Has Australia really bungled its $36 billion high-speed internet rollout?

Last week in The New York Times, Andrew McMillen boldly claimed not just that Australia had “bungled its $36 billion high-speed internet rollout” but that he could actually explain how it had managed to do so. Now it is fair to say that I am not one of the greatest fans of the extremely costly Australian government-financed and -operated nationwide fast broadband policy. The National Broadband Network (NBN) as originally conceived to deliver fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) to nearly 94 percent of households was, at the original price tag of A$43 billion, the most expensive infrastructure project ever embarked on by the Australian government. In only a few years, the price tag had blown out to A$72.6 billion, and the scheme was running far behind the original deployment targets. Following a change of government in 2013, a review of the project was commissioned, which led to downscaling to a more modest “Mixed Technology Model” (MTM), estimated to incur a net loss to the economy of only A$620 per household, as opposed to the fiber-only A$2,220. Not surprisingly, given the headline, I was expecting to see something along these lines.