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Gap Closes Between Rural & Metro Users Despite Broadband Levy Tabled

Data usage on the Australian National Broadband Network has exploded by 25% in the last 12 months with the average Australian now consuming 258GBs worth of data, despite calls from the Liberal government to reintroduce a tax on non-NBN users to fund the regional rollout of the NBN.

According to new insights released by the NBN Co, Australians consumed more than 1.35 billion GB of data in June this year with real-time streaming now being the most dominate consumer of data following closely by general web browsing.

The east coast of Australia is the most data-hungry with the significant population centres consuming on average 274 GB per end-user in June 2019.

NBN Co, Chief Technology Officer, Ray Owen said they ‘expect these numbers to continue to grow as more and more homes and business connect to the network’.

Rural users are also consuming more data, closing the gap between regional and metro users, with the average monthly use in rural areas per user reaching 246GBs compared to 270GB in metro areas.

According to the report, the average total data consumption percentage for 2019 is 52% for metro users, with non-metro users holding the final 48%, bringing things ever closer to 50/50.

With 10.3 million premises ready to connect, these numbers will only increase.

It comes as legislation reintroduced to parliament seeks to implement a $7 levy on non-NBN fixed-line connections to fund the rollout of the rural NBN network.

As covered by ChannelNews, communications Minister Paul Fletcher reintroduced the Telecommunications (Regional Broadband Scheme) Charge Bill 2019 following the bills automatic lapse at the close of parliament before the 2019 election.

Prior to its reintroduction, Shadow minister Michelle Rowland stated Labors disapproval of the legislation saying, ‘this Government has not presented a proper plan for the sector because many of its objectives have been missing, contradictory or misdirected to begin with’.

Minister Fletcher has positioned the levy to fund ‘the losses NBN Co incurs in constructing and operating its fixed wireless and satellite networks’ as part of the Regional Broadband Scheme.

Fletcher claims the bill would ‘provide a transparent and fair funding mechanism’ for the NBN Co into the future considering the cost of such a network.

In a speech to CEDA, Minister Fletcher said ‘we are going to need to rely on and boost competition to make sure that our fixed networks continue to upgrade and stay in tune with world developments,’ referring to the proposed tax.

To just balance out the books, the NBN Co must receive an average revenue per user of $52.

Unfortunately, its ARPU is still only at $45 following the NBN Co first-quarter losses $1.1 billion for 2020.

The levy of $7 would indeed bring revenues up, though according to Senator Rowland, at the risk of competition.

‘The Bill… is a levy whose primary purpose is to reduce competition’, claiming it is a direct contradiction to Minister’s Fletcher’s statement to CEDA.

When speaking at Melbourne Comms Day in October this year, Senator Rowland described Minister fletcher as ‘a minister who says one thing and then does another’.

According to the NBN Co, however, the levy exists because no commercial entity would pay to roll out the network to non-lucrative areas, i.e. rural Australia.

‘NBN exists to provide universal broadband access – which importantly includes those areas in the bush’ said an NBN executive, suggesting Telstra amongst others would not invest in those areas due to overwhelming costs of such a network.

The intention of the levy is therefore to require telecommunication companies, who are taking the high-value customers, to contribute to those who have it worse off.

Implementing the levy will ensure that lucrative areas are not cherry-picked at the expense of providing services to the bush where broadband is needed most of all.

The hope is that both sides of government will be able to amicably negotiate a policy that would encourage competition in regional areas in Australia in order to serve rural customers an internet connection.

With 6 million Australians now connected to the NBN, total data usage has reached 1,359,111,574GB or 1.35 exabytes, which will continue to grow day in and day out as more and more Australian’s connect the network.

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