NBN: The Low Down

My mum Kris was thrilled when I told her I needed to grill her about the NBN in order to write this blog post. She was quite knowledgable on the topic and had a lot to say! But first, what is the NBN? Incase you weren’t sure, the National Broadband Network (NBN) is a fast-speed broadband network currently in development. The idea was dreamt up by PM Kevin Rudd in 2010, and was to be gradually implemented throughout the country. Many households have gained access to the network.

What did Kris have to say about the topic? Firstly, despite the cost, she is satisfied with her current broadband plan, “its pretty fast and we haven’t had any problems.” When I asked her how many devices and data plans were in the house, she had to stop and think. We do have quite a few devices in our home! She concluded that we had 5 data plans in place for 10 devices, including iPhones, iPods, computers and iPads. She confirmed that our household has not yet had the opportunity to connect to the NBN. I asked Kris if she would connect to the NBN when the opportunity arises: “no, there’s no need to. I’m happy with what we have, and the NBN will be more expensive.” My dad Ray agreed, “what we have is sufficient for our needs right now and there is no real value proposition available.”

My next question got Kris heated. I asked her what she knew about the NBN.

“It was dreamt up on a plane trip and set it on motion without a cost benefit analysis, but they continued on with it for political reasons. It is a colossal white elephant that should never have been built. It was a spontaneous idea done on a whim with little thought, planning and no cost benefit analysis. They did it to get votes.”

Kris also alerted me to the revised cost of the NBN. Labour originally anticipated that it would cost $40.9 billion to implement. In August 2015, the government revised the costs, calculating that implementing the NBN would cost an extra $15 billion than originally anticipated. Even though the Liberal Party have tried to reduce costs by making it fibre to the node rather than fibre to the home, it is still costing a fortune. Is it really worth it? Kris believes it is not, “the take up rate is really low. The Government will not recoup its money.” Raymond was equally as informed about the topic, but had less to say. “The NBN is a politicized exercise. I understand what its purpose and aims are and the technical setup. They can do it in a more cost effective manner and get more leverage off existing infrastructure.”

Skyrocketing costs of the NBN

Skyrocketing costs of the NBN

This discussion made me think. Is the NBN really worth all this money? Is it really going to provide such revolutionary and high internet speed? The NBN may be useful to those who currently do not have access to internet. However, many who already have internet access seem satisfied with their current connection. Additionally, very few areas are connected to the NBN in 2015. The Sutherland Shire region in southern Sydney has been excluded from the 3 year roll out list, and will have to wait until the project’s expected completion in 2021 to attempt to connect to the NBN.

In the final stages of our interview, Kris asserted that technology is already being superseded by superfast wireless around the world, as other nations concentrate their spending on wireless technology rather than a national broadband network. “Australia is the only country in the world where the government is building this sort of infrastructure. Everywhere else in the world this is being done by private enterprise. This is probably why it is so expensive and the cost has blown out. When governments build things, it costs more because of bureaucracy overheads and contractors who up their prices because they know the government will pay. Private enterprise wouldn’t do that. Their biggest aim is to finish the project as cheaply as possible to maximize profits.”

Clearly, cost and accessibility are issues with the NBN. If it were well planned, there would not be so many issues surrounding the project. Due to our reliance on the internet, fast speed broadband is a priority. Surely there is another way to provide a high speed internet service! I’m sure we’ll find a way.

Ramli, D 2015, ‘NBN will have to raise $26.5b to fund costs of national broadband network’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24th August, viewed 26th August 2015, available from http://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/nbn-set-to-announce-cost-blowout-20150823-gj5ze3.html.

Hanlon, J 2015, ‘NBN Guide: What You Need To Know’, WhistleOut, 6th July 2015, viewed 26th August 2015, available from http://www.whistleout.com.au/Broadband/Guides/NBN-Guide-What-You-Need-to-Know

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