It’s been a long time coming but the revised business plan for the NBN is finally about to make an appearance and the document is almost certain to ignite a fresh round of political sabre rattling in Canberra.
While communications minister Stephen Conroy has flagged that the revised document will tell a “pleasing story” it will also highlight some deficiencies in how the rollout has progressed thus far.
With the details of the rollout delays, service take up rates and the financial forecasts laid bare, the opposition will have ample fodder to undermine the NBN Co and the Gillard government.
According to Conroy, the plan is likely to show a nine-month lag in the rollout, due to a longer than expected negotiation period with Telstra. However, there will be more data on offer, not all of it pleasing for the government.
According to The Australian, the revised NBN plan is set to show that the network is set to reach far less households than originally anticipated. As things stand, the NBN will pass fewer than 250,000 homes and businesses by next June, the paper said.
Despite the missed targets, the document will almost certainly stick with the adjusted rollout deadlines of having 750,000 houses connected to the NBN by November 2012 and three million by 2015.
The lengthy regulatory process and the technical difficulties faced by NBN Co have already been well documented and the missed deadlines aren’t exactly new news.
However, the extent of revision outlined in the upcoming document will be seen as a key test of faith of whether NBN Co can truly deliver what it has promised.
While the NBN debate has become an ideological battle ground for technophiles, the everyday public is really interested in one thing- when do I get connected to the NBN?
The new corporate plan will deliver the new assumptions dictating this grand project but it will also be a key confidence barometer watched by the public. The data will clearly influence the public’s confidence on whether the Labor government will indeed secure their broadband future.
And with the federal election edging ever closer, tomorrow’s numbers will have a potent political dimension.
New targets, new guidelines and more detail will be keenly sought by all, but that will only be part of the story. Executing the revised plans and delivering on the promises will be of far greater import if Labor’s NBN has any hope of surviving after the federal elections.