Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Medical clinics on lower end NBN plans to get free boost to 50Mbps

Six-month upgrade for GPs who previously thought they could get away with 25Mbps and 12Mbps speeds.

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Any medical clinics that are currently able to operate and are sitting on 25/5Mbps or 12/1Mbps NBN plans will receive a free upgrade to 50/20Mbps for six months.

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Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher cited the ability of 50Mbps plans to "comfortably support" the bandwidth requirements of multiple simultaneous video conferences.

"Telehealth services require a fast, reliable broadband connection, particularly when you have several doctors operating from the same clinic, each undertaking consultations online at the same time," Fletcher said.

"Whole of population telehealth will allow people to access essential health services in their home and will support self-isolation and quarantine policies, while helping doctors to continue to deliver services to their patients. The public health objective is clear -- and we have the telecommunications network capability to support that objective."

Last month, the Australian government announced a AU$2.4 billion health package to try to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Of that, AU$100 million has been allocated to fund a new Medicare service for people in home isolation or quarantine to allow them to receive health consultations via the phone or video, such as through FaceTime or Skype.

The telehealth consultation services will be provided by GPs, specialists, nurses, and mental health and allied health workers, and will also be available under Medicare for people aged over 70, people with chronic diseases, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 50, people who are immunocompromised, those that are pregnant, and new parents with babies.

Earlier on Monday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said daytime network speeds on the NBN are as good, or as bad, as they ever were. 

"This is not to say that there will not be pain points for individual consumers who were previously having problems, such as some FTTN and fixed wireless customers," ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

Last week, the ACCC granted interim authorisation for NBN and five retailers -- Telstra, Optus, TPG, Vodafone, and Vocus -- to create a working group to handle network congestion and coordinate financial support during the pandemic.

Sims said on Monday that Aussie Broadband has been added to the working group. The ACCC will be classed as an observer of the group, with any decision taken to be reported by NBN to the ACCC and retailers that are not part of the group. The ACCC said authorisation could be revoked at any time.