It can sometimes feel that living in regional, rural or remote Australia leaves you with fewer opportunities when it comes to jobs, schooling or connectivity. Australia's NBN - the National Broadband Network - was meant to create a level playing field by providing a minimum service to all Australians. At least 25Mbps was to be yours whether you're in the bush or a bustling city.
Unfortunately the Australian Government, by way of the NBN, is making it quite clear that regional, rural and remote Australians aren't to be treated the same. NBN Co today announced new pricing options to boost broadband speeds to improve the customer experience during peak hours. Not so for the 7% of Australians who aren't on the Fixed Line network though:
The immediate wholesale discount is designed to allow end users to experience faster speeds at a similar cost to what they are paying today for up to 12 months from the date their provider moves them to the new plan. Phone and internet providers will decide the retail price of the plans and will not be able to offer the promotion on nbn™ powered Fixed Wireless or Sky Muster™ plans.
By the looks of it Retail Service Providers (RSPs) are now able to provision Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC) differently depending on how the end-user is connecting. Fixed Line services on the 50/20 or 100/40 tiers can take advantage of the new pricing which includes 2mbps or 2.5mbps per user with additional CVC at AUD8/mbps/month.
Fixed Wireless and Satellite users are excluded from the discounted rate and would be provisioned at approximately AUD14/mbps/month meaning it's around 57% more expensive for RSPs to provide the same level of service to 7% of Australians.
This clearly feels like a case of broadband haves and have nots and, as one of the fellow 7%, I'm definitely on the have not side.
NBN loves to spruik how their Fixed Wireless network is the envy of the world. Not quite sure how that works as there are many users who experience peak-time speeds of between 2 to 10Mbps on a 50Mbps service. Perhaps their metrics are based on 3am when everyone is asleep.
During the October 2017 Senate Estimates when Bill Morrow was questioned about the Fixed Wireless network we found out that Fixed Wireless customers with a minimum speed of 6Mbps are not considered to be congested.
In the same session, Morrow mentioned that the ACCC has told retailers to indicate their services may sometimes operate at 65% of the advertised speed. However, in the case of Fixed Wireless, they are happy with minimum speeds of 6Mbps. This makes no sense. The minimum NBN plan is 12Mbps, so this would be only 50% of the advertised speed.
As I'm paying for a 50/20 connection, this means that I’m receiving only 12% of my advertised speeds for major portions of my day. If NBN needs to achieve 65% of the advertised speed then there should be a minimum acceptable speed of 32.5Mbps.
This is why NBN continually insists that I’m not experiencing congestion - because I’m generally above their 6Mbps floor. This is concerning as NBN is committed to providing all Australians with a minimum of 25Mbps by 2020. But then again it only needs to hit that speed once in a 24 hour period so there's that 3am test again.
If this wasn't bad enough it now seems as if 7% of Australia is in for a whole new bag of hurt with these changes.
Welcome to the digital divide.