Regional and rural internet services are set to receive a $750 million boost as the government rushes to make up for past “mistakes” ahead of the elections.
Next week’s federal budget will allocate $480 million to improve internet speeds in regional, rural and remote areas, and taxpayer-owned NBN Co. will allocate an additional $270 million of its money.
About $60 billion has already been pumped into the NBN over the past nine years by federal taxpayers.
“This means that more people can be served via the NBN; it means high-speed services on the NBN; it means that more data can be used by households and business customers,” said Communications Secretary Paul Fletcher. .
“The upgrade will expand the coverage of the fixed wireless footprint by up to 50 percent, allowing an additional 120,000 buildings to access fixed wireless services instead of Sky Muster satellite services.”
RMIT Associate Professor Mark Gregory welcomed the news of the long-awaited promotions.
But he cautioned about the timing of the announcement.
What NBN Internet Upgrade Promises to Consumers
The government says the planned upgrade will see the NBN provide high-speed services over the fixed wireless network.
About 750,000 buildings will be able to reach speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (mbps) after the upgrade.
In addition, 85 percent of these buildings will have access to a faster service of 250 Mbps.
The government says this means speeding up during “network congestion hour” from 6Mbps to 50Mbps, even for customers who don’t order a higher-speed plan.
Independent telecom analyst Paul Bodie said any NBN upgrade for regional areas is good news, and that the promised upgrades will prevent internet services from becoming overloaded and unreliable in the short term.
Like Suburbs, Boddy said the internet in regional Australia is “hit or fail”.
“It’s not that everyone in Regional Australia has bad service, but in general they have poor quality service,” he said.
“Especially during times of COVID, that is becoming clear.
“When people work from home, and study from home, you need a lot of capacity in the network so that everyone gets good service.”
However, he said, the increased popularity of NBN upgrades will eventually negate the benefits, as more customers using the service will slow it down.
This means that additional investment in the network may be required, he said.
“It is very likely that the current upgrade will not be enough for the future, when more and more people will use it,” Bode said.
Long-awaited fix for a multi-billion dollar ‘mistake’
Dr. Gregory said the announcement of the investment in the NBN shows that the government is trying to clean up the mess it created in the national internet service after it came to power in 2013.
Then-Secretary of Communications Malcolm Turnbull decided to opt for Fiber Optic Node Technology (FTTN) instead of Fiber Optic Technology to Building (FTTP).
Dr Gregory described the move as “the single largest waste of public money in Australian history”, effectively setting the NBN back for 10 years.
“This government made a number of mistakes, and the mistakes cost tens of billions,” he said.
In 2021, the Morrison government acknowledged that many of the NBN’s “old” copper connections needed updating – even though the NBN rollout was officially completed only the previous year.
Before the $750 million investment was announced, about $60 billion had already been poured into the IPO and subsequent upgrades.
But Australia’s fixed broadband service is currently ranked 65th globally, according to the Ookla internet speed test.
“The decisions have been made by this government, and the problems they caused so early in its tenure have not yet been resolved,” said Dr. Gregory.
He said telecommunications is an essential service that is necessary to meet the educational, commercial, social and health needs of people.
Dr Gregory said the government should have focused on modernizing the NBN to meet the demand long before the current election campaign.
“Telecommunications should not be part of the electoral cycle, it is an essential service,” he said.
“[The government] It must respond to the demand and need to ensure that Australia can participate in the global digital economy. “