Tuesday, 16 October 2018 07:24

NBN still to get 'face time' with many Aussies, but if you have it, you communicate more


A new report called "Connecting Australia" by NBN Co tells us people who have the fast version of the NBN use it to connect more with family and friends, in what is yet another case of stating the obvious.

NBN Co excels not at connecting Australians at fast speeds to the Internet, but at producing reports, probably at great cost which results in a windfall payment to some lucky report writing organisation — in this case called AlphaBeta — to tell us the bleeding obvious, which usually revolves around those with fast Internet doing more stuff faster because they have fast Internet.

Of course, not everyone actually has fast Internet with the NBN, with some people happy to still be stuck on ADSL because they get faster speeds than their family and friends unlucky enough not to win Node lotto and who have ended up with a dodgier, slower and non-FttP connection, or worse, stuck on treacle-like satellite connections.

Indeed, at the Connecting Australia website we're told, "It’s been nine years since NBN Co was first established and eight years since the first homes in Tasmania were connected to the NBN Co broadband access network. NBN Co’s mission then — as it still is today — was to encourage productivity and help drive economic and social benefits for Australians."

To start with, using "it's" for "it has" is just bad English, and also, we can see how the NBN started nine years ago and took a year to connect the first homes in Tasmania, and all these years later, they're still at it, with the NBN still only at the halfway mark, more or less.

But all of that aside, what does NBN Co's latest report on the bleeding obvious tell us this time?

It turns out that if you can get a fast Internet connection, something not actually guaranteed by the NBN Co or the government or anyone else in Australia, that you are "at least 30% more likely to use the Internet to stay in touch with loved ones".

The rest of you/us with slow Internet connections are probably doing that anyway, we're just at least 30% less likely to be doing it.

You see, if you're not waiting around for slow connections that mean your Apple FaceTime sessions aren't pausing on the video due to "poor connectivity", you actually have more time up your sleeves to do stuff, like have quality video calls to friends and family, at a rate of three extra hours online per week.

This pearl of wisdom — and the rest in NBN Co's Connecting Australia report — are cast before us swine, with the NBN Co-commissioned Connecting Australia report using "research from AlphaBeta’s first national economic and social study of the impact of the NBN Co broadband access network".

We're told that "the research reveals the average NBN connected household currently spends 10 hours online per week staying in touch with loved ones, compared to 7 hours online per week for non-NBN connected households", which leads to the obvious conclusion that if you could actually get a decent NBN connection, you might do the same too, rather than giving up after seven long and tiresome hours of slow.

The report "also shows regional NBN-connected users are 40% more likely (30% in metro areas) to use the internet to reduce social isolation versus regional non-NBN connected users".

Other bleeding obvious "key Connected Society findings include":

  • Stronger connections: with greater capability to stay in touch, share files and work collaboratively, NBN-connected users are capitalising on their connections with 96% using the internet to socialise, compared with 74% of non-NBN connected users. They are also socialising online for an additional three hours per week, compared to non-NBN connected users.
  • Breaking down geographical barriers: helping reduce social isolation that can come with remote living, regional NBN-connected users are 40% more likely than regional non-NBN connected users to use the Internet to keep in touch with loved ones. By comparison, metropolitan NBN-connected users are 30% more likely to use their home broadband to socialise compared to metropolitan non-NBN connected users.
  • Connected convenience: Regional NBN-connected users are now the fastest growing adopters of using the Internet to make online transactions. They are 60% more likely than regional non-NBN connected users to use fast broadband for online shopping. About 90% of NBN-connected regional Australians use the Internet for online transactions, compared to only 57% of regional non-NBN connected users.
  • Growth in online entertainment: Regional NBN-connected users are the biggest users of fast broadband for online entertainment such as streaming video on demand. They are 70% more likely to use the Internet for entertainment than regional Australians in non-NBN connected areas. About 86% of regional NBN access network users use their home broadband for online entertainment, compared to only 52% of regional non-NBN connected users.

NBN Co chief executive Stephen Rue, who presumably doesn't yet rue the day he took over as CEO because he's presumably on an excellent pay packet, said: “Whether you live in the city or the bush, access to broadband over the NBN Co access network is supporting a positive social impact in terms of the way in which Australians live, work and enjoy their leisure time.

“Social isolation is shrinking, in particular for regional Australians, and I am delighted to see evidence of the NBN broadband access network helping people right across our beautiful country to strengthen their relationships with their loved ones, their communities and the world.”

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said: “It’s promising to see how access to fast broadband can help reduce social isolation across the country, which is particularly critical for older Australians and those living in regional and remote areas.

“Improved connectivity can help drive digital inclusion and enable those who are geographically isolated to more easily access vital services, connect with family and friends, and improve their online confidence, skills and safety through programs like Be Connected.”

Good Things Foundation’s national director Jess Wilson said: “As we kick off Get Online Week, it is very promising to see that fast broadband is having a positive social impact in communities. However, there is still more work to do to make sure more Australians understand how they can use it to enrich their lives.

“With two and a half million people not online in Australia, the Get Online Week initiative has never been more important to help people develop digital skills for work or leisure.”

For those wondering, the Connecting Australia report was commissioned by NBN Co in 2017 through independent research firm AlphaBeta, so the data is months old but still good enough to make up a new report on the bleeding obvious.

We're told the report "combines national census data with an Ipsos survey of 3500 individuals across 1700 postcodes in metropolitan, regional and remote areas, including those connected to the NBN Co access network and those not connected".

NBN Co then ends with one of those standard disclaimers that explains why a friend you know has a great NBN connection, while yours is rubbish, and gives NBN Co a way to explain and disclaim any responsibility for why the NBN is such a mess.

That statement is: "Your experience, including the speeds actually achieved over the NBN Co access network, depends on the access network technology and configuration over which services are delivered to your premises, whether you are using the Internet during the busy period, and some factors outside our control (like your equipment quality, software, broadband plans, signal reception and how your service provider designs its network). Speeds may be impacted by network congestion on nbn’s Fixed Wireless network, including during busy periods. Satellite users may experience latency."

It's a very long way of saying "your mileage may vary", so good luck, may you win Node lotto, and may you one day get FttK'd up by the NBN by being upgraded to a fibre-to-the-kerb connection.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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