NBN Co recently announced it will establish a AU$150 million financial relief and assistance fund to help internet providers support their residential and small and medium business customers affected by COVID-19.
The relief fund is aimed at helping internet providers connect low-income households with home schooling needs, supporting emergency and essential services, and assisting small and medium businesses and residential customers who are facing financial hardship. The consultation involved more than 50 internet providers, government and consumer group Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) and identified specific customer segments that require immediate support.
Approximately $50 million will be directed to helping internet providers support low-income households with school-aged children who do not currently have an active NBN connection at home. NBN Co will also be implementing relief measures to help internet providers support struggling households and small and medium businesses stay connected during this pandemic, and has created a support package for essential and emergency services, which focusses on providing internet providers higher speeds for telehealth providers, enhanced service levels, and prioritised connections and fault resolution via case management through NBN Co’s Business Operations Centre through this period of increased demand.
The package also extends to supporting small and medium businesses by providing internet providers with discounted access to new connections of specified wholesale business-grade products to help them to maintain or re-establish their businesses, once this crisis passes.
Commenting on the initiative, NBN Co Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Rue said: “We know that access to broadband services has never been more important…[and NBN Co] has an important role to play in supporting internet providers connecting families with remote schooling needs for their children and keeping Australian households, businesses, and essential services including telehealth, connected, as announced by Minister Paul Fletcher recently.”
Residential and business financial relief measures:
- To help unconnected low-income families with school children get connected, NBN Co will waive its $37 monthly wholesale charge for internet providers for many services on the 25/5 Mbps speed tier between April and September.
- Funds will be allocated for internet providers to help residential and small and medium business customers who are struggling to pay their monthly bill because they have been impacted by COVID-19. The measures are directly aimed at helping them stay connected during this period of uncertainty.
- NBN Co is introducing a range of measures to build resilience for essential and emergency services, and telehealth providers as online demand for these services grows. To help ensure service continuity, NBN Co will offer internet providers enhanced service levels, and prioritised connections and fault resolutions for these customers via case management.
- To further support the expected increase in telehealth activity, internet providers will be offered support to grant health providers that have basic or standard NBN services upgrades to eligible higher speed tiers at no additional charge.
- NBN Co will also provide financial support to internet providers for new connections of specified business-grade services, helping businesses re-establish themselves when the pandemic passes.
CEO of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), Teresa Corbin, welcomed the announcement as an important step towards ensuring that there is no Australian left offline during the challenging months to come, adding: “The internet is an essential service for work, study, and accessing government and telehealth services. NBN Co is to be applauded for laying the groundwork to keep struggling families and households connected during this difficult time. We hope to see the nation’s retail service providers build on these foundations to deliver financial relief to those in need.”