2017 has been another frenetic and significant year for the technology sector. In this series, TechKnowChat Editor Sonia Sharma sits down with members of our Technology team to discuss the major issues of 2017 and what to look out for in 2018.

In our first conversation, Partner and Technology sector head Brendan Coady discusses a decade of the NBN, the significance of the GDPR and what he will be reading during the holiday period.

It is scary to think we have been advising clients on the Natation Broadband Network (NBN) for 10 years now. Reflecting on the past decade, what are your thoughts on where we are now?

It is really hard not to feel sad and disillusioned by where the NBN project has got to. The original FTTP model was certainly a controversial proposal and open to a range of valid criticisms. However, it also had integrity and coherence as an extraordinary piece of nation-building that would last and serve the country long into the future. It was a project that would deliver an infrastructure solution vastly superior to anything that would be delivered in the absence of government intervention. The scale of the change that would be delivered by this model arguably justified the extreme step of creating a new, government owned infrastructure monopoly. However, the introduction of the multi-technology mix (MTM) has, in my view, completely destroyed any coherence that the project once had. Not only have there been entirely predictable delays, problems and blow-outs in projected cost as a result of attempting a radical change of technological course just as the project was developing momentum, but the solution that is being delivered is no longer radically different from, and better than, what would have been delivered by the market without government intervention. (Why do we have a new monopoly to deliver FTTN over legacy infrastructure when that solution was already being delivered in some cases by the previous incumbent?)

Some would say that the cost of the original NBN model, which provided state of the art infrastructure for the future, was too high. However, the as the current model appears set to cost almost as much and deliver little or any benefit over what would have been delivered without government intervention (or in some cases what already existed) it is hard to argue that it represents good value.

Looking forward, what do you think the most significant issues will be for Telcos and navigating the NBN landscape in 2018?

Difficulties for telcos in dealing with the NBN at present is the widely varying capability of the services that NBN is able to offer, which obviously makes it very difficult for RSPs to manage their own customers. As the offerings from NBN are not consistent, it is obviously difficult for RSPs to communicate clearly to their customers. NBN’s CVC pricing model has also been a huge problem, but hopefully some progress is on the horizon with that.

You were lucky enough to attend the International Trademark Association (INTA) conference in Barcelona this year. Over 10,000 delegates from around the globe attend the conference. What was the hot topic of discussion?

One of the things that struck me most when talking to a range of lawyers from the EU and UK in particular was the consistent message that data security and privacy has rapidly become a huge area of legal practice in those jurisdictions. I spoke to many lawyers who have previously had general technology and intellectual property practices who are now focussing almost solely on this area, particularly with the huge impact of the EU General Data Privacy Directive coming into force.

Can you tell us about the most interesting matter you worked on 2017? What were some of the challenges you faced?

I worked on a very large outsourcing matter for one of our technology clients, which had many challenges but was ultimately very satisfying, but probably the most interesting thing was drafting submissions to the ACCC for the Competitive Carriers Coalition on NBN Co’s proposed variation of its Special Access Undertaking, in which we argued that it was not appropriate to extend the pricing model in the SAU to the multi-technology mix.

On a personal note, what is the one piece of technology you can’t live without?

Like most people I am very dependant on my phone (Samsung Galaxy S7) and also my laptop and the Maddocks mobility solution which gives me a lot of flexibility but still lets me manage my work.

Finally, what will you be reading over the Christmas break (and will it be on device on in old school hard copy)

I haven’t really planned out my Christmas reading yet, and I am hoping to pick up a few new novels as Christmas presents, but at the moment I am reading Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders and also The Road Less Travelled by M Scott Peck (which was mentioned to me by my friend and fellow Maddocks Partner, Angela Wood)