We’re unashamedly big fans of the National Broadband Network (NBN) at Giz, and it’s hardly a secret either that the Coalition doesn’t share that enthusiasm. Yesterday’s budget papers reveal just how much it would cost right now if a Coalition government came to power and decided to axe the whole project: a tidy $2 billion.
That sum represents the amount than NBN Co would have to pay to meet direct costs if it closed up ($1.8 billion) plus an additional $209 million owed to Telstra if the project got canned. Coalition policy on the NBN is a fluid beast, and its current plan would see it try and work with Telstra to roll back some elements of the fibre rollout without cancelling absolutely everything. So it’s unlikely that $2 billion would be spent in this way, but it’s a reminder that the argument about the NBN is no longer about whether elements of it will happen. Lots of elements already have.
Of course, you could argue that $2 billion would be offset by the removal of ongoing expenses to build the network. But you could equally argue that the opportunity cost of not having a broadband system with a guaranteed level of throughput and availability would cost us far more in the long run. As with most things NBN, views on both sides are so rusted on that I doubt this figure is going to change anyone’s view. But at least now you know what it is.