Life Tech ‘We are paying more for less’: How the slow and expensive NBN is failing the nation

‘We are paying more for less’: How the slow and expensive NBN is failing the nation

The high cost of broadband internet is causing financial stress for some consumers. Photo: Getty
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Australia ranks last for affordable broadband internet among developed nations, and experts say it’s yet more evidence that the taxpayer-funded National Broadband Network (NBN) is failing to deliver for consumers and the economy.

Rankings compiled by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library and released this week revealed that Australia places 36th – last – when it comes to broadband affordability in OECD nations.

The results are “disappointing, devastating, but not surprising”, leading NBN researcher and University of Sydney infrastructure lecturer Tooran Alizadeh said.

Academics across Australia have long warned that the Coalition government’s mixed-technology NBN “lottery” is creating a digital divide.

In May, explosive research showed that one in two households in Australia’s three biggest cities – Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane – are being dudded with an inferior NBN connection.

“International studies are showing that we are at the very bottom of the list [for speed and affordability] … we are paying more for less,” Dr Alizadeh said.

The NBN, which is yet to be completed despite running more than $5 billion over budget, has been a disaster for consumers and the nation, she said.

“It is just amazing that we are in 2019 and we are still talking about basic infrastructure,” she said.

Let’s be honest, in 2019 internet is no longer a luxury it’s a necessity.

“If you cannot access the internet you cannot access some of the basic e-government services, let alone business opportunities, e-health and e-education opportunities. In many cases you can’t even apply for a job.”

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) chief executive Teresa Corbin said NBN affordability is a major issue for many consumers.

“We’ve seen the cost of entry-level broadband plans increase to the point that many Aussie households are paying around $60 per month for this now-essential service,” Ms Corbin said.

The high cost of the service is placing financial stress on low-income earners and those on income support, she said.

ACCAN is calling for the introduction of a “concessional NBN product” that would see low-income earners able to access plans “potentially as low as $30 per month for unlimited home broadband”.

RMIT associate professor in network engineering Mark Gregory said that Australia’s “third-world” broadband internet is both harming consumers and jeopardising the nation’s economic success.

“We’ve seen a steady degrading of our ranking, and the cost to consumers far higher than it should be,” Dr Gregory said.

“The downstream effect is that entrepreneurs will leave Australia, and businesses won’t want to store data here or use our network because it’s too expensive and not good enough.”

An NBN Co spokesperson told The New Daily the company was “focused on rolling out the NBN to all Australians and creating a sustainable business model that will enable us to continue to invest in the network to meet the growing needs of customers”.

The NBN Co would not comment directly on Australia’s last-placed ranking by the independent Commonwealth Parliamentary Library, but instead pointed to a study it had paid for by private firm AlphaBeta.

“To provide a true measure of affordability, AlphaBeta compared broadband prices to household income and found Australians enjoy the seventh most affordable broadband services when compared to 22 countries,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s also important to note that NBN’s wholesale broadband prices have not increased, not even by CPI, since our wholesale pricing was set around eight years ago.”

Public outrage erupted in July when it was revealed NBN Co was considering a proposal to implement a so-called ‘Netflix tax’ on internet users accessing video content as part of its wholesale pricing review.

The firm will announce the outcome of the review in November.

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