms of reference and explained the evidence and information of which the department was aware that related to each of these terms.

The NBN will significantly improve the speed, quality and reliability of broadband services available to all Australian premises. That is the underlying objective of the government. In addition to the headline download speed, there are several other key characteristics of the NBN which represent a step change to existing broadband infrastructure in Australia. It is, I think, important to note that whilst much of the media debate focuses on download speed, there are other characteristics that are also important. These include, first, much greater data capacity for homes and businesses to use higher bandwidth applications than is currently the case. With regard to high-speed download and upload speeds, the upload speeds are very important in terms of what the NBN will deliver and the applications that those upload speeds will enable. There will be improved stability and reliability of services and scope for future upgrades. Compared to the ageing copper network infrastructure, the NBN will be more reliable, thereby giving households, businesses and service providers greater confidence to use the network for services and applications which demand a higher quality of service. There will be ubiquitous coverage, providing a platform for high-speed broadband applications across all homes and businesses. Finally, uniform national wholesale pricing will allow retail service providers using the NBN to provide all communities in Australia with access to affordable high-speed broadband.

A network with these characteristics accessible to households and businesses throughout Australia provides a platform on which new services and applications that require these features can be developed or can be deployed on a wider scale. The government has foreshadowed that it will shortly release—in fact, it will be on 9 am on 31 May in Sydney—a national digital economy strategy that will provide a roadmap for Australia to leverage the National Broadband Network and become a world-leading digital economy by 2020. The strategy will map the key areas of focus and outline programs that will assist Australian families, not-for-profit organisations and businesses to more fully realise the economic and social benefits that high-speed broadband can deliver. I thank the committee for the opportunity to appear before it.

CHAIR: Your last comments may have gone to some of the issues that you heard us discussing with the other departments. It is certainly something that, as we have been going around the country taking evidence, has become quite obvious to us. You would have heard my comments on the disparity between regions and their engagement and capacity. It has also been put to us that there is some expectation management in that as well, in that, for a program of infrastructure this big over that amount of time, it could actually be not helpful to go into regions and raise a whole lot of expectations that will not be fulfilled in a time frame that they would expect. I appreciate that you are about to launch a national strategy, but can you just indicate for us how that filters down? Part of our concern is that we hear from all of the peak bodies, who are all discussing this, and then we go down on the ground and see very variable filtering down of the message. Are you looking at a structured approach to that?

Mr Rizvi : Yes. First, I would say that I am restricted in what I can say, because I do not want to pre-empt the government and its announcements on Tuesday. But I will try to speak, as far as I can, within those limitations. In the announcement that the minister made late last month about the intention to launch a digital economy strategy, he also mentioned two other concepts that I think are important in this context. First, he referred to the establishment of a series of digital hubs, which will be targeted at the early release areas—that is, those areas of Australia and those communities that will first receive the NBN. The objective of the hubs is fundamentally to assist local residents firstly to experience what an NBN service might feel like and look like and what kinds of applications you are talking about; that is, 'What can it do for me'.

CHAIR: From our perspective, IBIS at Melbourne university was the first opportunity for us to go and see it. Are you talking about local, small examples of that?

Mr Rizvi : Yes. It would be local, small example were a local resident can experience such a service. It is very hard for the layman to understand a lot of the technical jargon that often goes on. Unless they can actually experience it, it is very hard to understand. The second objective of these hubs is to assist local residents to understand online opportunities more generally. A particular focus has to be that 25 per cent of Australian households that are presently not connected online at home, helping them to appreciate the opportunities of being online and showing them how to get online safely, what the tips and traps are and how to watch out for them. The objective would be to increase the portion of Australian households that do get connected online. That will be the aim of the digital hubs.

CHAIR: That is encouraging. We did have information—correct me if I am wrong—on a comparison between Japan and Korea. Japan's uptake has largely been entertainment-driven and actually has not transformed the way the economy works, whereas in Korea, where it was much more, if you like, aggressively led by government and government services going online and so forth, it has been much more pervasive in transforming how they do business and run government. I take the point that I think that is an important part of the task. That responsibility sits with your department. How do you then work across the other departments? Obviously, Health is very active in this field. Education is somewhat active, I would say, in a different way maybe. Regional Development we have just heard from. I just worry that sometimes something can be happening and going along and the others are not particularly keeping up.

Mr Rizvi : I might come back to the issues of Health and Education. But, to answer your question more broadly, you would probably be aware that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has been chairing a task force that includes a wide range of government departments. That task force was created following the appointment of our minister as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity. That task force has essentially come to an end and, as a contribution of its work, the government will release this national digital economy strategy on Tuesday next week. Following that, we and the department of prime minister will be forming a group which will guide the implementation of a range of initiatives related to the strategy. That will be the means by which we will coordinate these things across government. Through that group, and in particular through our minister, we will continue to regularly report to government. On health and education, I think you will be aware that last week, for example, the minister and the Prime Minister announced a new trial to deliver up to 12 specific vocational education courses to trial the delivery of those over high-speed broadband to enable students who may be living in disparate areas to access such courses online—effectively virtual classes. In the announcement the Prime Minister and the minister made last week they highlighted the ability to use high-speed broadband to connect a teacher and perhaps an apprentice at their work site who is encountering some difficulty. This gives teachers the ability to assist apprentices on site with difficulties they may be encountering as part of their learning process. The minister also announced—I think it was late last year—a trial of telehealth, once again in Kiama and in Armidale. The objective of that trial will be to identify how we can use the NBN to more effectively deliver telehealth services into the home. We know that telehealth has been extraordinarily successful in some pockets around the world. They have achieved some quite remarkable results. The question for us is what it takes to deliver similar results in Australia on a widespread basis.

CHAIR: That is very useful. It indicates to me that perhaps we are coming out with our report on the cusp of your progressing to do all the things I hope we will be recommending that you do. I am sure you are flexible enough that if we provide some new options you can look at those.

Mrs PRENTICE: Mr Rizvi, is it fair to say that NBN is your baby and its success is—your career is on the line? You do not have to answer in those terms. It is your baby and it is your goal to make it successful?

Mr Rizvi : Our minister has policy responsibility for the NBN.

Mrs PRENTICE: So are you disappointed with the take-up rate that we are seeing in some of the trial areas like Scottsdale?

Ms Spence : An important point to make is that the take-up rates that are being experienced in Tasmania are actually greater than those that were assumed in the NBN implementation study. So while people might look at them and say they are low, they are greater than what you might have expected, particularly in a state like Tasmania which is generally not a—

Mrs PRENTICE: But surely if we want a ubiquitous service and it is free, 100 per cent would be our goal.

Mr Heazlett : At the moment it is being provided free of charge to the RSPs. The RSPs are not making it available free of charge to the customers. I think the customer charges are comparable with charges for internet services available over copper. We are mindful that those areas of Scottsdale and other parts of Tasmania are low socioeconomic areas and have low usage to start with of computers and the internet. It is part of the overall agenda to build that up rather than expect a dramatic overnight take-up.

CHAIR: If this is one of the outcomes identified as an issue, how does the department manage that? That is what we are trying to get to. We understand that they are test sites; we are asking what you then do to respond.

Mrs PRENTICE: That gets back to the issues I was trying to get Mr Atkinson to answer in the last session.

Mr Rizvi : There is both a demand side and a supply side. We recognise that take-up will be driven both by the quality and price of the service that is provided and by how local residents view the opportunities that that creates for them. And I suspect that it will not be until we can demonstrate to them those opportunities that take-up will rise. As I mentioned with digital hubs, if we can demonstrate to people what benefits can be delivered through this I think we will see an increase in take-up as a result.

Mrs PRENTICE: Did you take note of the questions I asked Mr Atkinson before about your RDAs and coordinators and whether you are empowering them to do a bit more education and promotion?

Mr Rizvi : I think the broadband coordinators that you are referring to are linked to the Regional Backbone Blackspots Program, which is very specific to eight areas of the country. The digital hubs that I am referring to will be more targeted at specific NBN rollout sites, which is where I think we can achieve a more substantial take-up and more substantial progress in terms of being able to help people understand the benefits of high-speed broadband.

Mrs PRENTICE: But you are doing your hubs after you have got the fibre into town, aren't you?

Mr Rizvi : I think it is important for the hubs to be rolled out broadly in alignment with the NBN because it is very difficult to demonstrate something without it actually being there.

Mrs PRENTICE: We just had a presentation—I think it was from the Townsville City Council or their economic development arm—saying they would have liked to have done more pre-promotion work and they believed they would have had a better response if they had had more advance notice. I feel that you have opportunities to use local—heroes is the word you are using—organisations such as industry based ones like the AIIA, chambers of commerce and economic development arms of local government. Armed with a bit more information and promotional material, they could be doing some forward work for you.

Mr Rizvi : I think you are very right there. Our ability to improve our communications strategy in that regard is quite important.

CHAIR: We have had evidence that when people were asked whether they wanted to connect they thought they were being asked whether they wanted to buy a service. From the test sites at least, and particularly in very low digital literacy populations, these are big issues. The point about the hub is pertinent. You do not want to put the chicken and the egg problem in the community but we have seen that preparation work is clearly pretty important too, particularly for businesses. We had evidence in Scottsdale that people running businesses in rented premises were really frustrated by the fact that their landlords had not bothered to respond and connect, and they thought their businesses were at a disadvantage because of that. There could have been some conversation and education through landlord type networks.

Mrs PRENTICE: We had businesses that were unaware of what was coming and signed up to longer term contracts with retail providers, which was frustrating for them as well.

Mr SYMON: I would like to talk about government services and programs, and in particular the example in your submission of Denmark as the leader in Europe in terms of e-government services, with 84 per cent of the 20 basic public services for citizens online. Do you know whether that is an end-to-end service, or is that a partial service like we have already in Australia?

Mr Rizvi : We have just drawn that from publicly available information; we have not directly consulted with them. We would not be able to answer that question. But certainly the EU is saying that Denmark is leading the pack.

Mr SYMON: That leads into my next question. At first instance, access to online government in Australia can look quite good. It is just that when you try to complete a transaction in many cases, as you might have heard previously, you find that it requires a physical presence in an office or an original signed document. In many ways that undoes a lot of the good we can do with electronic delivery of government services. I note the figures you quote from Centrelink: 62 per cent of their transactions are made on site, which involves people presenting at a Centrelink office. Of course there is still a need for face-to-face interviews and various other things will have to happen, but I know that a lot of this is just presenting paperwork. How long will it take to get government departments, at least at a federal level, in a position to accept electronically signed documents and various other things that will come as broadband becomes ubiquitous?

Mr Rizvi : I think there are a couple of questions there.

Mr SYMON: There are.

Mr Rizvi : On the question about electronically signed documents, the Electronic Transactions Act puts in place the framework to enable government agencies in most circumstances to accept electronically signed documents. So the legal framework—

CHAIR: It will be nice when we can do that as MPs.

Mr Rizvi : is there unless there is an exception in some particular case. And that act has been there for at least 10 years, if not more. I think the Electronic Transactions Act was passed sometime in the 1990s.

Mr SYMON: Yes but although it may exist there is no opportunity for the public, or indeed members of parliament, to use it. It may exist in legislation but there is no practical way most people can access or use it, because as far as I have seen when dealing with government departments there is no opportunity to sign paperwork in an online form.

Mr Rizvi : The situation probably varies quite considerably from agency to agency and from program to program. There will be programs where—

Mr SYMON: Could you give me an example of one where we could do that?

Mr Rizvi : Yes. In the department that I used to work for there are a number of applications for visas that you can make with an electronic signature.

Mr SYMON: Really?

Mr Rizvi : And that has existed for some time. For example the working holidaymaker visa can be applied for over the internet, and it has been around for close to a decade now.

Mr SYMON: But if I were to apply for a passport, I would have to take the paperwork—

Mr Rizvi : The passport is a different department.

Mr SYMON: Excuse my ignorance there. Is that example widespread or is it just a small slice? There is so much more.

Mr Rizvi : It really does depend on the design of the relevant program and the risk appetite associated with that program as to whether you can accept an electronic signature or whether you need some other forms of authentication, and whether that authentication can be done online or whether the risk elements involved are such that online authentication is not acceptable. I am of the view that increasingly the electronic capacities are there for authentication to take place online, but it will take time for each organisation, program by program, to go through and make that assessment. I know that the Department of Human Services are going through a major transformation whereby they are addressing these issues quite comprehensively. I think that over the next few years we will see quite a significant shift in the way DHS transacts business.

Mr SYMON: You have noted a case study of high-definition videoconferencing in Denmark in the municipality of Guldborgsund. They have it in a local library and it allows residents to talk to council employees in other towns. I think that is a great example of what can be done. The submission goes on to say:

At present it is very unusual in Australia for a government agency to enable clients to access it using video conferencing capacity.

Are there any government agencies that allow that to happen at the moment?

Mr Rizvi : Unfortunately, Mr Symon, I cannot name one. That is not to say they do not exist but I cannot name one. There are probably a range of issues that arise in that context, and only one of them will be the availability of the appropriate infrastructure. There will be interoperability issues, standards issues, work flow management issues, cultural issues—and we need to progressively work through all of those before we can see that sort of change coming about. The first thing, I suppose, is to be able to demonstrate in one or two instances that this can be done, that business can be transacted in this way and that the barriers we are talking about can be overcome. I think that will help us extend that sort of interaction.

Mr SYMON: Is it your department that is working on this transition to enable that to happen, or is it done across a number of departments?

Mr Rizvi : It is probably fair to say that we are something of a catalyst rather than doing the work ourselves. What we are doing is encouraging individual departments where these opportunities arise, particularly linked to the NBN, to consider and test them.

Mr SYMON: Is there any central driver of that? You may be the catalyst and you may be able to provide the tools, but is government saying 'This is how it should be done'? I suppose I am searching for how another department is going to pick this up and use it, because change is hard.

Mr Rizvi : The first step is to be able to trial it somewhere and show that it can be done in one or two instances. We would then report back to government demonstrating that it can be done and then seek government decision on how we might scale something like that up. Clearly it can only be driven through ministers.

Mr FLETCHER: Is the department putting to the committee that there is a causal relationship between fibre penetration and the delivery of broadband services and the take-up of services?

Mr Rizvi : Clearly broadband services have increased quite significantly over the last 10 years. As broadband has extended and become faster, so have the applications. What we are saying is that the step change that the NBN provides will be a further catalyst to continue, if not accelerate, that process.

Mr FLETCHER: You have cited Denmark as an exemplar in government services online. What is the mix of technologies used to deliver broadband in that country?

Mr Rizvi : I am not aware of the specific circumstances of Denmark. We are happy to take that on notice and come back to you.

Mr FLETCHER: As I understand it from the June 2010 OECD statistics, about 12 per cent of connections in Denmark are what is called 'fibre or land'. I stand to be corrected but I understand that that includes both fibre to the home and fibre to the node. You could check that out and let me know whether it is right. The balance is DSL and cable.

Mr Rizvi : We will see what we can find out and come back to you.

Mr FLETCHER: Thank you. I am interested in the decision-making process by which government decided to move from the previous fibre-to-the-node plan to the fibre-to-the-home plan. Did the department provide advice to government as to the benefits of that quite significant change?

Mr Heazlett : The circumstances which led to the change related to the conclusion of the process which is typically known as NBN mark 1 or the request for proposals—essentially fibre-to-the-node proposals, although there was the opportunity for proponents to put forward fibre-to-the-premises proposals. The government ran an open process which enabled the parties to participate. That did not lead to a successful proposal. In announcing a decision not to proceed with that any further, the government took a decision to move to a fibre-to-the-premises approach. That to a large extent was based on advice in relation to what was the best technology to adopt. A key aspect of the inconclusiveness of the RFP approach was issues relating to matters such as compensation and access to existing owned infrastructure. In order to address those issues, the government looked at what is the best technology for the future. It had advice from the ACCC that fibre-to-the-node proposals involved a substantial proportion of expenditure on equipment that was not useful in moving ultimately to fibre to the premises. It took the view that fibre to the premises was viewed by quite a wide range of parties as the optimal approach and that in moving forward it would adopt a fibre-to-the-premises approach.

Mr FLETCHER: As part of that, was there work done of the kind that is included in your submission as to the sorts of things that could be delivered over fibre to the premises that could not be delivered over fibre to the node?

Mr Heazlett : The decision per se was not one that was consciously addressing the relative benefits of a fibre-to-the-node approach and a fibre-to-the-premises approach. The costs or potential costs involved in pursuing a fibre-to-the-node program were of a similar order of magnitude to the costs identified in relation to fibre to the premises. Given that and the conclusive views of a wide variety of people that fibre to the premises was far preferable and offered far greater potential for the future than fibre to the node, the government decided to go to the fibre-to-the-premises approach.

Mr FLETCHER: So the view was that the cost to government of the two options was broadly similar?

Mr Heazlett : The orders of magnitude were similar. A key issue in fibre to the node was that there was a substantial risk of compensation being payable to the existing owner of the copper network.

Mr FLETCHER: So it was almost a case of 'Fibre to the node is not really a good solution, so let's go with fibre to the premises'?

Mr Heazlett : The government ran a request for proposals to identify whether industry was able to come up with an approach either using fibre to the node or fibre to the premises which addressed the issue of overcoming the access barriers. The responses that came back from the industry did not satisfactorily resolve the issues of potential compensation and, as a result of that, the potential exposure of government for fibre to the node was, in resource terms, of a similar order of magnitude to that of running a new fibre-to-the-premises project.

Mr FLETCHER: Thank you. The data you have about DSL is very interesting, and thank you for providing it. I do not recollect having seen that data before. I am looking at your chart at the top of page 91 about the distribution of premises within 4.5 kilometres of an ADSL2+ exchange and also your chart and text a couple of pages before where you say, 'approximately nine million premises in Australia ... could theoretically receive ADSL2+'. Am I right to think that that has not been published before? Perhaps I have missed it.

Mr Rizvi : I am not aware whether we have published it before but I think that graph would be based on data extracted from our mapping unit. I will check that out and confirm it.

Mr FLETCHER: You say 'approximately nine million premises ... could theoretically receive ADSL2+'. I presume one of the points you are making there is that that nine million then needs to be reduced by the number of premises that cannot get it because of the presence of DSL blockers such as pair gains. Is that right?

Mr Rizvi : That would be correct.

Mr FLETCHER: Have you also looked at what that number goes to if you include premises that are served by the two HFC networks?

Mr Rizvi : I would need to take that on notice. We can get our mapping unit to do further work on it.

Mr FLETCHER: I think it would be very useful. Obviously there is overlap between the two HFC networks themselves and then also with DSL but it would be very interesting to have the department's considered views as to the total number of premises that can be served by any one of those. You have also put in some useful material about different sorts of benchmarks. I am looking at the material on page 94 about bandwidth requirements. There are a couple of different models there depending on what it is you want to achieve from the menu of options that is available to the end user. Adding up the left-hand column, if we exclude HDTV and just include SDTV, we are looking at about 11 megabits per second. Could you get the mapping unit to look at the question of adding together ADSL2+ and those who are close enough to the exchange to get that speed plus those who could get that speed over HFC?

Mr Rizvi : We could certainly do that, Mr Fletcher. A question that arises in making that sort of comparison is that you have to look at how households who have access to much greater levels of capacity will behave. That is an extraordinarily difficult thing to forecast, as you can imagine. What we do know is that over the last 10 years the behaviour of households as broadband speeds and capacities have increased has dramatically changed. There was a time when you had one computer in the house, one person used it and you really only turned it on once or twice during the day. It was dial-up and you used it in a very limited way. Houses do not behave like that anymore.

CHAIR: It was not that long ago.

Mr FLETCHER: Accepting all of that, why that would be useful is that it gives us effectively a baseline: the state of the world today. Part of that state of the world is that a significant number of people can get speeds at whatever threshold you have set—whether you call it 3, 5, 9 or 11 megabits. We also know that at the core of the public policy problem here is that a lot of people do not get speeds at whatever threshold you set. I think it is a fair statement that the availability of data on this question has been surprisingly poor. That is why I was quite excited to see the numbers that you have there.

Mr Rizvi : We will see what we can put together but, as I said, there are numerous dimensions to that question and it really does depend on how you pose it.

Mr FLETCHER: On the question of optimal capacity and technological requirements, how does the department think about the different cost components as between transmission and access networks, and have you considered at any point in your policy work alternative approaches such as prioritising particular classes of institutions to be connected first? I am thinking of schools, hospitals, libraries et cetera.

Mr Rizvi : As you would be aware, Mr Fletcher, quite a large proportion of hospitals are probably already connected to fibre, and schools to a lesser degree. Large businesses have often invested in fibre. The key is that there is very little fibre going to people's homes. That is really the difference the NBN makes.

Mr FLETCHER: I am interested in the department's views on the broadband policy process in New Zealand. We have recently seen an announcement that Crown Fibre Holdings is going to invest nearly $NZ1 billion in what will be the structurally separated former access network of Telecom. Does the department have any views on the strengths and weaknesses of that model compared to the model that we are pursuing in Australia?

Mr Rizvi : I think I would have to take that on notice. It is a fairly complicated question and we would need to get ourselves better across the circumstances of New Zealand. As you know, those circumstances are changing quite rapidly.

Mr STEPHEN JONES: Thank you for your comprehensive submission. Like the previous one, it speaks for itself. Is there any coordination within the Public Service as a whole of government service delivery over broadband technology or NBN utilisation strategies? Is a coordinated strategy being developed anywhere within the Public Service—and, if so, where?

Mr Rizvi : That role has been designated with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in their role in supporting our minister as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity. We work closely with that department. In implementing the overall strategy there will be a group led by PM&C which will take that forward soon after the strategy is announced on Tuesday.

Mr STEPHEN JONES: In the course of the debate on the NBN and the rollout and the decision-making processes through parliament there has been discussion about the relative merits of fibre versus wireless and radio technologies. I always thought that this was a rather silly debate in some respects. From your expertise, can you tell us how fibre to the premises and the optic fibre system will improve the speeds available to wireless applications and wireless services?

CHAIR: And could you link that directly to the range of services?

Mr STEPHEN JONES: The services that are provided through wireless devices—thank you, Chair.

Mr Rizvi : There are probably two dimensions to that link. The first is the question of the availability of spectrum. As people increasingly buy iPhones and tablets and all of those things, the volume of data that is being transacted over those can only grow to a limited degree. The technology keeps improving and so the capacity for it to grow is still there, but nevertheless spectrum is finite.

CHAIR: We have had some evidence about people using their mobile devices to interact with government agencies. If that is not secure or reliable, in that the demand will slow it down, does the department have concerns that people are just using mobile devices if ubiquity for government service delivery is such an important aspect? It is all right to say that we are rolling the NBN out and fibre to the home, but if people are not connecting to that and are walking around with mobile devices only, does that mean that, as the previous department said, you have to plan everything for the lowest common denominator? It has some real implications.

Mr Rizvi : I suspect that that question would be relevant on a case by case basis. It would depend on the nature of the transaction whether the relevant government department would be worried. Some government departments may well be worried; others may not be.

CHAIR: So they would structure their service delivery considering that?

Mr Rizvi : I think they would take it into account program by program. On the spectrum issue, it is limited. Because of the congestion that can occur, the quality of the service that you get at certain points in the day will inevitably be affected. I do not know whether you have experienced trying to use your iPhone at 6.30 pm. You would get vastly different performance if you were up at 3 am and tried to use it then. You have that impact. The other thing that is important in this context is that increasingly ISPs who run both a fixed-line network and a wireless network are trying, as part of their operational strategies, to encourage people to use their fixed-line networks to do the heavy downloading and use the mobile networks where they really need mobility. What they are trying to do is minimise the extent to which there is pressure on their mobile networks from data volumes. We know that despite the fact that the number of mobile devices has gone up very rapidly in Australia the big volumes of data are still transacted over fixed networks. Around 90 per cent are still over fixed networks. Because of questions of cost, questions of limitations of spectrum and questions associated with the mobile network, ISPs will probably continue to pursue that strategy.

CHAIR: The delivery of services in the home has been a big issue for us. On our site visits to a number of commercial providers we have seen the model whereby there is broadband to the home, potentially fibre, and then a home wireless system—hopefully through a security password, not stolen from next door. Do you have any data about the penetration of those sorts of models?

Mr Rizvi : Those wifi devices that are linked to a fixed broadband network operate off a completely different spectrum to the spectrum that is used by wireless devices. They are very much reliant on the quality of the fixed broadband network but they are also reliant on the quality of the wifi network. That wifi technology, I am proud to say, was developed in Australia. I hope NICTA will not object to my talking about some of their current developments, but they are in the process of pioneering another wifi technology which I understand will greatly accelerate the usefulness—

CHAIR: It has been raised with us, for example, that if you are in a remote area and somebody is having some remote counselling via videoconference for mental health issues and somebody else is downloading and watching a video—educational, I am sure, not a purely entertainment video—the multiple demands are an issue. We understand that there are four ports on the infrastructure that is put in place, so you could in fact run the TV or something off separately anyway. But even in the time we have been looking at this the progress and change in the models being delivered into the home has been quite rapid. Is government service delivery advised about these changes as it is developing its own responses to the NBN rollout? The models are changing almost as you are rolling it out. I would hate to see the old lag factor affect developing service delivery models that are based on something that is so 12 months old.

Mr Rizvi : It will be important for government agencies to keep track of what is happening in this area. But as you have pointed out, Madam Chair, given the speed with which this happens and the length of time it takes to design a government service, inevitably technology will be moving much faster than we can move.

CHAIR: It is an area of critical interest to us because at the end of the day when people are not happy with government service delivery this is where they end up. We are certainly well experienced in the issues about walk-in shopfront services—or indeed the fact that they are not present—so we are particularly interested in these issues being resolved and not expanded by online services.

Mrs PRENTICE: Chair, on the topic of government services, do you want to mention Skype?

CHAIR: We have had the chance to have a little beef all day about the fact that if you want to connect with your family while you are away from home or do an event and Skype someone in, you are not able to in Parliament House. So we certainly appreciate the potential for frustration. The Australian Library and Information Association has raised with us the importance of a digital inclusion strategy. Are you looking at something like that?

Mr Rizvi : We think it is very important. The reference to digital hubs that was in the minister's press release of last month is, I think, very relevant to that issue of digital inclusion.

CHAIR: Some of the disabilities groups we spoke to, for example, are very keen on the potential but also keen to have their voice heard—that this does not mean we expect them to sit in their homes all the time. There have been really interesting perspectives from our inquiry around the digital inclusion agenda.

Thanks very much for your attendance today. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence, to which you can make corrections to grammar and fact. The transcript will also guide you on any additional information you have undertaken to provide. However, it would be appreciated if you could forward additional information as soon as possible to the secretary, as we are now commencing the process of formulating the report. Your submission was extensive and in-depth. It was very useful and we really appreciate it and appreciate your time in addressing our questions today. It is greatly valued.

Mr Rizvi : Thank you, Madam Chair. We will arrange on Tuesday to have the whole kit that the minister will release delivered to the committee.

CHAIR: That would be fantastic, thank you very much.

Committee adjourned at 15:10