The Government should start scoping NBN’s sale “in the near term”, even if it has no intention to sell before the network is finished, a new infrastructure reform plan advises.
Infrastructure Australia’s 15-year plan recommends the Government commission a “scoping study to assess the most appropriate approach, structure and timing to deliver a privatised NBN model.”
The plan recommends this occur “in the near term”, at a time when it acknowledges the Government and NBN are most likely to be focused on ensuring “the efficient rollout of an open-access, wholesale-only, fixed-line broadband network.”
Though noting it “may” be desirable to defer the sale of the NBN until the network is complete, Infrastructure Australia did not think it was too early to start preparing NBN for an eventual sale.
It backed calls made by the Vertigan review to break NBN “into distinct business units” that would make the company easier to sell.
Infrastructure Australia said that NBN could be split along access technology or geographical lines.
“To prepare for a future sale, it will be important that NBN Co does not ‘enmesh’ different technologies in a way that cannot be separated later,” it advised.
“Accordingly, NBN Co could establish separate internal business units in anticipation of creating a more competitive network.”
Infrastructure Australia said that a scoping study should be commissioned to examine issues such as the preferred method and structure of sale, actions required to prepare NBN for sale, and to determine appropriate regulatory measures.
Accompanying Infrastructure Australia’s report is an audit by PwC, which models financial outcomes based on the plan’s recommendations.
First reported by The Australian Financial Review, PwC’s modelling predicts that the Government may net just $27 billion from the sale of the NBN, which is expected to cost as much as $56 billion to roll out.
“Recent articles have suggested the NBN could be privatised at a valuation ‘as low as $20 billion’, indicating the value may be higher than that and hence $27 billion seems plausible in this context,” PwC said.
While backing calls to sell the NBN, Infrastructure Australia also sought cooperation from the Government to “maximise the benefits” and opportunities provided by the rollout project.
It called for “support and training” to enable communities “to take advantage of health, education and business opportunities via the NBN”.
“The delivery of the NBN is a transformational opportunity to enable all Australians to benefit from an increasingly digitised world,” Infrastructure Australia said.
“Governments should ensure that the full benefits of high-speed broadband are realised, and that it provides long-term connectivity dividends.”