The Australian Government is partnering with NBN Co to offer thousands of low-income Aussie families a free NBN plan for a full 12 months.
Labor’s School Student Broadband Initiative (SSBI) will be open to up to 30,000 families with school-age children who currently do not have home internet access. The program will commence at the end of February, with the first round of qualifying families to be connected during Term One this year.
The SSBI will be implemented by NBN Co and participating NBN providers, including Aussie Broadband, Belong (Telstra), Vodafone (TPG), SkyMesh, Superloop, Exetel, Launtel, Field Solutions Group and Lemonade Broadband (Connected Australia). The program is backed by a $4.5 million Government grant, and is part of Government efforts to address the ‘digital divide’ that has historically seen vulnerable families and households left behind when it comes to internet access.
Which families are eligible for free NBN?
Families must be nominated by participating schools, community organisations, charities or education authorities; for example, The Smith Family, Catholic Network Australia, and Catholic Education WA have each joined the program, with more organisations to be announced.
Qualifying families must meet the following criteria:
- Must have a child in the home completing primary or secondary education, from Year One through to Year 12
- Must have no active NBN service in the home
- The child/student must have access to digital skills training and devices in order to safely use the internet
While families will need to be nominated by a participating school or organisation, parents who believe their child is eligible can contact program partners for more information.
What services are offered by the free NBN initiative?
Eligible families will be offered a full 12 months of fixed-line, Fixed Wireless Plus or Sky Muster Plus services, depending on the NBN technology available at their address. After 12 months of free connectivity, SSBI homes can cancel or switch their service, or pay the standard monthly cost for their NBN plan ongoing.
The free one-year service period begins from the day the plan is activated at each family’s address. Each plan will come with unlimited monthly data, and a maximum download speed of 50 megabits per second (the NBN 50/Home Standard speed tier).
This plan speed is designed for households with multiple devices in use at once, and is suitable for studying from home, streaming in high-definition, and online gaming. This means it should offer enough speed and bandwidth for families with several school-age children needing to study from home, even during busier after-school periods.
Generally, the price of a fixed-line NBN 50 plan with unlimited data ranges between between $64 and $95 per month, meaning SSBI households could receive between $768 and $1,140 of annual value, depending on the telco they connect with. For example, an unlimited NBN 50 plan with Aussie Broadband is $79 per month, or $948 over 12 months; in comparison, Exetel’s NBN 50 plan is slightly cheaper at $74.95 per month (or $899.40 annually, not including any promotional discounts).
Customers in regional areas may be eligible for SkyMesh satellite plans, or Fixed Wireless Plus instead of a fixed-line service. SkyMesh’s Sky Muster Plus plans begin at $69.95 every 30 days for unlimited data (with 25GB exclusively for video streaming and VPN use, and all other usage unmetered), or around $850 over 12 months.
NBN program a ‘short term’ solution to digital exclusion
It’s no secret the cost of living is on the rise, and the prospect of spending upwards of $800 each year on internet access may be too much for families feeling the strain. But in an increasingly digital world, reliable and fast internet has gone from a luxury to a necessity for students of all ages.
“We believe everyone deserves equal access to the internet and to be able to receive a quality education. This initiative is a step forward in providing equal opportunities for students across the country,” said SkyMesh Managing Director Stephen O’Shanassy.
“We’re proud to be part of the solution and to provide reliable, fast, and affordable broadband to families who need it the most.”
While the SSBI program is slated to end after 12 months, the Government has stated it will consider long-term solutions to help families in need afford ongoing internet access.
Compare cheap NBN plans
Even if you’re not eligible for free broadband under the SSBI, you can still find a cheaper plan by shopping around. We’ve compiled some of the cheapest NBN plans in our database in the table below.
The following table shows selected published unlimited NBN plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of their standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, then alphabetically. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of providers. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.