The affordability and availability of broadband services in Australia remained a significant issue for many vulnerable communities and low-income people. Despite an increase in distance learning, telehealth services and working from home over the past two years, around 900,000 Australian households still do not have a home internet connection.
In launching its latest policy position ‘The Future of Broadband’, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) warns that lasting provisions to protect the interests of Australians are needed to protect consumers. Since the national broadband network was declared ‘built-in’ by the federal government in 2020, Australians have suffered from lockdowns, natural disasters and, more recently, major increases in the cost of living.
“Experiences like these have highlighted how essential communications technologies are and how important it is that these technologies are reliable, resilient and affordable. According to our research, 57% of low-income Australians find it difficult to pay for home broadband services. This is unacceptable in a country as wealthy as ours,” said ACCAN CEO Andrew Williams.
“To ensure that the interests of all Australian consumers are protected, there are a number of conditions that must be met on all fixed broadband networks to ensure that everyone can connect and stay connected, not just those who can afford to pay for it,” he said.
This would include transparent reporting of hardship arrangements, disconnections and localized network performance, as well as the provision of subsidized broadband service. Telecom operators must also provide standard customer service guarantees that protect households against poor customer service, such as missed appointments.
ACCAN is also calling on public Wi-Fi and public service program providers to expand their services based on community needs, so that people can access the Internet regardless of their circumstances.
“There is currently no regulated reliability framework for broadband networks. Creating such a framework would help address some of the reliability issues faced by consumers, especially if broadband networks were held to account for their reliability performance. Extending this reporting requirement to the retail sector would bring the telecommunications sector in line with other utilities like gas, electricity and water, and give people greater confidence when it’s about choosing the right supplier for them,” Mr. Williams said.
Download: PRESS RELEASE – 040722 The future of broadband3.91 MB
Download: PRESS RELEASE – 040722 The Future of Broadband137.91 KB
Australian Communications and Media Authority – how we use internet statistics.
ABS census data