Bill Clinton wants $50bn US NBN


blog Seems like it’s not only Australian politicians who can get the NBN bug. We’re a bit late to this party, but we thought it would be worth getting on the record that in late December, former US President Bill Clinton jumped on the NBN train wholesale courtesy of a keynote speech at Dell’s annual confab in Austin, Texas. According to Clinton, whose comments were quoted by various publications and crystallised on NBN Co’s own blog:

“You want to help small businesses, you want to help new entrepreneurs? You want to make it possible for people living in remote towns in upstate New York or West Texas to be part of the global economy? “Then stop pretending we can do it with South Korea having average download speeds of four times ours. “They’re first in the world, we’re now 15th or 16th. That’s not that expensive.”

“American companies have a trillion dollars overseas,” Clinton said. “I would like to see a deal made which would say to Dell and everybody else … if you’ve got any cash overseas that you’re willing to bring home, you can bring home every penny of it, up to December 31st 2012, with no extra tax liability … if you will put … pick a number … eight per cent of it … five per cent of it … in an infrastructure bank where we will guarantee you a tax free return on investment as if it were a municipal bond with a return on investment of six per cent per year. Now, that would give us probably $50 billion.”

“Then we could bring universal modern broadband to every American.”

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me — and the whole idea doesn’t actually sound too far away from what Australia’s doing, although we suspect it might cost a wee bit more than $50 billion to wire up the entire United States — given that Australia’s own NBN project is clocking in around $37 billion in terms of its own required capital investment. However, we don’t envy the task of any US administration which wants to implement this kind of project, given the half-dozen major telcos — all former monopolists like Telstra — which hold sway over various regions of the country. You thought the NBN was complex? A US NBN would be infinitely more so, and probably infinitely more controversial. One benefit of being only a moderately sized country. There’s only so many people you need to talk to to get stuff done.

Image credit: Originally by Drew Angerer, now an Internet meme


  1. Now I see the sarcasm. Sorry :(
    Too hot here to try to have intelligent arguments…

      • Careful Renai. You don’t have the financial muscle to keep the Greenies away from calling you an environmental nightmare for using an air conditioner, like the large petroleum companies can, by financing Climate Denial Lobby Groups to disseminate FUD and also like Rupert’s Henchmen and the Anti NBN Mob.

        • Nah, it’s only an environmental nightmare ’cause it’s powered by coal, and not nuclear… :-P

          Although I do recall hearing about some promising research from ANU a few years back, using solar thermal collectors (a la solar hot water) to provide the energy to drive an air-conditioning system, with only a few hundred watts of electricity required to power a pump (compared to the few thousand watts required to drive a normal refrigerative AC system).

  2. I did not have se… I mean yes brilliant idea Bill! Would make for some good jobs over there too eh. (not those kind of jobs)

  3. Renai, am I reading this pic incorrectly or is Bill making the grand entrance and Barack has his head in hand saying FFS?

  4. Considering the current policy, the National Broadband Plan, which akin to what the Coalition were try to achieve with what became OPEL or the NBN Mark I, will cost approximately $150 billion, a “wee bit more” is probably correct.

    • If you are going to make up numbers why stop at $150 Billion, why not… cue doctor evil voice….


      • If the cost scales proportionately to population (and it wont) then it would be about 15x our costs. Or roughly $600m.

        So they would get change from that $1 trillion coin they are thinking of printing :P

        Cant see it costing $600m, more likely closer to half that. But like all countries, its something they are going to need to do sooner or later, so why not get started now and create jobs to help their economy.

        • Economies of scale will make it quite a bit cheaper, but US local governments will add to the expense.

          Of course, if they said that Google had been hired for the project that would be different (and I’m still waiting for Google Fiber’s reply to my request to wire Canberra next).

          • It’d probably be cheaper to install in the USA than the rest of the world as everyone is charged more on everything in order to cross subsidize the USA needing to pay for the fiber installation.
            Why else does everything cost more for everyone than the USA? Check out pricing of things around the globe.
            Now I’ll wait by the door waiting for the SS Goons to arrive and punish me for my transgression of critique.
            Whips! Dogs! Balaclavas. :{P~

          • Economies of scale definitely work to drive the cost down for a complete US build, which is why I dont think its going to cost 15x our build cost, but more like half that.

            No real reason for coming up with a $300b price tag, just a rough number to toss out there. Could be $200m, could be $400m. Economies of scale work when you get to the last mile stage – the cost needed (per person) to provide the arteries of the system arent going to be hugely different.

            To put it another way, if you looked at a FttN rollout, the economies of scale wouldnt work so well for the US, and the final cost would probably scale closer to the LNP plan as we know it. As in fibre to the box, copper from there to the house. Will still be some benefits of scale, but not as big as a FttP build.

            Either way, getting it going with surety is going to create jobs, something they very much need right now. And again, its something they’ll need to do eventually anyhow.

          • So will we now witness the same vitriol from those who own the media and their supporters in the USA, as we have witnessed here in Oz, in relation to technology, finance and the end of the world as we know it on the NBN subject?
            I think if scale of size have anything to do with it, we should warn our friends in the USA how dumb the debate is going to get from here on and to stock up on happy medication before it disappears off the shelves in Drug Stores across America.

          • Wouldnt surprise me. Easiest way to have a light hearted look at how things work over there is to watch a few episodes of The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report.

            I learnt a long time ago that there are two things you never discuss with Americans – Republicans, and Democrats. And this sort of thing is very political, as we’ve witnessed first hand here.

            What do you think the comments will be like with their economy at the moment, and the massive push to CUT spending?

          • “What do you think the comments will be like with their economy at the moment, and the massive push to CUT spending?”

            Answer: Irrational. Much like the whole argument is here in this country, driven by vested interests in order to maintain or increase profits.
            Politics has now reached terminal velocity in it’s race to the bottom. Unfortunately, it is all of us that will pay the price when they actually do hit the bottom as they will make damn sure it will not be them.
            But as usual, with their eyes so firmly fixed on their desired goal, the big Elephant will finally stray onto that giant Ant’s Mound, that normally they avoid for good reason, and seven billion ants will devour them. History shows what is coming is predictable. Not pretty or nice, but predictable.

      • Okay, so after some researching maybe I meant $350b, not $150b:

        In late 2009, an FCC task force said a nationwide broadband network would cost anywhere between $20 billion and $350 billion, he noted. The $350 billion figure was the estimate for a 100Mbps nationwide network.

        But seriously, where did that $150b figure come from, I’ve had it floating around in my head for a while! :(

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