NBN announces $150 million COVID-19 relief package

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In response to the major economic and social impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic, NBN Co has announced it will offer financial assistance to providers to support low-income customers in the coming months.

NBN Co will establish a $150 million relief fund, aimed at supporting NBN resellers to help both business and residential customers stay connected throughout any financial hardship. Created in consultation with other industry leaders, the fund will focus on households home-schooling children during the pandemic, as well as offering support to small and medium-sized businesses and essential and emergency services.

Consulting industry partners included major Australian internet providers, as well as consumer watchdog the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN). Although low-income Aussie households with school children are likely to be the package’s biggest beneficiaries, NBN Co also plans to offer help to telehealth providers and similar services experiencing increased online demand.

“Helping households get connected and supporting Australian homes and businesses stay connected is a priority for NBN,” said NBN Co Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Rue.

“We are confident these funding relief and assistance measures will make a difference and help internet providers support their customers.”

How NBN Co is helping families

Working with the Department of Education in each state, NBN Co has allocated approximately $50 million to help low-income families with school-aged children get connected to the new broadband network. To take pressure off NBN sellers, NBN Co is waiving its usual $37 per month wholesale charge for eligible services on the NBN 25/5Mbps speed tier (also known as Standard Evening Speed).

With internet providers paying less for access to NBN 25, telcos can then pass on the savings to low-income families in time for the second school term of 2020. Presumably, providers will offer specialised packages to qualifying customers with school-aged children who are studying from home during the coronavirus outbreak.

ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, was hopeful that the fee waiver would lead to financial relief for families dealing with the economic impact of COVID-19.

“The internet is an essential service for work, study, and accessing government and telehealth services,” said Ms Corbin.

“NBN Co is to be applauded for laying the groundwork to keep struggling families and households connected during this difficult time.”

Support for business and telehealth providers

Alongside families, NBN Co will also assist small and medium businesses to stay connected during the current crisis. NBN Co will again offer wholesale discounts to providers, offering cheaper new connections for specified business grade products as well as allocating funds for businesses struggling to pay monthly bills.

Emergency services and online health providers will also be provided with higher speeds, enhanced service levels, and prioritised case management at NBN’s Business Operations Centre. NBN service providers will be offered support to grant free speed tier upgrades to telehealth services currently on NBN 12 (Basic) or NBN 25 (Standard) connections, making it easier for healthcare workers to manage the growing demand for online assistance.

NBN Co will make its assistance package available to retailers this month, with plans to offer relief through to 30 September, 2020.

NBN Co: it’s up to providers to offer help

Although lowering wholesale broadband costs should help to address the ‘digital divide’ preventing many struggling Australian homes and businesses from accessing fast, reliable internet, it’s ultimately up to NBN providers to pass on these discounts by offering low-cost plans to customers in need.

The package also doesn’t address the increasing bandwidth demands placed on the NBN, as millions of Australians transition to working or studying from home, or simply spend more time online due to self-isolation requirements.

Still, at a time when many homes are searching for ways to cut costs without sacrificing essential services, the move has been welcomed by consumer advocates, including the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

“It’s pleasing to see the Government, regulators, phone and internet providers, and NBN Co continuing to work together during this pandemic to support all members of the community, particularly low income families needing to continue education for their children, and businesses who are struggling to pay their bills,” said Ombudsman Judi Jones.

“Ensuring all people and small businesses can be connected and remain connected during this time is more critical than ever. This is a difficult time and we’re all in this together.”

Am I on the right NBN plan?

If you’re looking for a more affordable internet option, or want to find a faster plan for your household’s growing usage needs, now’s the time to compare and find a better deal.

The below table includes a range of NBN options across all four speed tiers.

Unlimited Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Unlimited Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Unlimited Standard Evening Speed (NBN 25) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Standard Evening Speed (NBN 25) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Unlimited Basic Evening Speed (NBN 12) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Basic Evening Speed (NBN 12) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

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Image: Nattakorn_Maneerat / Shutterstock

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