Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Australia - An investment bank is developing a report on the NBN

[the australian] Yet another investment bank is working on a report to the Gillard government on the National Broadband Network.

Lazard is due to deliver within weeks a review of the proposed $11 billion NBN Co deal with Telstra.

Lazard is expected to report to a committee that includes bureaucrats from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Treasury, the Department of Broadband and Finance.

The review, commissioned three months ago, is examining the non-binding heads of agreement between the government, Telstra and the NBN Co.

The agreement was struck in June to break a damaging impasse between Telstra and the government over the NBN.

Under the deal, Telstra will allow access to its pits and pipes for the NBN rollout and gradually shut down its copper network.

Instead of competing with the NBN Co, Telstra will become its biggest customer under the plan.

The deal is still being negotiated and it is expected that critical documents on the deal could be released by Christmas, and would go to Telstra shareholders for a vote in mid-2011.

This comes as Finance commissioned corporate advisers Greenhill Caliburn to review the robustness of the NBN Co's business case.

Yesterday, a former economics adviser to Bob Hawke suggested that hiring outfits such as Greenhill Caliburn would do little to silence calls for a cost-benefit analysis of the NBN.

The government has stared down demands from the Coalition and prominent business leaders to submit the project to a full cost-benefit analysis.

Port Jackson Partners director Rod Sims said a cost-benefit analysis would look at the project from the point of view of the community's needs, and this was at the "opposite end of the spectrum" to the work being done by corporate advisers who would "necessarily" conduct a commercial assessment.

Mr Sims said there was a risk that in trying to improve the commerciality of the NBN, competition was thwarted.

Meanwhile, concerns within the business community are growing about the project.

A new survey of 3000 people released yesterday found that 60 per cent of people disagreed the $43bn spend on broadband was worthwhile when the funds could instead be spent on health, education and transport.

However, 28 per cent approved of the spending, the survey by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia and Business Spectator found.

In responses to the survey, almost 60 per cent of people said that existing technologies gave them sufficient broadband speeds and almost two-thirds did not want to pay a significant premium for faster speeds.

The government has promoted the NBN as providing speeds of at least 100 megabits per second to the areas covered by the project.

The Committee for Economic Development of Australia research director Michael Porter said the significance of the survey was that it showed many people were not swayed by the case for mandating the $43bn NBN and he thought a big concern was the impact on competition.

One more investment bank review of NBN deal

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