The Coalition's cut-price National Broadband Network would deliver a net economic boost of $18 billion compared with $2 billion for Labor's gold-plated version, according to the first cost-benefit analysis of Australia's largest infrastructure project.
Reporting on the analysis on Wednesday, Fairfax Media says it concludes that both options would be trumped by dumping expensive connections for remote Australia and freezing connections of high-speed cables all the way to homes.
That more limited version would deliver a benefit to Australia of $24 billion.
But the analysis finds that the multi-billion dollar benefits of broadband access, regardless of the model, are likely to end arguments that the ambitious project should be dumped altogether.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he's committed to rural services and is not surprised the review found them expensive.
"It's clear if you're going to have any sort of equity in terms of access to telecommunications in rural and regional Australia there will have to be some form of subsidy," he told Fairfax.
Turnbull said the analysis justified the government's decision to move to a mix of technologies, including fibre-to-the-node and fixed wireless, and abandon Labor's reliance on expensive fibre-to-the-premises connections.
"When you do the cost benefit analysis ... which takes into account all of the social benefits to the whole society - e-health, education, the works - the approach we're taking is $16 billion better," Mr Turnbull told ABC radio.
The cost-benefit analysis was written by a panel headed by former public servant Michael Vertigan, and included well-known Labor NBN critic Henry Ergas.