On the apparent eve of the Coalition's broadband policy launch, Malcolm Turnbull has come out swinging, saying that his maths indicates that the real cost of the National Broadband Network is closer to $90 billion, rather than the $37.4 billion estimated by NBN Co.
In a piece of the Coalition's broadband strategy he gave to The Telegraph, Turnbull claimed that calculations done by the likes of Macquarie Bank and several telcos and analysts claim that NBN Co is way off with its cost estimates. Not by a small margin, either.
NBN Co estimates that the capital cost of constructing fibre-to-the-home for Australia's 12.1 million premises would be $2400 per home. Macquarie Bank's analysis, however, puts that cost at $4000 per home, while the Coalition's estimate puts it at $3600.
Turnbull also predicts that the cost of access for consumers to the NBN will rise by 12 per cent per year through to 2021.
Turnbull also claims in his analysis that the fibre-to-the-home deployment will be delayed by a further four years, with the final completion date estimated by the Coalition at 2025. That's where some of the extra costs are coming from.
A detailed analysis of the delays is pretty scarce at this stage. Hopefully we'll have more when the policy is released this week.
Meanwhile, Conroy has hit back at the claims, labelling Turnbull and the Coalition a "fact-free zone". The Communications Minister told ABC Radio this morning:
Well, the NBN is being built. We have nearly a million homes under construction at the moment. The corporate plan, audited by the Auditor-General, is produced each year, and what you're seeing in that corporate plan is $37.4 billion is the cost of building the NBN -- not, as today the Coalition is claiming, $90 billion.
I mean, the Coalition are a fact-free zone. They don't have any facts to support these claims. They rely on misleading statistics and misleading data to try and make these scare campaigns. And what you've seen today is a classic policy-free zone claim by the Coalition.