The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, released the report during the federal election campaign. It is unusual for a government department to release a report on such a politically sensitive topic during the "caretaker" period of government. However, the report does not favor the ALP or Coalition.
The report suffers from a number of deficiencies. It refers to "smart-phones", which the NBN is not designed to support. The report claims that households will benefit from greater choice and competition from e-commerce and online services and greater employment opportunities through teleworking. However, it does not count the cost of greater online access to the Australian market of overseas companies and the off-shoring of Australian jobs made possible. Clearly there will be economic benefits from reduced travel costs and social benefits from better access to education online.
The report does not make clear how high-speed broadband, will provide benefits over lower speed broadband. I teach university classes via the Internet, but because my students could be anywhere in the world, on slow and unreliable Internet connections, I don't assume high-speed broadband. The students find this form of education very worthwhile. My course scored a perfect five out of five for student satisfaction last semester, beating most on-campus courses. Clearly if all my students had high-speed broadband I could use it, but it is not clear to me that this would greatly improve the student's education. As the consultants state in their report it is not a cost-benefit analysis, nor does it compare current broadband with high-speed broadband. The consultants have done a reasonable job within the brief they were given. However, it is questionable if the consultants should have accepted the brief and the report does not provide useful information on which to base decisions.
COMMUNICATIONS > SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT & SOCIAL MEDIA
E-COMMERCE > TRAVEL SAVINGS, CHOICE
ONLINE SERVICES > ENTERTAINMENT
TRAVEL SAVINGS > E-HEALTH, E-EDUCATION, E-GOVT
EMPLOYMENT > TELEWORK, TRAVEL
PRODUCTIVITY > LOWER PRICES, BETTER QUALITY
Figure i: Benefits of broadband for households — a national framework
From: "Benefits of Hight-Speed Broadband for Australian Households", Deloitte Access Economics for DBCDE, 30 July 2013