The phrase ‘over budget and behind schedule’ accompanies grand construction projects all too often, but that is the current state of the National Broadband Network of Australia. NBN Co chief Mike Quigley and communications minister Stephen Conroy today released an updated plan regarding the amended NBN construction targets for the three years to mid-2015. The new targets are six months behind the original targets.
The NBN, which aims to bring extremely fast fibre optic broadband to the entirety of the country, has been a controversial project, and its lofty ambitions have been criticised by the opposition.
The original cited cost was $27 billion, however after several increases since its 2009 conception, the total construction cost stands at $37.4 billion, with today’s announcement adding a $1.5 billion rise.
Mr Quigley said that one of the biggest reasons for the increase in capital expenditure was the decision to run fibre optic cabling to the edge of 93 percent of premises regardless of whether or not the owners wanted it, using a method known as ‘build drops.’
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One of the most striking things about the monumental investment which the project needs is the creation of construction jobs within the country. $1.6 billion worth of contracts have been awarded to several Australian contractors over the next five years. The Australian construction industry, from fitting firms to network specialists and many more in-between will gain skills and experience within a setting likely to dominate future projects.
The development, aside from improving Australia’s infrastructure and advanced construction industry, will benefit the economy hugely, with small and medium sized businesses standing to gain the most from the new network, which will be completed in its entirety by 2021.
With a country the size of Australia pursuing such an ambitious broadband network, it remains to be seen why some European countries continue to lag behind.