Feeds

Fibre fanaticism overrode proper NBN planning says report

Productivity Commission slams lack of cost-benefit analysis

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Early planning for Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) focussed on “how best to implement the government’s policy objectives, rather than considering the merits of different options.”

So says Australia's Productivity Commission in a draft report (PDF) on the state of the nation's public infrastructure.

The report's theme is that Australia can do much better in its attempts to build infrastructure of any sort. “There are many examples in Australia of inadequate project selection leading to costly outcomes for some users and taxpayers in general,” the document says, before going on to mention State government electricity and desalination projects. At the federal level the report offers “... the decision by the previous government to proceed with the National Broadband Network without doing a thorough analysis of its costs and benefits” as its star exhibit.

Why did that happen? The report says “... detailed analysis of the project was focused, from a relatively early stage, on how best to implement the government’s policy objectives, rather than considering the merits of different options.” That left benefits of the NBN and the appropriateness or otherwise of creating NBN Co unexamined, which the report suggests is a poor way to go about large and expensive infrastructure projects.

The report goes on to say that cost-benefit analyses are terrific ideas that should really be done for any infrastructure project.

The report will doubtless be used to heap more criticism on Australia's previous government, which has copped plenty for other big-ticket projects that were either rorted (school halls sometimes built for more than the going rate, thanks to State bureaucracies and loose federal oversight) dangerous (a home insulation scheme with poor oversight) or seemingly open-ended (stimulus payments intended to give the economy a boost in 2009 still being sent to newly-identified eligible recipients in 2014).

Some of that criticism will be deserved. But it is also worth noting that after insisting on a cost-benefit analysis for the NBN, the current government will build it even if no return on investment can be found.

Some pundits have argued that the original fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) plan was justifiable because of market failure: plans to build the NBN submitted to government in 2008 were deemed a waste of money, making the FTTP NBN the kind of project economic conservatives could tolerate. Parliamentary Secretary for communications Paul Fletcher recently told The Reg he feels it remains appropriate for government funds to build the NBN, despite its move to a mixed-medium network that is arguably less scalable and long-lived, while also lessening its focus on addressing black spots.

The Reg mentions these factors to point out that not all criticism will be wholly justifiable: Australia's past government did not execute well, but the current government is hardly ideologically pure with regards to this project. Nor is its track record spotless: the viability of the Alice Springs to Darwin railway built during the coalition parties' last term in government was widely questioned before its construction, and turned out to be a white elephant that its owners exited at a substantial loss. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.