NBN Senate Committee hands down interim report

The Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network yesterday tabled its interim report on the federal government's proposed Fibre-to-the-Node NBN, including an assessment of the NBN Strategic Review upon which the current rollout is based. The report, to put it mildly, was not positive and at times was damning. Given that the Committee itself is chaired by a senior Labor senator (Kate Lundy) and includes former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, this therefore qualifies as the least surprising news story of the week.

The report found irregularities and distortions in several key areas, including: the rollout schedule; costings for the original FttP build; deliberate exclusions of previously tabled savings; addition of a third NBN satellite without the calculation of any attendant revenue; and a tendency to model based on worst-case scenarios.

Placing the inevitable politics to one side - a theoretical if not quixotic exercise when it comes to the NBN - the details of the report are worth looking at. David Braue at ZDNet has a detailed breakdown here. It's well worth a read.

To reinsert politics, the Liberal Senators in the committee labelled the report 'grossly misleading and untruthful' and 'a farcical face-saving exercise'. Conroy's behaviour throughout the consultation process was targeted in particular. Valorising a balanced approach more becoming of 'Westminster-derived governance' the Coalition senators decried Conroy's unwillingness to take responsibility for 'the single largest destruction of value for taxpayers in the history of the Commonwealth'.

The upshot is that nothing has changed from before the report was released, and won't change once the full report is released in June.

The sad result of this entire affair is that it is now impossible to proclaim one's technological preference without being accused of a political bias, no matter how complete is one's indifference towards either major political party. Australia's technology sector overwhelmingly prefers an FttP NBN, for very good reasons, but are therefore accused by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull of politicising the debate. Pot, kettle, you know the drill.