The rollout of the National Broadband Network continues, with nbn Australia patting itself on the back recently having hit the target of having a third of the country ready, with quarterly revenues hitting $181 million. That's worth celebrating, no?
Turns out a large quantity of Australians are largely blasé about the whole deal. Research from finder.com.au found that of the Australians who don't currently have a connection, 31 per cent aren't fussed about getting one. Thirteen per cent haven't even bothered to check and 7 per cent don't even know how to check when the NBN might be coming to their homes.
While the rollout is national, Victorians are the most likely to have not bothered to connect up even when an NBN service is available, while folks in Western Australia are the least likely to know how to check service availability or NBN future plans. While those are survey results, they dovetail nicely with nbn's own figures that suggest that nearly two million households are NBN-ready but are yet to actually connect. Clearly, something is up with how we perceive the entire NBN project, and it's not hard to see what it is.
It's not so much to do with technology, or indeed our appetite for broadband. With the rise of services such as Netflix, Australians are consuming data like never before, and that's leaving aside any and all economic benefits of fast broadband.
It's because the NBN has, since its inception, been a massive political football with errors all around no matter which side of politics you barrack for. We've heard the hype over and over again, and around a third of us are either confused by it or sick of it, and quite likely both.
What's been left is a national mess that's been hyped, pushed, pushed back, redesigned and redeployed multiple times to the point that "NBN" could stand for any one of seven different technologies that might end up providing your broadband tomorrow, or maybe not until 2020, and that's assuming no further wrinkles in the overall rollout schedule. History suggests that's an optimistic view, to put it politely.
Understanding the nuances of seven different connection methodologies is fine for technology geeks like me, but for the average punter who just wants to watch the latest Netflix Marvel series without endless buffering, it's baffling and irritating in equal measure.
Australians are keen adopters of new technology, but the promises of the NBN — both in its original fibre-for-everyone incarnation and its "everyone will have 25Mbps by 2016" redesigned version — have failed to reach their well-publicised goals to date. Even the failures have been fodder for political point scoring, and if you spend enough years telling someone that a project is a pig, eventually everything starts smelling like rancid bacon. That's sad given the potential economic impact of fast ubiquitous broadband, but that's undoubtedly the reason for the widespread apathy.
Naturally, some of those who don't know or haven't connected (even if they're able to) might not care about internet connectivity at all, but the reality is that the NBN rollout is a replacement for your phone line as well, whether you like it or not.
There's a grace period where NBN technologies and landlines will coexist, but if you're not ready and prepared, you could well find yourself racing to line up somebody to manage the connections for you lest you lose even basic connectivity. For some Australians that cutoff is already occurring, and for some it won't be for a few years, but not even knowing when it's likely is apathy that will have very real consequences for you very soon indeed.