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There has been much skepticism surrounding the potential effectiveness and economic impact of the Australian National broadband Network (NBN) and debate around the function it will play for small businesses. And it is easy to feel this concern grow when politicians throw words like ‘prosperity’, ‘productivity’ and ‘innovation’ around without actual numbers stacked behind them.
So it is of some relief that the University of Melbourne has released a new report boasting that the NBN will see small businesses contribute an additional $4 billion to the Australian economy each year. But it is important to look at how this report’s projections stack up in the ongoing NBN rollout saga.
The ‘Economic Benefit of the National Broadband Network’ report reveals much of what we have already been told. The report states that upon completion of the rollout Aussie business owners will be able to benefit from a new wave of digital services which will change the way they interact with suppliers and customers while lower their business costs. But there remains little deep research or analysis on the way the network will potentially enable new revenue and business opportunities.
“Australian businesses are adaptable and resilient – we readily embrace new ideas, new technologies and new ways of working. Access to the NBN network will open up opportunities for small business owners in our growing digital services driven economy,” said Bernard Salt, demographer.
The commentary surrounding the NBN tends to centre around the ways it will potentially drive productivity, improve service quality and allow global market expansion. But on the other hand many critics have been quick to point out that it’s not all good news. What is rarely mentioned is that the NBN rollout will increase competitive pressures on small businesses, particularly in regional areas.
“For regional Australian businesses, it has the benefit of providing greater flexibility and access to global markets,” added Ben Salmon, the Executive General Manager of Business for NBN.
For the past ten years, Australians have already seen the ways that mobile broadband have driven customers online. So it is of no surprise that the predominant impact of the NBN for small businesses will surround increased access to online services including the a major drive towards e-commerce which could see more customers using services from overseas retailers.
There are almost 2 million homes and businesses around Australia which can already connect to the NBN network, with rollout to 8 million users to be completed by 2020.