NBN Senate Select Committee report reveals massive split

Report recommends cost-benefit analysis, interim implementation study report by end of year

The Senate Select Committee into the National Broadband Network (NBN) has called for a rigorous cost-benefit analysis, an interim implementation study report, a skills audit and that legislation be brought forward to provide the funding and governance framework for NBN Co.

In its third report, the coalition-heavy committee's call for a cost-benefit analysis follows a similar call from the OECD, which said the Federal Government should conduct a more rigorous and systematic analysis of planned infrastructure projects, including the NBN.

The committee also recommended the Implementation plan clearly state the government's intention to "prioritise the needs of underserviced communities, particularly those in regional, rural and remote areas, over those with comparatively well-serviced urban areas".

It called for a detailed business plan for Tasmania's NBN rollout by the end of the year, and for any cost-benefit analysis report and interim implementation study along with the final implementation study to be released publicly within 14 days of completion.

The committee's recommendations place emphasis on the implementation study being conducted, saying "if the Implementation Study concludes the NBN project specifications are unrealistic, not practical or uneconomical, that the government must reassess its overall policy approach".

It is understood, however, that NBN Co is going ahead with most of the network design and many other elements of the NBN without waiting for the implementation study to be completed.

In a minority report, government senators said they disagree with all but one of the recommendations in the report. They threw their support behind recommendation 10, which says: "That the government provide greater opportunities for commercial viability of broadband networks by advocating the development of new applications that will facilitate economic development and improvements in health, education and energy efficiency outcomes".

In rejecting the report the government senators said the "Opposition has not articulated an alternative policy to deliver a universal high-bandwidth network to all Australians, choosing instead to represent the interests of the residual monopoly incumbent Telstra throughout the course of the inquiry".

The full report can be downloaded on the committee's website.

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