Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam have slammed a report that calls the National Broadband Network (NBN) "extreme government intervention", labelling the report as right-wing dogma.
A report published by the neo-liberal publication The Economist Intelligence Unit yesterday labelled Australia's $27 billion investment in a fibre to the home network roll-out as "extreme government intervention", and the most expensive in the world to implement. It mirrored a report published by the outfit in February this year.
Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull leapt on the report, telling journalists yesterday that the NBN is the "telecommunication's version of Cuba" due to its reliance on the government to provide the infrastructure.
"Cuba is the last communist state ... I stand corrected, there is North Korea, too," Turnbull said.
Conroy said that the report was tinged with neo-liberal bias.
"The report by the Economist is yet another example of right-wing dogma that struggles to get the facts right," he said. "There is nothing new in this report, which again has an ideological obsession that government intervention in the provision of telecommunications infrastructure is bad, while private-sector investment is good."
Conroy said that the Economist got some facts wrong in its report, stating that the NBN will reach 7.45 million households when it will in fact reach 13 million when the roll-out is completed. The report also failed to mention that the $27 billion investment will be paid back to taxpayers over time, the minister said.
It was also not worthwhile comparing Australia to other countries, considering the size of Australia compared to countries in Europe.
"The Economist compares Australia's NBN to Switzerland's broadband approach, despite the fact that Switzerland has 65 times more people per square kilometre than Australia, and is also 187 times smaller by area," Conroy said. "Such comparisons are meaningless."
Ludlam said that Turnbull's comparisons of the NBN to Cuba showed that criticism of the project had become "desperately unhinged".
"A large number of experts in information technology and communications — from the business world and from academia — have praised the NBN as a forward-thinking and significant development, but the opposition continues to launch increasingly bizarre and desperate attacks on the project," Ludlam said in a statement.
"The opposition has pounced on one aspect of a report from The Economist — regarding the level of public investment in the NBN — but ignored the overall conclusion, which found the NBN is superior to the services in the United States and the United Kingdom. If the Intelligence Unit keeps publishing these wild-eyed neo-liberal rants, they may need to change their name to something else."
NBN Co spokesperson Andrew Sholl said it is hard to take a report so mired in ideology seriously.
"They ... overlook the fact that Australia is more than three times the size of all the other top-ranked countries combined, that facilities-based competition in telecommunications has failed repeatedly here, that the NBN is already encouraging retail competition, and even that the NBN will deliver a return to taxpayers," he said in a statement.
Sholl said that the report should be judged on its merits.