On Monday, NBNCo, the Government organisation tasked with creating one of Australia’s most ambitious — and at $46 billion, one of its most expensive — pieces of infrastructure, was forced to deny claims the project was heavily behind schedule.
According to Fairfax Media an “internal progress report” said the project was two-thirds short on its benchmark construction timetable, and had only approved connections to 663,000 premises, rather than the 1.4 million planned.
In a statement, the NBNCo said it had met or exceeded every key target for six quarters in a row. This included having 2.6 million homes “ready for service” by year’s end, one million homes using the network and more than $300 million in revenue.
The company said it would not be drawn on “alleged internal documents” but admitted, “this is an incredibly complex project unlike any infrastructure build anywhere in the world.”
The squabbling over how many homes have been connected and how much the project has cost is all a long way from the Coalition’s glittery launch of its NBN policy in 2013.
United on a Sydney stage, then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Mr Turnbull promised that the Coalition’s version of the NBN would, by this year, deliver minimum download speeds of 25 megabits per second, possibly as much as 100mbps, for just $30 billion. Hardly the kind of coin you find down the back of the sofa, but significantly less than the $44 billion Labor was predicting their system would cost.
“There will be billions of dollars that Labor has wasted that we cannot recover but we will save many billions of dollars, at least $60 billion, by taking the approach we have described,” said Mr Turnbull at the time.
Labor’s fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) proposal would take that fibre all the way to the home while the Coalition’s cost saving was to be made by cutting back on important chunks of infrastructure. Called fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), Turnbull’s NBN would see the fibre cables — a veritable motorway of data — halting on the street corner. The last leg would take all those tunes, films, images and Skype calls down the picturesque side road of the more limited copper network.