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NBN price tag rises in new NBNCo new corporate plan

Conroy lashes “flat earther” critics of broadband plan

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NBNCo has released its Corporate Plan (PDF)for 2012-2015, updating the projected costs and build speed for the project.

Costs have risen: the organisation now says it will require an extra $1.4 billion of capital expenditure to construct the NBN. Total capital expenditure is now projected to be AUD$37.4 billion, up from AUD$35.9 billion in the last corporate plan. Operational costs are also up, from AUD$23.2 billion to $26.4 billion.

Australia's Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said those increases will see planned bond sales happen sooner, and in greater volume.

Extra capital is required, in part, because NBNCo now plans to connect more premises.

The new plan also outlines the rate at which NBNCo will wire the nation, with 5,532 million connects expected to be complete in financial year 2016 (see graphic below).

NBNCo's projected rate of connections

The plan also makes allowance for uptake of faster connections. NBNCo CEO Mike Quigley told the launch that 100Mbps down/40Mbps down plans are proving more popular than first assumed. 25/5 plans are also selling well.

Quigley also pointed out that current retail NBN plans generally include more download allowance than their ADSL rivals, often at the same price.

Lashing critics

Quigley went on to say, somewhat pointedly and as rebuttal for those who say the NBN is a white elephant that will be superseded by wireless networks , that fewer than four percent of wireless broadband plans have a download allowance exceeding ten gigabytes a month.

But that was mild compared to the criticisms dished out by Conroy in his opening remarks.

The Minister rounded on some members of the press for uncritical reporting of the cost of the NBN’s build and consumer plans. He also accused Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull of ignoring standard accounting practices by insisting the cost of the NBN should appear in the budget, rather than appearing in a different set of accounts as an investment.

Some members of the press were even labelled flat-earthers for their reporting on the NBN.

Conroy also accused his political opponents of lacking vision, saying they want a “quick and dirty” NBN that would be the equivalent of building the Sydney Harbour Bridge with a single lane in each direction. Such a bridge – or broadband network – can only be construed as sensible if one ignores future traffic forecasts, Conroy said, repeatedly stating that he makes no apologies for building the most future-proof network of which he can conceive.

On the opposition’s proposal that a fibre-to-the-node network would be quicker to build and cost only a third of the NBN’s price tag, Conroy and Quigley both pointed out the Alcatel report suggesting those savings suggests they are on offer only when an incumbent telco offers to undertake that build.

Regreaders with middling memories may recall one S. Trujillo once advanced a plan along just those lines. But Sr. Trujillo’s name didn’t come up in the briefing. ®

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