Renters facing a huge digital divide… thanks to the NBN

I’m surprised no one has mentioned this before (ok course they have, but I just haven’t seen it).  In a flash of inspiration from a Delimiter article re the NBN roll out in Tasmania being Opt Out, not Opt in, I realised we are on the verge of a massive new digital divide.

This new divide will between home owners and renters. If you rent a house and the landlord hasn’t got the Fibre connected to your house and your landlord doesn’t get tech you are basically screwed.  Say the cost of connection is $200 and you have to pay it when you move in, you still run the risk that 6 months into your lease the house gets sold out from underneath you.  Then you are up for the $200, plus breaking your 12month or 24 month plan, reconnection fees when you move.  So that one connection could cost you $500 before you even blink.

Think about your own landlord for a minute, what if they own more than one house are they going to stump up the cash to get them all connected.  Most of us have horror stories of landlords not fixing the basics in a house let alone paying for something new.

In my current place I am lucky, my landlord would, but then he is a techie so of course he helped me try and fix noise issues on the ADSL.  How many landlords fall into this category, very very few I would say.

If my house was a unit and my landlord got the need for the NBN but no one else on the strata title did… they even in the best case scenario I am still out of luck.

The NBN has the prospect of creating a whole new generation of digital natives that work in real time across the country or the world.  A technology that like ADSL before it, break down the barriers to entry for many fields.  Yet we run the risk that those who are least able to afford it will be left even further behind.  (At least with ADSL, the phone is connected already). Unlike Finland which has made broadband access a right, we are still arguing as a nation whether we need it or not.

With uptake rates being bandied about around the 30% mark, what hope will those that cannot afford their own home (even those of half decent wages these days!) have of being connected.

I know in the future I will look at houses and one of the key things will be its connection to the NBN, but what about those left behind!

The government is happy to say that up to 93% of the populace will be connected.  That is wrong.  Unless the fibre is taken into the house, that 93% are potential customers only, not actual. Having a phone line is taken as a given, but unless the government does something serious about the connections the divide will not only exist as it does today it will increase.

Now overtime this may become less of an issue as more and more houses are connected,  but that could be 10 years plus.  10 years in digital years is a century of being out of touch.

Even if the govt doesn’t make the NBN opt out (which it should!), at least look at issues like this.  Perhaps a one of tax break would be enough to encourage landlords to take the plunge and then little by little we can break down the barriers to entry.

3 Responses to “Renters facing a huge digital divide… thanks to the NBN”

  1. “Say the cost of connection is $200 and you have to pay it when you move in, you still run the risk that 6 months into your lease the house gets sold out from underneath you.”

    We had houses sold from under us three times in 28 months when we first moved back to FNQ and the property boom was still happening. By the third house we decided it wasn’t worth unpacking our suitcases let alone our boxes.


    Telstra’s copper will be phased out. Yeah, it won’t be instant but people will no more be left without fibre than they’re now left without phones. It’ll take a while. Some people won’t take it up immediately – they’ll be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. For five – maybe even ten – years there will be a disparity, just as in the early days (when 56k modems were just becoming the norm) cable modems and early ADSL created a disparity. Adoption of technology takes time. I’m not so concerned.

  3. Unlike the phone cable which is already supplied to the overwhelming majority, the Fibre isn’t. And while yes telstra will be swapping people over the fibre in the long run, the gap is the issue. The Modem and Router which you still need for fibre is like ADSL, but unlike the ADSL which already has the cable to the house, fibre is an extra cost.

    As I said 10 years in digital terms is a huge difference. A difference that would be very hard to overcome in many cases.

    And I am sure that like me Michael (renting or not) you’ll be signing up to the NBN pretty damn quick smart 🙂

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