Figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that broadband use in Australia is booming, according to the federal ICT Minister, Senator Helen Coonan.
The report entitled "Internet Activity Survey" shows 3.91 million Australians are subscribing to broadband compared to 2.75 million for dial-up connections.
This represents an increase of 1.8 million broadband subscribers from March 2005 to September 2006.
Commenting on the report, Senator Coonan said broadband subscribers represent 59 per cent of the total number of Internet subscribers in September 2006 compared to 30 per cent in March 2005.
Wireless technology (mobile and fixed) is also showing growth with 4.8 per cent of broadband subscribers using wireless.
However, Shadow ICT Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, said the statistics show Australia is a broadband backwater when compared with the rest of the world.
Conroy said Australia is ranked 17 out of 30 countries surveyed by the OECD for take-up of 256kbps broadband.
According to the ABS report, 6.65 million Australians were Internet subscribers (826 000 businesses and 5.83 million households) at the end of the September 2006 quarter.
"The World Economic Forum ranks Australia 25th in the world in terms of available Internet bandwidth and Australia's 'Networked Readiness' at 15th and falling," Conroy said.
"A recent World Bank study confirms that Australia has access to some of the slowest broadband in the developed world; in light of yesterday's collapse of Telstra's plans to roll out a fibre to the node network and the complete lack of leadership shown by the Howard government there is also little hope that these figures will turn around.
"Unless the Howard government finally shows some leadership on broadband infrastructure, it's likely that Australia will still be trailing the world in broadband the next time the Census comes around in five years time."
Conroy said the federal government's very own Broadband Advisory Group has stated that "next generation broadband could produce economic benefits of $12-30 billion per annum to Australia.
The federal government has allocated $1.1 billion to the Connect Australia package and $2 billion to the Communications Fund to provide the platform for investment in next generation broadband infrastructure.