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. ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.