Feeds

Broadband guarantee helped, but did it help the right people?

Auditor slaps department

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Up to $A1.4m in government subsidies under the contentious Australian Broadband Guarantee Program were misdirected into the wrong hands, according to a report from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).

The ABG has been running since 2007 by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, ostensibly to provide all Australian residential and small business premises with access to metro-comparable broadband services.

At the start of the program over 925,000 premises were eligible to receive ABG broadband services, and according to the report claims totalling around $A258m have been paid from April 2007 to 30 June 2010.

The payments were distributed to 34 providers for connecting more than 100,000 ABG customers from the start of the program. Almost 95 per cent of the subsidies paid under the program were for satellite broadband connections.

The ANAO report revealed a number of “inconsistencies or anomalies in the program metrics reported in internal management reports – an issue compounded by the practice of not keeping records of how the data reported was derived”.

It adds: “Similarly, by not keeping copies of the outputs of the demand forecasting model, the department has impaired its ability to effectively review and adapt the model.”

Of deeper concern is the report’s revelation that customers who should have had access to a viable commercial service “had been incorrectly classified as being eligible for a satellite service”.

The report claims that this happened over a six-month period, August 2008 to February 2009, when the department had “inadvertently omitted” 211 ADSL‐enabled exchanges from the Broadband Service Locater (BSL).

As a result customers in these areas who registered during this period were directed by the BSL to a subsidised service, rather than to available commercial services.

The department claims that 351 customers received a subsidised connection at a total cost of more than $875,000 because of the error.

Additionally, 245 customers held unlodged declaration forms on 30 April 2010 referring them to a subsidised service, representing potential claims totalling over $540,000.

According to the report the department amended the BSL registration status of the 245 customers that had not lodged declaration forms. While these customers were required to re-register if they wanted to claim a service, it is not clear how many did.

It took the department over 18 months, to June 2010, to contact the 351 customers that had received subsidised connections in error.

While the customers were informed that there was a wider range of commercial broadband services, including ADSL, available, the department decided not to try and recover the $870,500 already paid to providers.

While the audit report found that the ABG helped to reduce the number of under-serviced premises, the process was let down by insufficient reporting and technical testing. The number of underserved premises in Australia has fallen from over 925,000 at the start of the program to 160,000 in July 2010.

Most of this, the ANAO decided, is because providers – mainly Telstra – had continued rolling commercial services into previously-underserved areas. “Some 70% of the premises that received an ABG connection between 2 April 2007 and 30 June 2010 were in areas where a commercial broadband service had become available by 1 July 2010.”

It added that the usefulness of some of the measures introduced to improve the process “was reduced by a number of factors, such as: the delayed implementation of a demand forecasting model; the timeliness of management reports; and until recently, the currency and quality of the program’s risk register”.

And finally, the ANAO slapped the wrist of Conroy’s office, stating: “The department has not reported against the program’s key performance indicators and performance targets outlined in its Portfolio Budget Statements, whether program objectives have been achieved and what outcomes can be attributed to the program’s intervention.” ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Mighty Blighty broadbanders beg: Let us lay cable in BT's, er, ducts
Complain to Ofcom that telco has 'effective monopoly'
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Broadband sellers in the UK are UP TO no good, says Which?
Speedy network claims only apply to 10% of customers
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.