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Sunday, 24 October 2010 12:35

NBN cost study a waste of money: Conroy


Malcolm Turnbull's call for a Productivity Commission cost-benefit study of the National Broadband Network was a waste of money, and Mr Turnbull was unlikely to support the roll-out even if such a report was positive, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says.

Senator Conroy said a cost benefit study would not reveal anything the Government didn't already understand and that the many studies of fibre to the home roll-outs in comparable economies around the world had returned "overwhelmingly positive" results.

Mr Turnbull told the Ten Network's Meet The Press that he would find a positive cost benefit study from the Productivity Commission "incredibly persuasive" in deciding whether to support the NBN construction.

But Senator Conroy says Mr Turnbull is trying to delay and destroy the project, because that is the job Coalition leader Tony Abbott gave him.

"Tony Abbott set Malcolm Turnbull one task when he gave him this portfolio - to demolish the National Broadband Network. They have been seeking to delay the roll-out for months and months," Senator Conroy told ABC television's Insiders program.

"They have refused to allow debate in the Senate. They said we had to release the ACCC report. We had to release the McKinsey report. We had to provide all this information. We have done all of that," he said.

"And now what do they want? Another report."

Mr Turnbull wants the Productivity Commission to look at issues like the selection of fibre as the technology to invest in, as well as rates of return for the taxpayer investment.

Senator Conroy says the implications of the project for consumers will become a lot clearer in the next several weeks, when Government makes public the core findings in the NBN Company's corporate plan and business case.

"I would expect some fairly major information to be available about the cost, the pricing, the rates of return - all of that sort of information, I believe will be very public, very shortly," Senator Conroy said.

The business case would also clarify some of the home wiring issues - particularly the cost to homeowners of getting an NBN connection - that have been the subject of some angst among sections of the media, and in some households.

Senator Conroy repeated the substance of his attack on The Australian newspaper, saying it was trying to "denigrate the NBN in the eyes of the public" for suggesting connections will cost householders up to $3,000.

"It costs nothing. We will provide a connection into people's homes, and then you can plug into that connection and away you go, using an existing WiFi network or using the sorts of technology that is already in people's homes," he said.

"If you want to watch IP TV on four different screens in four different rooms, you might need to do some cabling. But that's no different from Foxtel, for instance, where they'll give you one connection for their price," he said.

"If you want Foxtel in a second room, you pay $15 a month or so for an extra screen in an extra room."

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