Australia $36 billion broadband slower than Kenya
Fri 12 May 2017
Australia, one of the first nations to attempt a full-country rollout of high-speed internet, has one of the slowest broadband networks globally. In a recent survey, the country’s eight-year, $36 billion investment was ranked No. 51, falling behind developing countries such as Kenya and Thailand.
Telstra, the country’s leading telecommunications provider, also announced that it would start moving customers to different broadband plans, as many thousands of customers were sold plans for speeds that are simply not achievable.
The national broadband project, launched in 2009, was created as one of the largest state-run internet upgrades in the world, and was the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in Australia. The government planned to forego fiber access to local nodes in favor of laying fiber directly to 90% of Australian homes, and providing the remaining 10% with upgraded wireless connectivity.
However, the undertaking had its share of obstacles. Australia’s natural geography makes large-scale infrastructure projects difficult, as it is isolated from other countries and composed of cities that are remote from one another, also separated by the outback. Additionally, the fact that the government changes over every three years poses significant challenges in planning and executing long-term projects.
Initially, the government intended to share the cost of the upgraded network with private enterprises and in December 2016, legislation was proposed to levy a tax on broadband providers to help pay for the ongoing project. Negotiations with Telstra, the telecommunications provider responsible for laying the fiber for the network, dragged out, and the project became a target for political opposition.
Progress has been made in providing better internet to citizens of Australia. The same survey that placed the country’s broadband speeds below that of developing countries also showed that broadband speeds have doubled in Australia since 2013. However, other nations are progressing at a faster rate, and customer expectations are still far beyond the service being provided.
Even the speeds advertised as currently available on the National Broadband Network are unrealistic in some instances. Last July, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) began to investigate claims that the broadband speeds advertised by providers were inaccurate or vague, and that customers were routinely charged for services that they did not receive.
Telstra just announced that approximately 8,000 customers had been sold broadband speed boosts that are not supported at their location. The company intends to contact those customers and move them to a speed tier that can be achieved, and has promised to refund customers any charges incurred for a speed boost that could not be delivered.