Conservative estimates by economic think-tank, Access Economics, suggest a fibre to the node (FTTN) national broadband network (NBN) would provide between $8 billion and $23 billion to GDP over 10 years.
In a report titled, The economic benefits of intelligent technologies commissioned by IBM, Access Economics also claimed an investment of $12.6 billion in FTTN technologies would provide 33,000 jobs by 2011 in an economy operating at less than full employment.
In deriving the estimates, the report’s authors noted there is “insufficient data to accurately quantify the full economic benefits” of high-speed broadband. As such they decided not to use the Government’s proposed $43 billion Fibre to the Home (FTTH) plan as a basis for the report.
However, the authors noted while an FTTH NBN would involve greater upfront capital costs, there was potential for greater benefits.
“The development of a FTTH network would involve both higher costs and greater benefits than the FTTN network. Indeed, many of the potential applications and services that may be delivered though HSBB [high speed broadband] cannot be reliably anticipated in advance and the greater the speeds that can be reliably achieved, the more such services will emerge,” the report stated.
These conservative estimates by Access Economics may go some way to counter news Australian tax payers are to be hit with staff expenses of $3.36 million for a taskforce that supported the expert panel during its evaluation of tender bids in the now abandoned NBN process.
Seven expert panel members tasked with evaluating bids in the tender process conducted 42 meetings, with all but two – who are public servants – receiving $375 an hour (capped at eight hours a day). The panel also incurred travel expenses of $89,946 over a 10-month period from March 2008.
These figures led Shadow Communications Minister, Nick Minchin, to threaten to block the Government’s NBN legislation if Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, doesn’t table the expert panel’s findings. Conroy responded by refusing to acquiesce to the ultimatum, while independent Senator Nick Xenophon said he would throw his weight behind a Senate inquiry into the costs.