National Broadband Network (NBN) CEO Bill Morrow has announced he will leave the government-owned organisation at the end of the year after nearly five years in the top job.
The former Vodafone, who took control of the politically charged $50 billion project four years ago, will leave with about 80% of the rollout complete.
Morrow has been a pugilistic champion of the project as it faced technical challenges, constant criticism and complaints and tense relationships with the retailers selling the NBN — and falling foul of the competition watchdog for false promises on speeds as a result.
But he’s also struggled to find a way to meet government expectations to make business profitable, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying the current 3% is “not a commercial return that the stock market would expect”.
The government plans to sell the business once the rollout is completed in 2020, but there’s been growing speculation that Turnbull will be forced to write down the NBN’s value by around $20 billion in order to make it an attractive investment.
Last year, Morrow revealed a strategy to cut wholesale prices by up to a quarter from 2018 in a bid to lure customers onto higher tier products. Around 80% of users choosing the minimum speed of 25mbps (megabits per second).
Morrow’s predecessor, Mike Quigley, has also been a regular critic of the rollout.
But in good news for the network, the ACCC’s recently released first report from its broadband testing scheme found that the major ISPs — Telstra, Optus, iiNet and TPG — were now delivering speeds to customers that exceeded 80% of their stated plan speeds.
Having steered the business through all that turmoil, Morrow says the project will be finished in 2020, on time, on budget, and fit-for-purpose, so four years and nine months is enough.
“I believe that as the company prepares to confront the new challenges ahead, this is the right time to hand over the reins for the next phase of this incredible project and for me to plan for the next step in my career,” he said in a statement.
NBN chairman Dr Ziggy Switkowski praised Morrow for the strength he’s developed in the business.
“The country has been fortunate to have Bill lead this extraordinary project,” he said.
“While we will be sorry to see him leave, Bill has built a resilient, performance-driven organisation which will build on his legacy.”
The NBN is planning a global talent search for Morrow’s successor.