New laws expected to come into effect from the start of 2021 will mean all Australians will have access to the NBN but it comes at a cost.
Under changes made to telecommunications legislation, larger telco companies operating in Australia’s cities will be required to help contribute to the cost of building networks in regional, rural and remote areas ” an effort that comes at considerable expense. That figure, of around $7 per customer, is expected to be built into existing NBN pricing.
While the NBN Co would be the default provider for broadband networks, the laws outline a comparable broadband network could provide arrangements too.
“Once operational, the Regional Broadband Scheme will require both NBN Co and operators of comparable fixed-line networks to contribute to funding for essential regional broadband services on NBN Co’s fixed wireless and satellite networks,” Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said in a media release.
“In turn, regional Australians can have confidence that their essential broadband services will be available into the future.”
Australia’s internet advocacy group, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), said that the impact of coronavirus showed just how necessary these changes were.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has re-emphasised just how critical reliable, quality and affordable telecommunications services are for all Australians, and we must ensure that regional areas are not left behind,” ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin said in a media statement.
“Implementing the Telecommunications Reform Package will ensure that the infrastructure needed to deliver these vital services can be sustainably funded.”
The changes won’t be seen for some time still with last-minute amendments pushing the start date back from July 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021.
The government said the current arrangements meant the NBN Co was estimated to incur net losses of $9.8 billion over the next 30 years on providing fixed wireless and satellite networks to remote Australians. The funding up until now had been covered by its profitable networks in metropolitan areas.
In additions to the changes made to the supply of broadband, a baseline for broadband speeds was set. Under the obiligations, providers would need to supply a minimum peak speed of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 5 Mbps upload.
“These reforms are significant progress towards implementing the Government’s new Universal Service Guarantee (USG), which will provide homes and businesses across Australia access to a broadband service with a peak speed of at least 25 Mbps regardless of where they are located,” Minister Fletcher said.
But it all comes at a cost, according to Labor. Shadow Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, said while the party welcomed the legislation, it did not agree with the extra tax tacked on for NBN users .
“It is however disappointing the Government is implementing a $7 per month tax on some metropolitan and regional broadband users, while reducing investment on the NBN fixed wireless network at the same time,” Rowland said in a press statement.
“The reality is the revenue raised by this new tax is one-twentieth of the regional funding mechanism that Labor put in place a decade ago.”
NBN Co has announced a $150 million relief packages for telcos to help low-income families and small businesses access the internet. A particular focus will be on families with school ages children so they can study online.Read more