THE rollout of the national broadbank network (nbn) in regional WA is on the home stretch, with more than 95 per cent of homes and businesses able to connect.
Figures released by the nbn last week found that one in three homes and businesses are ready to connect to nbn services, with 58 per cent of those in non-metro areas.
Meantime, data from the Connecting Australia report into the social and economic impact of the nbn has found that since 2012, Australia has jumped from rank 29 to 17 among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in terms of equality and internet speed and proportion of people without internet access.
The report – commissioned by NBN Co – predicts that by 2021, Australia will rise to the top 10 OECD countries in equality and speed, assuming all other OECD countries held constant at their 2016 figures.
NBN Co chief executive officer Bill Morrow said these figures showed the network’s aim to bridge the “digital divide” between those living in regional and metro Australia was making significant progress.
“We have seen a massive improvement in regional internet access, with our wholesale broadband services offering more competition, faster speeds and even giving some Australians internet access for the first time,” Mr Morrow said.
“Our research shows that this connectivity revolution is spurring rapid growth in the digital economy and regional businesses, which may lead to further migration away from cities to regional hotspots.
“There is still work to be done alongside industry in order to continually improve the customer experience of people who connect to the nbn network, however we take heart that these findings show the positive impact that access to fast broadband is already providing to the nation.”
Nbn WA head Rachael McIntyre said the nbn access network rollout prioritised rural and regional areas, with 700,000 homes and businesses previously without internet.
Ms McIntyre said data from the Connecting Australia report demonstrated the benefits this was having on regional and rural businesses and homes.
“For example, the nbn access network is estimated to have helped drive $450 million in additional gross domestic product in regional Australia in the 2017 financial year and is forecast to drive an additional $5.3 billion in additional gross domestic product in regional areas in the 2021 financial year,” Ms McIntyre said.
“Access to fast internet and improved connectivity enabled by the nbn access network will allow regional Australia including the agricultural sector to access and utilise digital technologies to ensure greater efficiency, productivity, competitiveness and innovation.”
National Farmers’ Federation policy director Mark Harvey-Sutton welcomed the nbn update, describing it as good news for Australian farmers.
“It has been a long time coming and we have been waiting for the digital divide to close,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.
“There is huge potential for the agriculture sector coming from increased connectivity, as well as improved lifestyle benefits such as running a business and keeping your kids at home so they can do their education in a more efficient manner.”
It has been nine years since the nbn was established and eight years since the first homes were connected to the network.
Eight million premises are expected to be activated to the nbn by 2020.