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Government Report: Australia’s National Network Not Curing The Digital Divide

October 4, 2017

Last week, a parliamentary committee released a 210-page study on Australia’s government-owned National Broadband Network (NBN). The report wasn’t good. In fact, Fast Company called it “scathing.” It certainly showed government networks aren’t a cure for the digital divide. 

According to a news story in The Australian, “Some of the poorest parts of Australia including many rural areas could be left behind in a ‘digital divide’ if” NBN continues on its current path. Specifically, the report said many consumers might not get the 50-megabit per second download speeds that officials promised them. And while these users might be able to upgrade at some point in the future, those upgrades might be too expensive for most users. The committee said NBN’s “approach runs the risk of creating a digital divide in which low socio-economic areas with poor NBN are not upgraded because the demand and matching revenue will not meet the NBN upgrade model.”

The committee’s study concluded, “As it stands, Australia will not be provided with a fast, affordable, ubiquitous, and fair broadband network.” That’s after spending $49 billion. As Fast Company explained, the report is the product of eight months of inquiry by the committee.

The Australian said Committee Deputy Chair Josh Wilson was outraged by the report and called it a damning indictment of the government’s approach. Wilson said, “Many West Australians are finding that connecting to the NBN is nothing more than a disappointment. They are often left without internet and phone services for weeks, and when they are connected the speeds are woeful. The NBN … has failed to future-proof Australia’s digital connectivity, and engrained the digital divide across communities.”

The committee wants an independent audit of NBN that will “cover its financial expectations and projections.” According toThe Australian, the committee also wants to establish a group that will “canvass ongoing complaints from regional areas where people are frustrated they will be left with satellite broadband.”

What caused NBN’s failure? The Financial Times says it’s a product of “politics, poor technology, and high costs.”

Not surprising for a government-run network.