ACCAN: Low-income Australians cannot afford NBN

Australians have been forced onto higher-end plans, ACCAN has said, and should be offered 50Mbps unlimited NBN connections for AU$30 a month under a government concession.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has called on the federal government to assist "financially stressed Australians" who cannot afford to pay for National Broadband Network (NBN) services.

Under its No Australian Left Offline initiative, ACCAN said a wholesale broadband concession of AU$20 a month should be provided to around 1 million low-income households, delivering 50Mbps unlimited broadband.

"This would mean eligible households would pay approximately AU$30 per month for unlimited broadband -- almost halving the current average cost," ACCAN said.

According to ACCAN, the average Australian household spends 3.5 percent of its disposable income on communications.

In comparison, the bottom 10 percent of households spend around 10 percent of their disposable income on telecommunications.

"The story we hear from households on low incomes is that they are financially stressed, with the cost of communications, particularly broadband, being a significant source of this stress," it said.

"The statistics from the Census and on household expenditure illustrate these circumstances, with low-income consumers spending a far higher proportion of their income on communications than their wealthier counterparts."

ACCAN developed the suggested concession plan after consulting with Anglicare Australia, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), the Benevolent Society, Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association (ASCCA), and digital inclusion advocates InfoXChange, WorkVentures, and the Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance.

"Making broadband affordable and accessible for people on the lowest incomes is now essential, indeed a lifeline," ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.

"People must be connected online in order to access government and other services, participate in education, engage in employment, and to avoid deep social isolation."

The wholesale concession could be offered by retailers to those receiving financial support from the federal government, including pensioners, people with disabilities, struggling parents, Indigenous households, and regional households, ACCAN suggested.

"Initial estimates indicate that providing support to the 2 million households on the lowest incomes can be budget neutral and can be funded via offsets within the Budget and savings through a reduction in the cost of service delivery," it added.

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