The company behind the NBN will temporarily cut some of its charges to internet providers next week due to the coronavirus. But there’s one big catch.
The company behind the NBN will temporarily cut some of its charges to internet providers next week due to the coronavirus. But there’s one big catch.

NBN users could get unlimited data with price cut

Australia's growing army of remote workers could receive much bigger broadband allowances for the next three months under a new plan revealed by NBN Co late today.

The move came amid growing criticism of the company behind the National Broadband Network after it failed to match discounts from internet providers to keep Australians connected during the coronavirus pandemic.

But, while telecommunications analysts have welcomed the move, they say it won't deliver speed boosts or meaningful price cuts to consumers who desperately need them.

NBN Co chief executive Stephen Rue announced the company's temporary measure, revealing it would cut the price it charges internet providers for extra "capacity" on the network for three months, starting Monday.

Mr Rue said the move followed talks with internet providers to find out what they needed to "meet the needs of more Australians working from home" and more people in self-isolation.

"Data carriage on the NBN has already increased by about five to six per cent over the last few days as customers have increasingly started to work from home," Mr Rue said.

"We are mindful that these are unprecedented times and remain vigilant to any unexpected market and usage changes."

Telecommunications analysts say the move won’t deliver speed boosts.
Telecommunications analysts say the move won’t deliver speed boosts.

The price cut would allow internet service providers, such as Telstra, Optus, and Aussie Broadband, to order more "capacity" which could reduce congestion for users and allow bigger download allowances. The discount for providers would be as large as 40 per cent.

Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the move was akin to "giving a bigger pipe to the retail service providers … so the data keeps flowing as more and more people work from home".

The announcement was also welcomed by Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and telecommunications analyst Paul Budde, who called for changes earlier this week.

"This will give people greater internet capacity, which they will need when they have to stay at home for schooling or work or entertainment," he said.

"The world will have changed after we go through this crisis. A lot of the digital economy will have to be reviewed."

But TelSoc vice-president Laurie Patton said the new discount did not address the most pressing NBN issues, and Australia's internet users would still have to pay more money to upgrade their internet speed during the pandemic, if their connection allowed it.

"It makes no difference to the speeds that can be delivered by their outdated technology so all those poor souls working from home on the (copper) network will still struggle, especially when it comes to uploading big files to the office computer network," he said.

Mr Patton said the announcement would "bail out" internet providers who had already committed to delivering unlimited data allowances during the crisis, however.


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