The call coincides with new home isolation measures announced by the Federal Government as Australia battles to stem the spread of the coronavirus epidemic – and the National Broadband Network operator NBN Co, and five retail service providers, have been authorised by the competition regulator the ACCC to work together on measures to keep telecommunications networks operating effectively during the COVID-19 crisis.
The call for an NBN rebate comes from two senior Opposition shadow ministers — Tanya Plibersek and Michelle Rowland — who say that “at a time when connectivity has become even more essential for society, ensuring that children have access to broadband at home is critical”.
Plibersek, Shadow Minister for Education and Training, and Rowland, Shadow Minister for Communications, cited an Australian Bureau of Statistics Internet survey, showing that 3% of Australian households with children under the age of 15 did not have Internet at home.
“Recent developments with COVID-19 are no doubt placing these children, their parents and their teachers under pressure.
“Labor is calling for a targeted initiative to support these families with free NBN broadband access for a period of at least 12 months.
“The small proportion of eligible households means incentives can be delivered in a targeted, responsible and compassionate manner to achieve a social and economic good.
“At a time when broadband has become a critical link between students, parents and their teachers, action is needed to ensure no child is left behind. This will build on good work being done by some state governments to provide laptops and other devices to support distance learning.”
The two shadow ministers say Labor also welcomes steps taken by NBN Co, retail providers and the Government to expand capacity and data allowances.
“Ensuring every family with children has broadband is a complex challenge that cannot be solved overnight. Through compassion, targeted incentives and a clear sense of purpose we can bridge the digital divide,” Plibersek and Rowland said.