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Australia’s National Broadband Network A Failure

May 23, 2016

350px-Flag_of_AustraliaThis blog has written before about Australia’s government-owned broadband network—the National Broadband Network.

We’re not the only ones who see this network as a complete failure. In a column in The Australian this week, Institute of Public Affairs Media and Communications Manager Evan Mulholland, who was a former adviser to Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, agrees. Mulholland argues “the NBN was the worst conceived infrastructure project in federal history” and says “the private sector is much better at major project development than government.”

Why? He explains that private companies must answer to a board of directors and investors. In contrast, government networks only “are accountable to politicians.” Indeed, regarding NBN, Mulholland notes, “With such a broad original mandate … the NBN is effectively accountable to no one” and ask, as a result, “is it any wonder we hear of blowouts in the billions of dollars?”

Mulholland also argues that NBN has had a very serious chilling effect on private broadband investment in Australia. He writes, “Anyone who works in the communications sector in Australia will tell you that the minute the Labor government announced it was going it alone in building a nationalised broadband network, private sector investment in telecommunications ground to a halt.” This argument is one the Coalition for the New Economy has made when it comes to municipal broadband in the United States.

Mulholland concludes, “Australia’s telecommunications policy is a regulatory, economic and political quagmire” and argues the sooner the Australian government is done with NBN, the “sooner we can try to reform the industry to encourage investment and innovation again.”