Delays for millions of future NBN customers expecting to connect through their existing pay television or internet cables could cost taxpayers up to $790 million, a statement from Labor claims.
The delay of new customers being added to the hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) network for six to nine months, could cost from $423 million to $790 million, according to a joint announcement from shadow minister for communications Michelle Rowland and shadow minister for finance Jim Chalmers.
They pointed to the 2016 NBN Corporate Plan, which included a sensitivity analysis for a situation where delays occurred – and a revenue per home of $47 a month.
But the government has questioned the accuracy of the figures – saying the NBN was still working through the financial forecasts, and the estimates in the Plan were made before the HFC network was being rolled out.
Labor’s calculations were made on the assumption that three quarters of two million homes were delayed for half a year, leaving a $423 million shortfall. The upper end of the range assumes three quarters of 2.5 million homes are delayed for nine months, resulting in a shortfall of $793 million.
But a spokeswoman for the Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the Labor announcement was based on NBN’s 2016 Corporate Plan, which was released in August 2015 and updated twice.
“The figures used by Labor reflect estimates made before the HFC network was being rolled out. In the time since that corporate plan was issued, NBN has rolled out HFC to more than a million premises – the fastest rollout of any technology type in the network,” she said.
“NBN’s latest Corporate Plan estimates a peak funding range of $47 to $51 billion.
“As the Corporate Plan notes, NBN’s management continues to forecast a range of possible outcomes due to the long term uncertainty inherent in a complex infrastructure build over multiple years.”
In a radio interview, Mr Fifield agreed the NBN had some “teething issues” with the HFC technology, but said the multi-technology mix approach was “the right one”.
“The issues that have been identified are very fixable. They will be solved,” he said.
“And the NBN will be completed by 2020. That’s still the target and what will be achieved.”
NBN Co was unable to provide confirmation or denial of the figures.
“NBN is still working on our revised financial forecasts following our decision to temporarily pause sales on the HFC network,” a spokeswoman said.
Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn gave his support to the NBN for delaying the roll out at an address to the American Chamber Of Commerce in on Tuesday.
“While there are financial implications for Telstra as a result of this decision, I applaud nbn for prioritising customer experience over roll out and taking this action to address a significant customer issue,” Mr Penn said.
with Ben Grubb