The True Cost of the NBN

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It seems that I am one of the lucky ones. The NBN is connected to my home and it works brilliantly for the extensive digital demands of our household.

Unfortunately, the cost of that connection comes at a very heavy price for the Australian taxpayer. When the Labor Party first cobbled together a national broadband initiative – literally on the back of an envelope – it was mooted to cost around $6 billion. That cost has now blown out to ten times the original forecast.

Like any government project, the unscrupulous have ‘backed up the truck’ to fill it with taxpayer dollars to enrich themselves.

If that wasn’t bad enough, my prediction is that the government will eventually write down the value of the NBN by around $30 billion in the years ahead. That money will be lost and is a monument to the colossal egos and inefficiency attached to many government projects.

Ego because it seems every PM (and senior minister) wants to leave a ‘legacy’ item as a monument to themselves. They think it’s too hard to balance the books, reduce taxes and keep the country safe– they prefer to borrow billions to throw at poorly considered projects so their name appears on a brass plaque.

After all, it’s not like they’ll be around to pick up the tab. That will be left to the generations who inherit our debt.

Ensuring that all Australians have access to fast internet is a worthy goal but the decision to effectively create a government monopoly telecommunications provider is not. Not only is it a regressive step in terms of efficiency, it fails to consider the rapid advancement in technology that can literally be a game changer.

The warnings about the rapid advances in wireless technology were dismissed by the clever clogs spruiking the NBN and yet they have proved to be accurate.

In the Australian Conservatives head office, we had a fixed wireless installation set up and ready to go with a private provider in only a few days whereas an NBN connection was going to take several months. The wireless service is cheaper and faster than what the government provider could offer.

There is also the advent of 5G cellular technology that promises to take data downloading into a new realm of speed comparable with fibre optic cable. In effect, this could render the NBN obsolete before it is even completed.

Now I know there are areas of market failure (particularly in rural areas) that need to be rectified, but the decision to effectively nationalise our telecommunications sector has been a poor one. The true financial cost won’t be known for many years yet but I am willing to wager that it won’t be borne by those who conceived it. Instead it will be left for future generations to pay for technology they likely won’t even use.


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