Eight community groups are launching a campaign to halve the cost of NBN services for poor Australians.
Eight community groups are launching a campaign to halve the cost of NBN services for poor Australians.

Push to slash NBN costs for poor

A CAMPAIGN to halve the price of high-speed broadband services for jobseekers, pensioners, and working poor will be launched on Monday after research showed National Broadband Network services may be too expensive for more than one million Australian households.

The 'No Australian Left Offline' push, backed by a consortium of eight community groups, will seek cut-price broadband services for most Australians receiving government benefits in a move they argue could ultimately save the economy "approximately $20 billion".

But advocates admit getting political parties to commit to subsidising broadband services months before a federal election could be a tough sell.

Australia is the fifth most expensive nation for broadband services out of 29 countries surveyed, a recent study found.
Australia is the fifth most expensive nation for broadband services out of 29 countries surveyed, a recent study found.

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network chief executive Teresa Corbin said the idea for the campaign came about after Bureau of Communications and Arts Research statistics showed the country's poorest families were spending 10 per cent of their income on telecommunications - almost three times as much as the rest of the population.

Ms Corbin said many poorer households, put off by high broadband prices, were instead accessing the internet with limited mobile internet plans and paying a "poverty premium," or going without access to important online educational resources and government services.

"We can't let the gaps get bigger and bigger," she said.

"When I hear stories about people who have to drive to the library at night and sit in the car park so they can access free wi-fi and help their kids do their homework, it breaks my heart. It shouldn't be a case of 'I've fallen on hard times, I can't afford broadband'."

Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie said broadband access should be treated as an essential, like any other utility, and provided to help Australians out of poverty.

"Making broadband affordable and accessible for people on the lowest incomes is now essential, indeed a lifeline," she said.

 

Teresa Corbin says it’s many families in need are paying a “poverty premium”.
Teresa Corbin says it’s many families in need are paying a “poverty premium”.

"People must be connected online in order to access government and other services, participate in education, engage in employment, and to avoid deep social isolation."

The campaign, which is also supported by Anglicare, the Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance, and WorkVentures, is seeking a federal subsidy for $30 monthly broadband plans at speeds of 50 megabits per second and with unlimited downloads.

Ms Corbin said recipients could include jobseekers, old-age and disability pensioners, students receiving Youth Allowance, and "working poor families" who are receiving Family Tax Benefit A.

Vouchers for the discount could be provided by the Department of Social Services or the Australian Taxation Office, she said, and Deloitte figures showed it could aid the Federal Government in saving approximately $20 billion by moving more services to the internet.

"We believe this could be a budget-neutral measure and reap great benefits from putting more government services online," she said.

"It's halving the price of broadband but not undermining the economics of the NBN."

Ms Corbin said the group had already met with Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and representatives from the Labor Party and Greens, and would send campaign letters to major telecommunications firms seeking support this week.

A study by research group Ovum recently found Australia was the fifth most expensive nation for broadband services out of 29 countries surveyed, and prices for 50mbps services were 27 per cent higher than average.



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Heading home via ferry this afternoon? Think again.

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The ferry will be out of service due to adverse weather conditions