Senate Committee's NBN Interim Report Attacks 'Inaccurate' Strategic Review

The Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network, featuring ex-Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy, is out for blood. The committee has just released an interim report on the current Liberal government's management of the NBN rollout process, as well as its administration of NBNCo -- and what it has to say is not pretty.

As you might reasonably expect from a Senate committee comprised mainly of the most outspoken political adversaries of the Liberal government's NBN plan -- there's Conroy, committee chair Kate Lundy and Scott Ludlam -- the interim report doesn't pull any punches when it comes to any possible mismanagement of the re-jigged rollout.

"Deficient", "inaccurate", and "unreliable" are all words that the report uses to describe the strategic review of the NBN released by Malcolm Turnbull's Department of Communications in December last year.

The committee's conclusion so far in its 180-page interim report is that the strategic review was a political tool; it cites "financial manipulations" that added nearly $30 billion to its cost projections, points out supposed "unreliable assumptions and conclusions", and says it had a generally "pessimistic" outlook on the previous state of the NBN (as managed by the former Labor governments of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard).

More than that, the interim report is not happy about the multi-technology mix (MTM) proposed by Turnbull and NBNCo as the silver bullet to the nascent network's issues. The government's supposedly dodgy working -- using international estimates for similar projects, rather than tried and tested field data -- comes under fire, as does the overall choice of using fibre to the node instead of fibre to the premises -- likely reduced revenue is the problem.

The Senate Select Committee's full report is due on 10 June, but this interim report gives a pretty good idea of what to expect from the final copy.

The entire report (5MB PDF) is pretty hefty at 180 pages, but it might make for some interesting lunchtime reading (if you're into that kind of thing). We've extracted a few choice quotes from the executive summary below (emphasis ours).

The Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network (the Committee) has issued this interim report because it has significant concerns with the accuracy and reliability of the Strategic Review. The Committee considers that the assumptions and conclusions set out in the Strategic Review are unreliable in the case of all examined scenarios.

...the exclusion from the Revised Outlook of approximately $4 billion in ‘business as usual,’... an assumption of a delay in the revised deployment schedule that... has the assumed effect of stripping out $11.6 billion in revenues and adding $13 billion to peak funding

The Committee considers that without the financial manipulations evident in revenue and other assumptions—the so-called “radically redesigned” FTTP scenario represents a better estimate of the cost of the fibre build than the Revised Outlook.

The Committee has equally strong concerns about the reliability of assumptions underpinning the MTM, the recommended option... the ‘limited speeds and product capabilities’ available on FTTN are expected to result in reduced revenues compared to a full fibre rollout"

It's important to note that the Coalition members of the committee didn't support the interim report at all; there's a dissenting section at the end of the document. It's even more full-on than the Labor and Greens' conclusions, tearing shreds off the statements above. Check out page 147 for some brilliantly blatant infighting.

Coalition Senators find the Chair’s report to be grossly misleading and untruthful in its portrayal of the evidence provided to the Senate Select Committee. Coalition Senators additionally find that the process of preparing this interim report of the Senate Select Committee, including the provision of a deliberately falsified version of the majority report to the Coalition, to constitute an abuse of process.

What do you think of the current state and future outlook of the NBN? Let us know in the comments below.