news An extensive survey of residents in the early stage National Broadband Network rollout zone in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick has shown that 89 percent backed the NBN as a “good idea”, even if they hadn’t immediately signed up to use the project’s fibre infrastructure.
The survey was contained in a report, High-speed Broadband and Household Media Ecologies: A Report on the Household Take-up and Adoption of the National Broadband Network in a First Release Site, which was put together last year by the University of Melbourne and the Swinburne University of Technology using funding from an independent grants scheme operated by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network. It is available online in full now. The study initially surveyed some 282 households in late 2011 and in mid-2012 followed up with a survey to 102 households from the initial set. All 2,600 households in the Brunswick early stage area were initially approached with door to door canvassing.
One aspect of the survey sought to examine views on the NBN project as a whole, with 82 percent of surveyed households agreeing or strongly agreeing that the NBN was a “good idea”. The percentages were higher amongst those who had already signed up to use the NBN’s infrastructure, but even the vast majority of those currently using ADSL and wireless broadband solutions in Brunswick believed the NBN was a good idea.
“When asked why they thought the NBN was or was not a good idea, the most common reason people thought the NBN was a good idea related to the Internet service it would provide, with 24% saying because it would be faster and 18% saying it would be better quality Internet,” the report stated.
“The second largest set of reasons for support of the NBN related more to national benefits across a range of factors, including building an infrastructure for all Australians (14%), which would be beneficial for the future (11%), would improve national productivity (8%), and would help us maintain global competitiveness (6%). Other reasons noted were the importance for connecting and including rural Australia (5%) and keeping up to date with developments in technology and innovation (5%).”
“In contrast to this raft of positive reasons for supporting the NBN, a small percentage of respondents had negative views, with 6% thinking it was either too costly or a misdirected use of government funding, while 2% thought the project itself was too complex and suffering delays (see Figure 36).”
The survey adds to a number of other recent surveys and studies which have demonstrated enduring support for the NBN project amongst Australians in general. A similar study published in October 2012 (also by Swinburne) asked the question: ‘Do you think the development of the National Broadband Network is a good idea?’ According to the report, 35 percent strongly agreed with the proposition, and 32 percent agreed. Some 13 percent sat in the middle with an answer of ‘neither’, while 13 percent disagreed, and 7 percent strongly disagreed.
A similar survey taken in 2009, when the NBN policy was in its infancy, found that a higher percentage – 43 percent – strongly agreed, while 32 percent agreed, 17 percent sat in the middle, and 5 percent and 4 percent disagreed and strongly disagreed respectively. This may indicate that the Coalition’s ongoing criticism of the NBN has had some impact on the project’s popularity, with the amount of Australians strongly agreeing with the project slipping, although the project as a whole remains popular with the majority of Australians.
Another poll taken in February 2012 showed similar strong results for the NBN. The poll was taken by Australian social and market research company Your Source. The organisation sends out between 7,000 and 8,000 invitations to respond to each poll it conducts, from which it usually receives about 1,000 responses.
In February 2012 the company polled its audience with the following question: “From what you’ve heard, do you favour or oppose the planned National Broadband Network (NBN)”? The response displayed an enduring level of support for the NBN, with 56 percent of total respondents supporting the NBN in total, compared with 25 percent opposed and 19 percent stating that they didn’t know.
Just 10 percent of those polled strongly opposed the NBN, while 20 percent strongly favoured the project. Amongst Labor and Greens voters who responded to the poll, support was the strongest, with 80 percent and 77 percent supporting the initiative, 42 percent of Coalition voters supported it.
Over the preceding 14 months before the poll was taken, Your Source has asked respondents the same question on three other occasions, with respondents displaying a very similar support rate for the project — ranging from 48 to 56 percent. Those opposing the project have ranged from 19 percent of respondents to 27 percent.
The polling echoes internal Coalition research. A landmark internal report handed down in mid-2011 into the Coalition’s loss in the 2010 Federal Election highlighted a failure to adequately respond to Labor’s flagship National Broadband Network plan as a key reason for losing valuable votes, especially in the sensitive Tasmanian electorate, which is receiving the network before the rest of the nation.
The majority of the report did not mention the NBN, but one section quoted extensively from a similar report produced last year by Sydney academic Julian Leeser into the Tasmanian leg of the election, which has been reported in brief.
“The failure to properly explain the Liberal Party’s broadband policy and the Labor Party’s effective scare campaign was a major cause of the party’s failure to win seats in Tasmania,” the report states. “This was the nearly universal review of people making submissions to the review and is borne out by research undertaken by the Liberal Party. In the view of many, the party’s policy amounted to a threat to come into people’s homes and rip the Internet out of the wall.”
The survey also demonstrated a number of other trends amongst residents of the Brunswick early stage NBN rollout area. For starters, the research results showed that there is a relationship between NBN uptake and household composition, ownership, and income. First adopters of the NBN are much more likely to be households with children than those without children, are more likely to have higher incomes than those with ADSL, and are much more likely to be households who own their home rather than rent.
Secondly, although there were early issues regarding NBN take-up in the area (primarily due to issues such as dealing with unfamiliar technology, the in-development nature of NBN Co’s installation process, confusion about the nature of NBN Co as a wholesale provider and the fact that landlords (not residents) needed to provide approval for installation), many of these early issues have now been resolved in the area.
NBN households in the area appeared to primarily be motivated by speed to take up the infrastructure, with those not opting for the network citing the perceived costs of doing so or satisfaction with their current telecommunications plans. However, once households did take up the NBN, they were more likely to make greater use of the Internet and more likely to engage in more sophisticated online activities. NBN-connected households were also twice as likely to be used as placed of work than other households.
“Our research suggests that the personal value proposition of the NBN is its speed and its data capacity, which is perceived to be associated with increased participation in the digital economy for both work and leisure,” the report found. “NBN households also believe the NBN is of national value and can help to play an important role in building the productivity and competitiveness of the national economy, and in providing for universal digital inclusion.”
We’ve now seen quite a few detailed reports showing that Labor’s NBN project is overwhelmingly popular in the electorate, and the evidence from early stage rollout zones such as Brunswick also shows that the more Australians know about the NBN, the more likely they are to support it. In May I wrote:
“An overwhelming body of evidence is gradually being accumulated that Australia’s population as a whole is staunchly in support of the NBN. Views on this matter are not divided; research has consistently shown that the policy is very popular and that most Australians in all areas agree the project should go ahead.
Now, I’m not going to say that the Coalition has to do everything the population says, should it win government. Clearly, sometimes a Government needs to enact an unpopular policy because it’s the right thing to do. But such overwhelming support does mean that the Coalition needs to produce a higher burden of proof for why the NBN policy as a whole should be substantially modified.”
These comments have been true for quite a while and continue to be true.
Image credit: Taken from the report mentioned in the article.