The NBN discourse so far has been dominated by technical and policy details surrounding the $36 billion network. Meanwhile, consumers and businesses have overlooked in terms of providing basic information to these end-users.
ATUG viewed this as a major issue requiring swift action from the Government.
While NBN Co has committed to a public information campaign, there are concerns the Government-owned company has been burdened with work beyond its scope as a wholesale-only broadband service provider.
“There is a role, particularly for local government and regional development organisations to play, in engaging people [with the NBN],” ATUG managing director, Rosemary Sinclair, told a parliamentary hearing.
She noted a number of elderly people were interested in using the Internet but need somebody to show them how. This example highlights the need for NBN consumer education resources.
The way to make NBN information easily accessible for consumers and encourage higher service uptake is to use non-profit community-based organisations to engage various end-user groups, according to Sinclair.
“Using the not-for-profit sector is a very good idea because they engage more with the disadvantaged members of the community,” she said. “Once this sector is enabled to play this role, I’m sure they would be happy to do it.”
Enabling these organisations means more funding from the Government.
Along with not-for-profit players, local libraries and even Australia Post could get involved with being the go-to points for consumers looking for NBN help, Sinclair said.
“It’s a matter of finding touch points where the community goes with confidence and thinking through what role these organisations might play,” she said.
At the parliamentary hearing, Communications Alliance also raised concerns over consumer confusion caused by the transition to NBN.
“For many consumers, they will face a more complex matrix of decisions as they try to manage their migration on a fibre-based platform,” Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, said. “It is potentially much more complicated than switching over to digital TV and the Government has supported the digital switchover with very significant financial commitment.”
Communications Alliance wants to see the Government provide more funding to supporting consumer NBN migration.
The Australian Communications and Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) recently launched a new document to educate consumers on the NBN. According to Communciations Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, the NBN: Guide for Consumers weeds out the “geek talk” surrounding the network and details the benefits NBN will bring.