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In Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (SMAC), the Network Backbone is a Secret Project. It may be built at a cost of 360 minerals, on discovery of Digital Sentience (D10). The Network Backbone increases Labs output at the base where it's built by 1 for each point of commerce it receives, and also for each Network Node built on Planet - yours, and those of rival factions. It also eliminates the -3 Police penalty for the "Cybernetic" society choice in the Social Engineering settings.

How useful is this? In a mid-difficulty game, it's not too unlikely there will be as many as 80-100 Network Nodes between all factions; in my sample game, it boosted my Labs output by about 8% at the time I completed it. If you count each Lab point as worth 1 mineral point, the Network Backbone pays for itself in just 4-5 turns.

The real attraction is the cancellation of the -3 Police penalty under the Cybernetic social engineering model. Cybernetic is an attractive model in its own right, and I don't lean heavily on Police to prevent drone riots, but -3 is hefty enough a penalty to seriously interfere with vital military operations. Based on the cost of the Non-Lethal Methods special unit ability, I'm going to say the ability to use military units as police is worth about 5 minerals per base, per number of allowable police. So, if your social engineering profile permits you two police per base and your faction has 50 bases, the snapshot value of the Network Backbone is about 500 minerals. This consideration makes the Network Backbone an excellent investment with both immediate return and long-term benefits.

Secret Project animation narrative:
   "Of course we'll bundle our MorganNet software with the new network nodes; our customers expect no less of us. We have never sought to become a monopoly. Our products are simply so good that no one feels the need to compete with us."
   -- CEO Nwabudike Morgan,
   Morgan Data Systems press release

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