Burgo's parting message: No one can build the NBN but Telstra

Before returning to the US, Phil Burgess spruiks Telstra's readiness to build the National Broadband Network one more time.

Before returning to the US, Telstra's outgoing director of public policy and communications, Phil Burgess, took the opportunity to level a few parting shots at the ACCC, the government and Telstra's competitors, while insisting no one but Telstra can meet the government's requirements for the construction of a National Broadband Network.

In a speech posted Thursday on ABC radio's AM Web site, Burgess said that given enough time and money anybody could build the NBN, but nobody but Telstra could do it under the time and financial constraints set out by the government.

"We have the technical engineering competence, we have the skilled technicians, we have the financial capability. We have the know-how," he said.

"[The NBN] would require more than 100,000km of new fibre at the rate of about 90km of cable a day. It would need about 50,000 nodes or cabinets about the size of two refrigerators, weighing 600kg each...that would have to be moved to 50,000 locations around the country.

"It would require 32,000 customer cutovers each week once it's completed in each exchange…the most we've ever done is about 5000, Optus has done a miniscule number."

According to Burgess, Telstra is ready to turn the first sod, having put 18,000 technicians through a $200 million "learning academy" in preparation for the rollout and cutover.

"This is like D-Day; you don't just say 'we're going to invade the mainland' and then wonder where the ships and people will come from. You have to plan in advance and we've been planning for this for three years now. So the idea that anybody can do this is just crazy," he said.

Burgess took a parting swipe at the ACCC – a punching bag for all corners of the NBN contest for its ineffective and drawn out regulation processes - stating that while he gets along with commission chairman Graeme Samuel he is not an admirer of the "political culture that gives rise to what they do".

"There is something in the political culture here, or in the water or genes or something, but it comes out in this expression which I have never heard anywhere else in the world – 'we've got to get it right'.

"Number one, who is ‘we’? And number two, what is ‘right’? The reason why you have markets is because you never know what is going to work, you never know if something is going to be right and the way normal people behave is if you don't get it right you change it until you get it closer to right," he said.

Burgess quipped that the ACCC can't see the forest for the trees, recommending it take a step back and allow the eventual winner of the bid to construct the network on its own terms. The commission and the government should wait and see if the network owner plays by the rules, rather than establishing regulation to ensure open access and fair competition beforehand.

"The way you get it right, hopefully, if you're a government is to get real people to invest their money and not the public's money. That's the way getting it right is, and then seeing how things go and then using the laws to make sure they don't abuse whatever they do get right. That's what the Trade Practices Act is all about."

"The fact that Graeme Samuel and the ACCC want to get it right means that nothing gets done, because you can never know if you're going to have it right or not."

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