Dream a nightmare

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 26-Oct-2017

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Over promising and under delivering. 

It’s a fatal combination where hope inevitably turns to despair and dreams to dust.

It’s also what has happened to the greatest single infrastructure project of our time – the National Broadband Network.

Originally promised by the then Labor government of Kevin Rudd, the NBN has been through more bumps and bruises than the dodgem cars at this weekend’s Bendigo show.

It’s embarrassing to Australia that successive governments botched this process. 

The longer the NBN rollout goes on, the more unhappy customers it succeeds in adding adds to its databases.

Labor never got to deliver on its 2009 promise, reduced to minority government status after the 2010 election and then losing the 2013 election.

Under the Coalition, plans for a fibre to the premises rollout were quickly dismantled, and as costs blew out, complaints started to mount about the inadequacies of the NBN and the fact that the stark reality did not match the hyped-up rhetoric.

Fibre to the curb now looms as a halfway place for customers not yet connected to the NBN. Speeds will be somewhat quicker than those delivered by the fibre to the node technology more commonly used, at least for now.

We’ll never know if Labor’s version of the NBN would have been cheaper in the long run, but few could argue that it wouldn’t have been better.

As more and more detail emerges about some of the costs associated with delivering the NBN, it’s not difficult to see why any responsible government would look to try and stem the bleeding.   

But in trying to contain costs of a project so big and so important, the government runs the risk of delivering a network that fails to deliver when measured against any criteria, save for the financial ones, and that only creates more problems.

There’s no point installing a network constrained by costs if it does not work. The government either needs to give the NBN the financial backing it deserves and needs, or it should look to recoup more from those who use it.

Startling admissions by the Prime Minister this week that the NBN may never turn a profit need to be acknowledged. So to the comment that the NBN was a mistake.

There’s no point looking to sheet the blame home on one side of politics though.

Fault rests with a succession of governments, and a solution will only be achieved by all parties realising the need to work together to fix a problem that impacts on an overwhelming number of Australian businesses and households, rather than look to apportion blame.

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