NBN review costs top AU$2 million

The Department of Communications has revealed the full extent of the cost for the panel tasked with conducting a cost-benefit analysis into Australia's broadband options, and the other reviews it has undertaken since the election of the Coalition government.

The Australian Department of Communications has revealed that the costs for the cost-benefit analysis , a review of NBN Co's corporate plan, and the Bill Scales review of the establishment of NBN Co, have now topped AU$2 million.

The outline of the costs came from the department in response to questions on notice from the last hearing of the National Broadband Network Senate Select Committee in early October.

The department said that AU$1.454 million had been spent on the Michael Vertigan-led cost-benefit analysis into broadband, with AU$375,475 spent on the Scales review, and AU$209,101 spent for the department to assess NBN Co's latest corporate plan, which has yet to be made public.

The review of the corporate plan was criticised last month by former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, who accused the department of hiring a consultant with a conflict of interest.

333 Group's managing director Chris Martin was one of two external consultants brought in by the department to review NBN Co's new three-year corporate plan, despite Martin also leading the NBN strategic review, which advised the government that the so-called multi-technology mix model, including fibre to the node and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC), would replace much of the planned fibre-to-the-premises rollout.

NBN Co itself has spent AU$50.5 million on consultants in the last financial year, with a large portion of that funding going to Boston Consulting Group, KordaMentha, and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

Department Secretary Drew Clarke also wrote in a letter to the committee, revealing the breakdown in costs for the cost-benefit analysis panel and report.

Vertigan was paid a total of AU$115,000, while economist and Labor critic Henry Ergas was paid AU$137,000, and other panel members Alison Deans and Tony Shaw were paid AU$59,000 and AU$142,000, respectively.

The Centre for International Economics, which developed the modelling for the cost-benefit analysis, was paid AU$725,000. The Communications Chambers, which controversially stated that the average Australian household would only need 15Mbps download speeds by 2023, was paid AU$116,000 for this advice.

Clarke told the committee in the letter that CIE's contract had been increased to allow the organisation to develop a version of the model that could be used by the public.

"The department has increased the contract with CIE to enable CIE to develop a version of the model of the cost-benefit analysis that can be made available for members of the public to run scenarios, and to provide for CIE's attendance at the committee," Clarke said.

The department also detailed the establishment and running costs associated with the MyBroadband website that is designed to provide detail on the availability of broadband across Australia.

According to the department, it has cost AU$302,460 as of October 23, 2014, with AU$130,000 going to website hosting, AU$15,000 going to security testing, and AU$97,000 going to site development, amongst other costs.

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