Growing apathy over NBN rollout, survey finds

It may have passed a recent report card from the consumer watchdog, but the National Broadband Network (NBN) is being met with growing apathy across Australia, a new survey reveals.

Research from Canstar Blue has found that the percentage of households looking forward to switching to the new high-speed internet network has dropped significantly over the last 12 months.

Just 43 per cent of survey respondents still on an ADSL2+ or cable internet connection indicated that they are “looking forward” to switching to the NBN. This compares to another survey 12 months earlier when 62% of respondents said they were looking forward to it.

In 2018, it was also found that 66 per cent of customers are reluctant to switch to the NBN due to recent negativity in the media, while 63 per cent wish they could just keep their existing internet connection.

Canstar Blue Telco Specialist Harrison Astbury said the hesitation about the NBN is understandable, but that customers can still look forward to the national network reaching their home.

“In early 2018, many of the biggest providers have compensated customers over poor NBN speeds, and many have acquired more bandwidth to help speed up the end-user experience,” Mr Astbury said. “Wholesale NBN costs have also been slashed to the second-fastest speed tier, which has helped immensely.

“Reservations over the NBN are understandable given recent negative media attention, but the fact is that the NBN should still deliver an upgrade on your existing fixed-link internet service.”

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found in April that there were ‘better than expected’ results since the watchdog cracked down on NBN speeds. The Commission reported faster speeds and improved services after it ordered providers such as Optus, Telstra, iiNet, TPG and others to compensate NBN customers over misleading speeds.

“The communications sector is undergoing a period of rapid change. Since the draft report, there has been encouraging progress on key issues identified in the report, like NBN speeds, pricing and work towards improved service standards, at least in part because of the actions we’ve already taken,” said Rod Sims, ACCC chairman in April.

In May, the ACCC also found that the second-fastest speed tier (NBN 50) made up 26 per cent of all NBN plans – up from just 4.6 per cent in December 2017.

Mr Astbury recommends users take the time to do their research into NBN providers and plan speeds to ensure they are getting the product that is right for them.

“Too often users are attracted to a cheap price only and may fail to look at the details. By doing their research into a plan fast enough for their needs, customers are less likely to experience hiccups over a poor service,” Mr Astbury said. “In many cases, customers also have up to 18 months to switch over to the NBN, so they have some time to think about what to do.”

Alternatives to the NBN

Once your old fixed-line internet connection is turned off, you have no choice but to switch to the NBN. Old connections are turned off 18 months after the NBN is made available in your area. But that doesn’t mean you have to use it or buy a plan. A growing number of private network operators have popped up recently – mostly in capital cities – to offer an alternative to the NBN. Most operate on their own fixed wireless networks and may only service small areas or suburbs in a capital city.

Private networks often offer speed tiers similar to those found on the NBN, as well as competitive plans. Still, many feature higher prices and more restrictive data limits – but how much do you value the faster speed?

Many advertise low congestion and a more reliable speed. Melbourne alone has more than five private network operators, with prices starting from under $50 a month.

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