It seems there isn’t a day without the National Broadband Network (NBN) being the topic of conversation. Lately, it’s been getting dragged through the mud more often than emphasised as a move in the right direction, and rightfully so.

Since the change in government in 2012, NBN Co. have become notoriously private. The website used to inform consumers about an exciting new rollout that would bring Australia’s internet speeds up to par with the rest of the world, as well as creating jobs that would boost the economy. It was plastered with statements such as, ”Directly supporting local jobs over eight years”, ”Provide equal wholesale access to retailers” and ”next generation wireless”. Now, that has been filled with subliminal mixed messages that the average consumer would not comprehend, simply stating in their purpose that it is to ”design, build and operate Australia’s new broadband network”.

This change continues with a rebrand of the speed plans on offer through internet service providers (ISPs) – with the website stating that it offers the NBN 25/50/100. Whilst it can easily be assumed that 25 would be the slowest speed and 100 would be the fastest, it’s intriguing to note that there is no mention of specific average download or upload speeds. It just gives certain indicators as to what that plan is best suited for (25 is best for basic surfing of the web, streaming in standard definition and emailing, whilst 50 is best for streaming in HD, online gaming and the upload/download of large files and so on). The only disclaimer they include is that the use of ‘Superfast’ means that the download speed is above 25mbs, which means very little to the average consumer.

 

 

NBN_Co_fibre_optic_cable_being_laid_in_Tarcutta_St_in_Wagga_(2)

 

This is an interesting sentiment, as NBN Co. recently underwent a review by the ACCC to address concerns that the listed speed of the network was misleading and not up to the promised standard. It revealed that NBN customers are getting 1/500th of the speed that they are promised. Other customers have voiced their frustrations at the repetitive dropouts they experience with some reporting that their Internet can drop out for 10–11 days at a time.

As a result, the ACCC plans to implement a ‘monitoring arrangement’. Rod Sims, the ACCC chairman, said that individual households who have the NBN can be used as population samples to ensure that the NBN is delivering speeds as promised. However, when this will be applied is unclear, and funding is needed from the government for the testing to begin.

In the meantime, NBN Co. are directing the blame towards ISPs, saying that the reason consumers are experiencing slow speeds is largely due to providers, such as Telstra and Optus, not purchasing enough bandwidth to keep up with the demand. On the contrary, ISPs say that it is in fact the infrastructure of the NBN — particularly the federal government’s decision to opt for cheaper infrastructure  — that has affected their ability to provide the speeds outlined in their plans.

Additionally, they also seem to think that Australians simply aren’t ready for a faster internet connection, with NBN Co. CEO Bill Morrow stating that, “Even if we offered it for free, they simply would not use it”, suggesting that until augmented reality or artificial intelligence become more prominent, there is nothing to justify such speeds, a comment so farfetched when Australia is ranked 51st in the world for internet speed. We’ve always been trailing far behind and with comments like this, it’s difficult to see it changing in the future.

 

by Dakota Richards

 

Header image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Second image credit: Wikimedia Commons