The nbn broadband access network in regional Australia is progressing.

NBN Co have announced that nearly all homes and businesses outside of major urban areas are now in design or construction stages.

Thanks to the early prioritisation of the rollout in regional areas, the digital divide between the city and the bush is shrinking, with new research revealing Australia now ranks 17th among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries (up from 29th in 2012) in terms of equality of internet speed and proportion of people without internet access.

The data comes from the Connecting Australia report: the nation’s first social and economic study into the impact of the nbn access network, which was conducted by data analytics and economics firm AlphaBeta (and commissioned by NBN Co).

It projects that, by 2021, Australia is estimated to move from being in the bottom ten OECD countries in equality of internet access and speed to the top 102.

The announcement coincides with another significant milestone for NBN Co. More than four million Australian homes and businesses (one in three) are now connected to services over the nbn™ access network, with the majority (58 per cent) in non-metro areas.

NBN Co’s CEO, Bill Morrow, said that they were proud to announce the progress NBN Co has made.

“With our aim to help bridge the digital divide and see that Australians, regardless of location, have access to fast broadband, we are proud today to announce that the rollout of the nbn access network to regional Australia is on the home stretch,” Mr Morrow said.

“We have seen a massive improvement in regional internet access, with our wholesale broadband services offering more competition, faster speeds and even giving some Australians internet access for the first time.

“Our research shows that this connectivity revolution is spurring rapid growth in the digital economy and regional businesses, which may lead to further migration away from cities to regional hotspots. For example, we have seen Newcastle diversify itself from a focus on steel to tech start-ups and similar pivots in mining towns like Ballarat.

“We are now halfway through our target of connecting eight million homes and businesses by 2020, and we will be working hard to finalise the build and connect the rest across the next few years.”

Mark Harvey-Sutton, Policy Director, National Farmers’ Federation and Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition, was also pleased with the progress of communications technology and the impact this would have on farming communities.

“This is very welcome news for Australia’s farmers. It has been a long time coming and we have been waiting for the digital divide to close. There is huge potential for the agriculture sector coming from increased connectivity as well as improved lifestyle benefits like running a business and keeping your kids at home so they can do their education in a more efficient manner.” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.

Lauren ‘LJ’ Butler is the Assistant Editor of Utility magazine and has been part of the team at Monkey Media since 2018.

After completing a Bachelor of Media, Communications and Professional Writing at the University of Wollongong in 2014, and prior to writing about the utility sector, LJ worked as a Journalist and Sub Editor across the horticulture, hardware, power equipment, construction and accommodation industries with publishers such as Glenvale Publications, Multimedia Publishing and Bean Media Group.

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