New Zealand will reach its broadband roll out goal on time and on budget – with superior technology. What went wrong in Australia?
At the Australian Financial Review Jennifer Hewett goes back over the question asking Why New Zealand outplayed Australia on the NBN. Along the way she talks to MyRepublic‘s Vaughn Baker who has played a role in New Zealand’s fibre project and now has a regional role for the Singaporean service provider.
Hewett makes a number of points. There is an eye-opening quote from Baker about his observation of the Australian project:
He was amazed, he recalls, at the time and the effort taken by subcontractors without the discipline of the private sector questioning each dollar, meaning the cost base was skewed from the beginning.
I noticed this when I lived in Australia. On the other side of the Tasman companies often do better when they get their snouts in the government trough. New Zealand’s private sector approach to the fibre build helped guard against this, but many private projects in Australian go off the rails as well.
NBN built from outside-in
Another important point is that the NBN build started in rural Australia. New Zealand’s government was clever putting the rural broadband project into a separate basket. A smaller proportion of Australians live outside the main centres, but the distances and the challenges connecting them are mind-boggling.
Hewett missed an important point. New Zealand’s fibre build was never subject to Australia’s poisonous and destructive partisan politics. For a while an Australian’s opinion on the NBN project was coloured as much by political allegiance as facts, science or technology.
This hasn’t stopped. Today, there is ridiculous squabbling in Australia over fibre speeds, among other things. And a declaration that no-one wants or needs more than 25mbps broadband. Try telling that to New Zealanders zipping along to gigabit services.