Why we can’t blame it on the NBN

A year after the NBN rollout was botched, a new research report has found the project was actually good for consumers.

The report, released by consumer advocacy group Choice, says the project is a “win-win” for Australian consumers and the NBN.

“The NBN delivers on the promises of the Coalition and Labor,” Choice chief executive Michael Daley said.

“There are benefits, and there are drawbacks.”

Mr Daley’s report, which looks at the NBN’s cost, quality and outcomes for all households, has been heavily criticised.

“It’s a pretty clear outlier,” he said.

Choice has criticised the Federal Government’s rollout plan for the NBN as “unrealistic”, calling for a more “flexible and cost-effective” rollout.

It said it would not have funded the NBN without the support of the Labor government.

“We are not asking for the Government to pay for the [NBN] rollout, we are asking for a fair and efficient, cost-efficient rollout, in the interests of all Australians,” Choice president Tim Wilson said.

The Federal Government says the cost of the NBN was $37.6 billion in 2017-18, down from $52.3 billion in 2016-17.

However, Choice’s report found the NBN cost $16.4 billion in 2021-22.

“We are now at the stage where the NBN is actually providing value to Australians,” Mr Wilson said, adding that Choice was not endorsing any particular technology or service.

Mr Wilson said it was important to look at all costs, rather than just costs related to NBN services.

“What the Government is actually delivering is the same as what the Coalition has been delivering, which is cost-efficiency,” he told ABC News Breakfast.

The report found that consumers who paid $25 a month or less for the Telstra NBN, had an average of 15Mbps speeds.

“When we looked at that, the NBN delivered a speed of just under 2Mbps, and the cost per megabit of service for the Coalition was $9.40,” Mr Daly said.

Choice said it had surveyed more than 100,000 Australians, and found that “the Coalition NBN had been an absolute disaster for the Australian economy”.

Choice president Tim Russell said the NBN had failed to deliver what was promised to the public.

“[It’s] the exact opposite of what was claimed in the Coalition’s rollout manifesto, which promised the NBN would deliver speeds of over 100Mbps,” he added.

While the NBN delivers high-speed internet access to almost everyone, Choice found that those on low incomes were particularly disadvantaged.

There were significant differences in the quality of the fibre-optic cables that connected to each house, with some having slower speeds than others, Choice said.

While speeds varied across the state, Mr Wilson told ABC Radio’s Today program that in Tasmania, which was home to most of the population, speeds were “less than 100Mbps” on average.

In Victoria, which includes Victoria’s regional areas, speeds averaged about 100Mbps, he said, with Tasmania’s average at only 72Mbps.

Choices research also found that NBN service did not extend beyond the premises, which has been an issue for some consumers.

For example, the organisation found that people who lived in a house in Perth’s inner city, had slower internet speeds, than those in inner-suburban areas.

According to Choice, the Government’s NBN policy is “a complete waste of money”.

Mr Daley says the report should be seen as a wake-up call.