The NBN Is Making Australia's Country Towns More Appealing

Kiama (NSW), Ballarat (VIC), Toowoomba (QLD), St Helens (TAS), Victor Harbour (SA), Mandurah (WA) and Howard Springs (NT) are highlighted as potential boom towns for the latest lifestyle movement, identified in research from a report commissioned by NBN.

It's dubbed an "e-change" (as opposed to "sea-change"), and involves escaping the city in search of a better lifestyle and "super connectivity".

The Super Connected Lifestyle Locations report identifies more than 600 Australian "lifestyle towns" which are expected to "harness fast broadband to allow residents to work from home, minimise commute times and increase their quality of living".

Author the report, demographer Bernard Salt said "While many of us may be experiencing a post-summer-holiday lull, this research suggests the dream of packing-up your home and living in a coastal or country town may not be so far away.

"We are witnessing a quiet lifestyle revolution in suburban Australia. The fusion of a relaxed lifestyle in tree-change and sea-change locations combined with super connectivity provided by the nbn network, is giving people even greater scope to take greater control of where they live and how they work.

"I predict a cultural shift or 'e-change movement' which could see the rise of new silicon suburbs or beaches in regional hubs as universal access to fast broadband drives a culture of entrepreneurialism and innovation outside our capital cities."

The research details what it calls "the rise of the lifestyle town". Defining features are ore affordable properties with space and scenery, within a commutable commutable distance of a capital city. "Lifestyle happiness" and cost of living are the main reasons people choose to move to these areas, with access to fast and reliable internet a crucial deciding factor.

The top reasons for valuing internet access are reported as being access to health services (76 per cent), being able to remain close to friends (68 per cent), access to leisure activities -- which I assume includes cat videos -- (67 per cent) and employment opportunities (65 per cent).

Around 1 in 6 (16 per cent) Australians surveyed are unhappy with their lifestyle due to work commute times. However, those who have made a sea-change report being much happier with their work-life balance than those who have not made the move (69 per cent compared with 58 per cent). It’s also estimated approximately 400,000 Aussies have already cut down on their commute times by working from home, with predictions this will grow to be more than a million workers in the next decade.

Over the last five years, 1 in 5 (21 per cent) Aussies surveyed over the age of 55 sold-up and relocated to coastal retreats. The reasons given by this cohort for making the move include the pursuit of a better living environment (65 per cent), a slower pace of life (55 per cent), housing affordability (29 per cent) and escaping from traffic (15 per cent).

NBN's goal is to connect eight million homes and businesses by 2020.



    1. When I as a small child Yamba in north NSW was a lovely fishing "village". When I was last there it had changed (in my opinion) for the worse due to the development and was no longer a place I wanted to go to.

    I fear it won't be long before developers "destroy" what places like Kiama have that is worth going to. Can you imagine the wonderful views you'd get from a 18 storey apartment block on the headland :-(

    2. And just as Abbott predicted no one wants or needs or is prepared to pay for super fast broadband. No, wait, he was wrong!

      forgive my cityslicker ignorance, but how do you ruin a generic country town?
      i've been under the impression between recessions, droughts and the ice epidemic, most of the non-city municipal centres are pretty well ruined and could do with the influx of capital that more residents would bring.

        Sure, decent development would be welcome in most if not all country towns. If you pick a place like, say, Kiama, and then allow developers to build a series of 18 storey apartment blocks along the headland then they'll have little trouble getting the apartments filled (which is good) but they will effectively destroy the area (by turning it into a suburbia-type environment without the services to properly support the new population and by having little sensitivity to the natural environment).

          My hometown (5k population) recently got NBN a few years ago. Nothing has changed, it's still the same boring town I grew up in, the only difference is that I don't need to tether my mobile for internet...

        in my area just 1 hrs south of kiama, during the late 90s and early 2000s we ended getting in flux of western Sydney houso scumbags. The Mt Druitt, Macquarie Fields and bankstown type who brought their crime and hard drugs with them.

        Around my area most people only use to smoke dope ( we didnt have many issues with fire bugs because almost everyone had their own crop out in the bushland and national park) but once the western sydney folk started arrive harder drugs like heroin and ICE exploded.

        Its gotten so bad that one town is now known as Mt Druitt by the Seaside due to massive increase in crime and drug use. One of the local volenteer RFS brigades is even set up like city fire brigade due to the amount of callouts they have to handle.

        this is the trouble, the people that should leave thge city for the country dont and the ones that shouldnt, do.

    I thought the liberals want to put copper into green fields and the country is getting satellite broadband, so the country folk are still behind the eight ball. Besides, who would want to live in the country when there's bugger all jobs for their children, bugger all schools for their kids and bugger all for teenagers to do and hence the ice epidemic in country towns.

      There's a difference between country and country towns. If you're in a country town you might get fibre, if you're country have fun with satellite. Still everything to do with density :(

      Who'd want to live there? People with no kids.

    I work from home and would really see an improvement with the NBN. There's no office in Canberra, so I just log in remotely every day. So much lost productivity while waiting for things to load and save. The annoying part is that my area missed out on NBN because of the change of government, but another district was almost entirely finished. So I have to work off what I'm told is ADSL2, but certainly doesn't feel like it.

    Wow... and here's me thinking that the town I grew up in (St.Helens, Tasmania) was actually just a dream I had long ago.... its not too often I've actually heard it mentioned in the media since I left for NSW back in 1990.

    Potential boom town eh?? Maybe the acreage my parents still have for sale down there may get snapped up soon.

    NBN making Country Towns more appealing? What a joke, If they really wanted to they would do real country towns, Toowoomba isn't a country town anymore, at least not my version of "country town"

      Yeah, 110,000 in the main urban areas and 165,000 counting the surrounding areas, it's hardly a "town" anymore.

      Also, bear in mind that only the eastern half of Toowoomba has proper FttP NBN. The western side will get fake NBN (FttN) some time in the next 18 months.

        While the rest of real "country" towns won't get NBN for many years :-(

        This. Talking with people in real estate it is starting to have an impact on property values with younger purchasers.

    I'm in a small country town (Waikerie SA) and we have NBN wireless now, plus Uniti Wireless. There are plans up to 40/10 (uniti) or 50/5 (NBN). The town itself is on the NBN 'wired' plan (coming in a year or so) so technically anyone in the township itself isn't supposed to hook to NBN Wireless, but a few have anyway (I'm not sure how). In town ADSL2 is available still - but it feels slow in comparison..

    The biggest difference has been for the hundreds of households outside town, that previously had to use Satellite (slooow) or Telstra 3G/4G (minuscule data plans for big $). Businesses can now use the internet properly for business (eg connecting to other sites, online storage & backups, access to things like Dropbox or MYOB online etc) that were impossible before. Consumers can finally use streaming services (eg netflix), or use Skype without the video and audio dropping.

    So really here it's been great. I don't think Waikerie is expecting a massive influx of people just because of the NBN, but it will help them decide on a place - people definitely do look at broadband access when they look at new places to move to, so decent access here means that there is one less issue holding people back. Personally I know if I were to move somewhere else, access to NBN would be a big part of my decision making process.

    Last edited 09/02/16 3:31 pm

    Hi all,

    I moved to Ballarat 4 weeks ago to a non-NBN coverage area.. I was very sad when I found this out, but I then discovered that Ballarat also has Neighbourhood Cable (iiNet) and it is faster then the other unavailable option, so pretty happy now.

    Average is 108Mbps down, 22Mbps up. Once I buy my farm I will be forced onto Wireless NBN and I will hate that, but until then I will be making the most of the current connection I have setup at my mum's house... So moving to the country has given me a much faster internet connection already. Mulgrave still doesn't have a timeframe for NBN.



    The NBN Is Making Australia's Country Towns More Appealing
    On the surface, at least. Then you do as my friends in Gympie did and discover that the cure-all 'NBN' is actually a satellite connection which has been oversold so they can say more people have NBN, meaning that you have to share with so many people that the connection speeds are pretty much on par with shitty dial-up, IF you can get a connection at all.

    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the bright technological future of internet - as good as it's going to get for the foreseeable future.

    Yeah. NBN, the silver bullet for regional broadband.

    This bothers me. At some point, the original vision we were sold for the NBN was a national infrastructure upgrade. An expensive one, to be sure, but a reliable upgrade that ensured the whole country would move forward with the connectivity that has become borderline mandatory for navigating this world (ask anyone who's now facing the prospect of paying for paper bills instead of email-delivered).

    At some point, though, it was decided that this would be too expensive, and now we get a shitty upgrade, if an upgrade at all - a side-grade. At what point does someone say that the original 'vision' isn't ever actually going to happen and if we're not serving that, what then ARE we serving? When do we decide that all this fucking lip-service is so expensive for the sake of appearances that there's no point to trying to make this a national, public project, and instead simply let market forces sort it out?

    Last edited 09/02/16 5:44 pm

      It's not entirely bad, especially if you know what you're getting. A couple years ago now I got my Mum onto NBN satellite (she's near Kingaroy). It's not super fast but it's quicker than what she had an massively cheaper than the Telstra satellite deals available at the time. She's really happy with it.

      That said, every time I visit and need to use it (usually to fix pc problems she's having) it's frustratingly slow to me since I'm used to 100mbit at home. I'd also agree that Gympie should be big enough to warrant proper NBN not just satellite. Although, maybe it does, in certain areas. Gympie is pretty spread out.

        Gympie telco worker here - we have lots of Fixed wireless NBN and come start of 4th of March the actual town (built up suburban areas) will have FTTN. If your friends need satellite chances are they aren't actually in Gympie - As @skrybe says the Gympie region is pretty spread out. But still pretty sad I won't get my FTTP that I was originally promised.

      Market forces say: Fuck you country people, you can spend $100,000-500,000 rolling your own damn fibre. The NBN mandate should have been simple: 1:1 Wherever there is currently a copper phone line, a NBN Fibre line would be laid to replace it. Regardless of cost and regardless of cable run length or location.

      Last edited 10/02/16 10:39 am

        That was the vision as I thought it was presented, too. Massive infrastructure upgrade which set a base, minimum standard which matched our current standards of 'high', to future-proof the country's tech needs, no matter where or when.

        Now they're just paying that lip service with their penny-pinching and quibbling, so why are they even bothering at all? When their 'solutions' are just the existing infrastructure but sometimes cheaper, it makes me wonder why they're even going that far.

    Ironic that this article is on a geek-like website. Faster internet is great but it's not like there's a hell of a lot (if any) tech jobs in these country towns? I would love to live in one of these towns buuut I can't drive... and there's no jobs for a geek like me :(
    Also as people have said... many of this so called NBN is fixed wireless/satelite ,etc. which is garbage.

      many of this so called NBN is fixed wireless/satelite ,etc. which is garbage.

      Fixed wireless, @ 25 or 50mbit download speeds, with hundreds of GB of data per month, is awesome for those people who were on Active8 satellite with 4GB per month, or on Telstra 3g with 4 or 8GB per month..
      Although I agree NBN satellite is garbage - all the satellite services are garbage - you might as well go back to dialup.

      Faster internet is great but it's not like there's a hell of a lot (if any) tech jobs in these country towns?
      Yes there are few tech jobs in rural areas, I'm lucky to have one ;-) but its not only geeks that need fast internet. All my customers are farmers, small business operators, mums & dads, students - everyone needs a decent connection! Where I am I was previously on ADSL with about a 3mbit connection (i was one of the lucky ones who could get ADSL), now i get 40mbit down and 10 up! OK 100mbit would be better, but 40 or even 25 is waaaaaay better that what we had before.

        but its not only geeks that need fast internet.

        Yeah, I think people underestimate how much global bandwidth requirements have increased. Web-mavens no longer design for 28k modems even though they believe most are using at least 36k if not 56k. Even a basic google search coming back with predominantly text results uses more bandwidth than we could've dreamed of in 1999. But the satellite technology hasn't advanced quite so much from when it first starting being popular and semi-affordable fifteen or so years ago. And when it's the go-to alternative to costly, low-density cable solutions, it gets over-sold quickly, resulting in congestion issues that defeat the entire purpose of the thing. "Cheaper version of what's already available," is hardly the national broadband infrastructure upgrade we were sold.

        Last edited 10/02/16 8:49 am

      Let's not forget that Kiama (for example) has a direct train to Sydney that gets you there in a bit over two hours. Yes, an extreme commute, but I do it 4 out of 5 days a week while working from my FTTP-serviced home once a week.

    Lets get the facts clear here. NBN has not produced any evidence that this phenomena has happened, or will happen. It has merely - as a marketing exercise for its product - got a demographer to identify some examples of the sort of places it would happen at. If it did happen. And all the people who just know the NBN is a good thing have jumped in and said wow that's great. This is a story based on nothing more substantial than a marketing exercise. It is certainly true that a lot of people would like to live in these sorts of places, and actually getting a good fast internet connection will make that option less unattractive, but the big reason people don't move to these places from the cities, but rather in the opposite direction, is that there are no jobs there. So possibly what will happen is that more retired people will be willing to sell their city homes and move to places like these.

      Here's some evidence. I moved to Mandurah for NBN. I know of at least 3 other people that moved here for it too, plus 2 more that are considering it. Sure there's no jobs here, but the train runs to Perth and takes about 45 mins.. Which is just as long as driving from any Northern suburb.

    I'm in rural WA, and I'd love to have access to the NBN's fixed wireless, as I'm currently stuck on Telstra 4G mobile broadband, with tiny, expensive data plans, as I'm sure many others are too. Service works well in terms of speed though, and is low latency.
    Unfortunately, I'm 5k's too far out of range of fixed wireless, and looks like satellite would be the only other option.
    The new satellite ain't that great either, data plans still far too small, and, though cheaper than mobile broadband, still well short of fixed wireless or a proper fixed line service. Latency sucks also!
    I've just about given up on the idea of ever getting the 'real' NBN - not just some flim-flam third rate 'consolation broadband' service.
    There will now be a massive digital divide between the broadband 'haves' in the city, and the 'have-nots' in the country, particularly for rural (not so much regional) areas.
    This is sad, as people in the bush have the same needs / wants / requirements for broadband as those in the city, in fact if anything probably higher, as it's often their ONLY lifeline to these services. Yet we get 1/10th of the data, for twice the price, at 1/4 the speed, and 60 times the latency!
    So much for a 'national' broadband network, equitable access, and ending the digital divide!

    maybe someone should get the population map out. Toowoomba the second biggest city in Qld.

    So here in country town (UWS) New York, I have cable based internet not fibre
    (have to get the whole building to agree to to allow the firbre guys to wire up, welcome to condo/strata or in my case coop)
    I still get 300Mbsec download/50megs up outside of prime netflix hours .
    During netflix hours (3:30pm to 8pm) ... all bets are off as all the available bandwidth is streaming
    Dora the Explorer and yet another bad behavior teaching Disney series.

    I still telecomute a few days a week,
    now if only Aus was in the same timezone I would live on the beach.

    (btw, country Aus has better phone than country USA, spent last weekend in VT skiing at Mt Snow in -27f ( -46F with windchill) , zero TMobile service as usual. I can go to the NY suburbs, 35mins from downtown Manhattan and get zero mobile service spots.)

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