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New NBN broadband tax adds insult to injury

Suburbanites stuck on flaky 50 Mbps fibre to the node will pay extra to fund regional 100 Mbps fixed wireless speeds, as the government introduces a new tax to pay for the regional NBN rollout. Originally it was assumed that Australia’s metro NBN users would cross-subsidise regional users but the numbers still don’t add up, even after the government granted NBN a $20 million loan to help complete the nationwide rollout. To make up the difference, the Federal government is preparing to slap fixed line users with an extra tax to fund the fixed wireless and satellite networks.

New NBN Broadband Tax Adds Insult To Injury Fixed line NBN users in the cities will be slugged with a new tax to fund the regional wireless and satellite networks. Photo: Glenn Hunt

With a bill set to go before parliament in the next few weeks, it looks like we could be paying the $7.10 p/m tax as soon as July – actually internet service providers will pay the tax but you can be sure they’ll be quick to pass the costs on to us. The tax applies to homes and businesses using fixed line NBN services such as fibre to the premises, basement, curb and node, as well as HFC cable. You’ll also pay the tax on other high-speed fixed line broadband services which aren’t scheduled to migrate to the NBN.

So that means you’ll pay the tax on TPG’s fibre to the basement service, which isn’t migrating to the NBN, but not on ADSL2+ or Telstra/Optus HFC cable. Nor will the tax be applied to mobile broadband services, even though the 4G LTE networks can deliver more than 50 Mbps and have become the primary broadband service for some homes. To be fair, we shouldn’t begrudge regional Australians for wanting decent broadband and expecting cityfolk to help foot the bill. Many services work that way in a country of this size, it would be cheaper to post a letter in the city if we didn’t need to subsidise Australia Post’s regional deliveries. That said, regional Australians still pay more for many things, such as petrol.

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The bigger frustration with introducing a metro NBN tax at this stage of the rollout is that it highlights exactly how much of a mess the NBN has become under the Multi-Technology Mix. These days you can’t even be sure if you’ll get the speeds you paid for, yet now we’re expected to pay more for the privilege. It would be different if metro users were all still getting fibre to the premises and had been told upfront that they’d be paying extra to help cover the regional fixed wireless and satellite rollouts.

Even under the original plan, 7 per cent of regional and remote Australians were still going to rely on those broadband technologies instead of fibre. Instead the NBN has become a hotch potch mess which will leave at least a third of the country on fibre to the node – with some homes struggling to sustain 50 Mbps over long copper runs still susceptible to outages when rain floods the pits in the street. Meanwhile NBN is preparing to launch 100 Mbps fixed wireless services next year, leaving regional users with better broadband than some of the city users who helped cover the cost.

Will you be slugged with the NBN tax and does it seem like a fair price to pay?

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