Conroy asks why Vertigan panel bothering with NBN analysis

NBN cost-benefit analysis on track for mid-June submission to government

Senator Stephen Conroy

Senator Stephen Conroy

A National Broadband Network review panel will finish its cost-benefit analysis comparing different NBN approaches even though the government has already decided to go ahead with a multi-technology model, said the panel’s chair, Michael Vertigan.

Vertigan, who is also a director of Aurora Energy, is in charge of the panel appointed by the government to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the NBN and an assessment of the regulatory environment of the rollout.

In a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on the NBN on Monday, Senator Stephen Conroy asked if there’s still a point to finishing a cost-benefit analysis given the Coalition government’s decision to ditch the fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) plan that was supported by Labor.

“You could write back to them and say, ‘Given you’ve made your decision in this area anyway, we’ll save the taxpayers some money and won’t bother going down this path…’” suggested Conroy.

“We intend to complete the task,” replied Vertigan. He said the panel will issue its report to the government in mid-June.

Vertigan said the cost-benefit analysis will compare the pros and cons of four different scenarios: maintaining the status quo with no NBN rollout, a purely commercial rollout, a fibre-to-the-premise NBN deployment and the multi-technology model.

The Vertigan panel plans to release an analytical framework that will provide theoretical guidance for the cost-benefit analysis by the “end of this coming week,” he said.

A variety of stakeholders, including NBN Co, major telcos and the Victorian government have submitted comments to the panel. The Vertigan panel issued a framing paper in February.

The panel is still weighing views from stakeholders and is “very much in the process of coming to conclusions rather than having settled views,” Vertigan told the committee.

Besides Vertigan, the NBN review panel also includes former eBay ANZ CEO Alison Deans, former Australian Communications Authorty CEO Tony Shaw, and Henry Ergas, a former OECD economist and known Labor critic.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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