Friday, December 18, 2009

My top 15

I commented on Grahame Lynch's top 15 telco people for 2009.

I thought I'd hav my own go and try to acknowledge some of the people who've done the real work. My list is only numbered to thirteen because some people share.

1. Kate Cornick, former advisor to Senator Conroy
Kate came to Minister Conroy’s office in opposition as a political neophyte with a passion for fibre. In Government she helped steer the process through the NBN 1.0 ender and land on the final Fibre to the Home strategy – her technical preference all along. Kate, like most of Conroy’s office, is a person with real interest in the policy area and has never been the classic political staffer using time in an office to start a lobbying or political career. When Australians in the future look back with awe at the prescient decision to commit to a national FTTH network in 2009 let’s hope that Kate’s contribution is remembered!

2. Gary McLaren, now CTO of NBN Co
As the import of the Government decision to build an FTP network hit home, Gary was one of a small number who started to ask practical questions about how the active and passive elements of this network would run. Gary took his concerns to Anne Hurley at Communications Alliance who, also to her credit, picked up those concerns and started a discussion through Communications Alliance. It was Gary’s initial concern, consultations around industry and project lead that means we are as well advanced as we are n the industry conversation about the NBN.

3. David Forman, CEO Competitive Carriers Coalition
The idea that Australia needed to look beyond DSL for the future of broadband was first promoted by David and the CCC t a forum in Canberra in 2004 (AAPT also contributed). That forum identified both the need for a fibre solution, and the logic of using the building of a new access network to reform industry structure. Both Mark Tapley and Richard Windeyer were in the audience that day. This was the genesis of the ALPs NBN policy, and Telsra’s FTTN proposals of 2005 were in part their response to that very threat. 2009 saw both the realisation of an all fibre future and the recognition that structural reform at the same time is critical.

4. Catherine Livingstone, Chair Telstra
While all the kudos goes to David Thodey for trying to get Telstra into a new space, the old saying is “the fish rots from the head”. The Telstra Board chose the last management tam and got it wrong. The Board has figured out the need to change, but still has a massive job ahead of it in educating shareholders on what the alternative futures for the company are and why the strategies they will pursue to work with the NBN Co and Government are the path to the best future. Catherine’s nomination is merely for being prepared to take on this challenge.

5. Teresa Corbin, Deputy CEO ACCAN
While Allan Asher has been getting all the headlines as the new CEO of ACCAN, Teresa Corbin s the person consumers need to thank for having the vision of a single overarching consumer representative body and for driving it through the establishment phase. Without Teresa there would be no ACCAN for Allan to be CEO of.

6. Michael Malone, CEO iiNet
Having had my own occasion of being the telco singled out for test case prosecution (unfair contracts in Victoria) the whole of industry should feel sympathy for Michael, and in some ways a debt of gratitude that he is unwittingly bearing this load. The questions involved in the AFACT copyright case are non-trivial and it is extremely hard to identify “right” behaviour for an ISP. Whatever the final judgement, which will likely be appealed, we will at least al have greater clarity of the interpretation of existing law.

7. Louise Sexton, Chair, AMTA
AMTA as an organisation deserves acknowledgement because it continues to exemplify an industry association that brings together competing interests and generate a consistent position promoting and advancing the industry. There are many people involved from the CEO and his team, and an extensive network of very active committees. The outcomes can only be achieved by a functioning governance structure. Louise, and Holly Kramer before her, demonstrate there is no need for “independent” chairs to achieve harmonious and effective association Boards.

8. Senators Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash
While the rest of the coalition sought to play politics with telecommunications policy, and the shadow minister in particular played the role of defender of Telstra, theses two Nationals Senators at least addressed issues of communications policy with the question of “what will deliver the best outcome for regional Australians?” foremost in their consideration. They were not asked in the end to vote on the separation bill, and the highly charged atmosphere of coalition politics will make it hard for them to ever break from party room decisions. But regional Australians can rest assured that these two Senators continue to pose the right questions on a daily basis.

9. David Quilty, GMD PP&C Telstra
When acknowledging people for their contribution in getting us an FTTH future, we need to acknowledge someone from Telsta for their decision not to submit a bid in December 2008. Leading up to the decision David was the public face of the strategy that Telstra would not bid unless they got assurances on separation. As it transpired it was the technicality that the 16 or whatever page letter didn’t include an SME plan that saw them excluded, but that was left out because the full bid wasn’t made. Had Telstra made an effective bid for an FTTN network the Government may have had no alternative but to accept it. And the separation that Telstra sought to avoid by not bidding will happen anyway. I’m sure the decision was made collectively by many people at Telstra, but David was the public face and so gets the nomination.

10. Huawei
There is no individual to single out from this increasingly impressive vendor. They have gone from being the butt of industry (and my jokes) about being cheap copies to a serious player with impressive R&D. They also seem to be winning the battle to be treated as just another global firm rather than have to deal with the suspicion that they are merely a Government agent.

11. Stefan Keller-Tuborg and Colin Goodwin (from Alcatel Lucent and Ericsson respectively) and the FTTH Council Asia Pacific
While the rest of us have been talking DSL and FTTN over recent years these are the true believers who have maintained a conversation on “true” broadband. Their time has come.

12. Grahame Lynch
The telco industry is getting to be well served by its online and newsletter sector while print media coverage declines. Grahame deserves his particular nomination for not just reporting our media releases but also providing some provocative and/or wacky contributions from the likes of Henry Ergas and Richard Chirgwin as well as his own columns. He is also gracious in the space he allows for further discussion and defence, even to those who start their contribution in terms like “You idiot how could you ….”

13. Customer Service Agents
As the telco industry continues to find new and extraordinary ways to confuse and disappoint its customers, the focus is often on that portion of customers who need to take their issue further. That ignores the much bigger number of cases where a customer service agent sorts out the customer’s problem. And those problems are many, including billing systems that sent a disconnection notice but not a bill, the appearance of premium rate charges inexplicably on a bill, incomprehensible pricing plans and services that simply stop working. The industry’s marketing and IT departments don’t appreciate just how often these forgotten front line staff fix their stuff ups.

Do any readers have other nominations?

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