Better broadband but at what cost?

THE National Broadband Network should start rolling out on the North Coast within the next 12 months, Page MP Janelle Saffin has said.

The Government has not announced an official start date for the network, beyond saying it will be completed within eight years and individual areas will be ‘turned on’ as the network reaches them.

Responding to attacks from the Coalition, Ms Saffin said the recent confirmation of Coffs Harbour as a network ‘nerve centre’ meant the North Coast should start seeing movement ‘over the next year or even before that’.

The comments came as Richmond Liberal MP Joan van Lieshout and Page Nationals MP Kevin Hogan put the boot in, with claims the Coalition’s broadband policy, which has yet to be announced, would build a cheaper and better network.

Ms van Lieshout triggered the comments after releasing a statement saying Labor was wasting money on the $43 billion project and warning cost blow-outs would make it too expensive for ordinary families to access.

Ms van Lieshout pointed to comments from telecommunications industry consultant and project manager Malcolm Mackenzie, aired on ABCRadio’s Background Briefing program last week, saying the cost of such a big project could be expected to blow out by between 50 per cent and 100pc.

She said that meant the cost of the total project could get as high as $86 billion – although NBN Co boss Mike Quigley, on the same ABC program as Mr Mackenzie, said the Tasmanian roll-out had been done on time and on budget and the company expected the process to get easier as it progressed, potentially driving the cost down.

Mr Hogan said the network had ‘admirable’ goals, but that they could be achieved more cheaply and easily.

Richmond MP Justine Elliot said Labor’s network would benefit the North Coast ‘across a huge range of areas’.

Ms Saffin said the network, as an infrastructure program, was comparable in scope to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.

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