With a debt-to-GDP ratio of 8 per cent, it was an absolutely safe bet Australia could afford the National Broadband Network, founder and chief executive of iiNet Michael Malone told a lunch of the Canberra Business Council yesterday.
Even if there were risks: ''We can afford to take that risk.''
In 10 years people would wonder why there had been an argument about it, he said, recalling a similar argument about the roll out of electricity in Victoria.
Despite broadly supporting the network, he said Australia had done its planning ''arse about''. He cited countries such as Singapore, which decided what it wanted to achieve, then designed and built a network.
Australia, however, had designed the network without a clear plan of what it wanted to achieve.
Mr Malone said there was a lot of misinformation about the take up of the NBN suggesting it was behind its target.
In fact it was ''running bang on target'', but the real test would be if it could achieve its target of about 100,000 connections in 12 months.
But take up was a weak measure, he said. iiNet still had about 32,000 dial-up customers of whom about half had access to high-speed broadband.
Most people were not concerned about high-speed internet and were more focussed on when they had to pick up their children and how they would pay their bills.
''These are the things that clutter their minds - not their broadband connection,'' Mr Malone said.
Most of the focus was on the speed and cost of the NBN whereas reliability and ubiquity were more important.
Mr Malone said broadband would be high on the agenda of both major parties at the next election and both parties had similar policies with the difference being how they planned to achieve those policies.
If this government made it to about November next year to an election, the NBN would have spent or committed about $14 billion. No government could then throw it away, but they could slow it down or use different technology, he said.
The government's policy was largely to begin building the network in areas which did not have competitive infrastructure.
This left internet service providers with a similar margin but consumers would have a faster, more reliable broadband connection for less.
At present, where Telstra had a monopoly, people paid about $20 a month more for connections.
''Telstra's behaviour is rational. I am not criticising Telstra,'' Mr Malone said.
Its job was to maximise profits.
However, where Telstra was not constrained by competition, the regulator had had to step in.
Though mobile technology was an absolute unstoppable trend, he said the speed, performance and cost of fixed line services were much, much better.
Congestion on the mobile network already saw incentives to people in the United States to return to the fixed line network.