The Economist Intelligence Unit, the in-house research arm of The Economist, yesterday released a report on global broadband rollout. In it, the report claimed that the NBN would cost Australian taxpayers 24 times as much as the South Korean government was charging its taxpayers for their broadband infrastructure. Given Australia is about 75 times as large as South Korea, that sounds like a pretty good deal.
The opposition naturally jumped on board the report yesterday claiming it was a global indication that the NBN was a waste of taxpayers money. Meanwhile, Labor jumped up and down, claiming comparing the cost of Australia's rollout to that of South Korea is like comparing apples with oranges thanks to the massive landmass difference and population density.
The full report dubbed the government broadband index Q1 2011 costs $US2950 to purchase, but the executive summary seemingly takes little of the country's size and small population into account:
Australia, the country with the highest-profile and most controversial public-sector scheme, also falls in the bottom half of the index, mainly because it is spending a colossal 7.58% of annual government budget revenues on its National Broadband Network. In South Korea, by comparison, the government is spending less than 1% of annual budget revenues to realise its broadband goals, achieving targets by encouraging the private sector to invest in the country's broadband future.
But when you look at the criteria for judging each country's broadband performance, the research team admits that they judged the criteria around how they felt about government involvement with broadband infrastructure. Whether or not you agree with that position or not is irrelevant, the fact remains that a supposedly objective report grading government broadband plans has a subjective opinion on how things should be graded. Kind of defeats the point, doesn't it?
Expect the politicians to keep waving this report around over the coming weeks, but keep in mind that it may not be the best representation of performance without recognising the difficulties in rolling out a broadband network to the Australian population.