One of the issues in the Australian broadband debate has been the lack of publicly available studies demonstrating the rate of return — both social and private — on getting high-speed broadband. Only a few weeks ago, Access Economics had provided some estimates based on a now-laughable fibre to the node network. But we do not have anything really to go on for a fibre to the home network.
In this case, it is not simply a matter of increased scale that will allow us to pin down the rate of return. The roll-out will take 8 years and so precisely what we will use the network for is still open. However, if the architecture is right, there may be opportunities for enhancing the social rate of return far beyond any private rate of return. For example, providing free basic broadband access to all homes is surely on the cards and that means you can revolutionise the delivery of public services (including health). But beyond that are potential productivity gains from cheaper telecommunications and a fixing of competition regulation in the sector. These are gains that simply could not be contemplated under previous plans. That said, as usual and especially with so much money on the table, it would be good to see a careful study of the relevant evidence.