A “downgrade” to internet speeds will hold back the Riverina’s economy, an expert warns.
National Broadband Network boss Bill Morrow told a senate estimates committee the cost of supplying the long-promised 100Mbps speed to fixed wireless customer was so high, it had been “killed”. Mr Morrow went on to say there may never be a time when all Australians get the fastest available internet speeds, as such a project would cost “billions and billions” of dollars.
Agrinet founder Daniel Winson said the decision effectively created two classes of internet users – those in the cities and those in the bush – and that would restrict regional growth.
“This lack of connectivity holds back society and the economy,” Mr Winson said. “If people want the best in education, to work professional roles, at the moment they’re still restricted to living in metropolitan and major regional centres.”
Newer Riverina suburbs like Boorooma have access to fibre-to-the-premises NBN – the “gold standard” service that offers 100Mbps – while older towns mostly have fibre-to-the-node, a technology that struggles to reliably reach 50Mbps. Remote villages receive the fixed wireless NBN service and are now unlikely to ever get higher speeds than 50Mbps.
Mr Morrow justified the move by saying there wasn’t a “mass market” demand for high-speed NBN, but Mr Winson disagreed.
“People want speed, there’s a clear demand for high-bandwidth applications and that will only increase,” he said. “A hi-def Netflix stream takes up about 25Mbps, YouTube can be the same, it doesn’t take many people to max out a connection. It’s not just entertainment either, for businesses with multiple users those speeds are critical.”
The NBN is obligated to provide all businesses and premises with access to at least 25Mbps peak data speeds, with the majority to have 50Mbps. So far, most connected households have opted for 25Mbps plans.
“There’s also a whole lot of applications (for higher speeds) in telehealth,” Mr Winson said. “In the future we’d expect surgeons or medical professionals to consult with patients using high-speed broadband.”