When rural internet users woke up on Sunday, not only were they adjusting to the reality of different times zones and daylight savings, but they were getting used to having more internet data at their fingertips.
After a school holiday period filled with “screenagers” downloading and using up monthly allowances, the introduction on October 1 of nbn co’s promised increase in maximum monthly data limits and peak downloads on the Sky Muster satellite service was welcomed with open arms around the bush.
“Children can come home from uni in a study week and work from home,” is what Andrew Shepherd told the Better Internet for Rural Regional and Remote Australia Facebook group he was happy about.
For Lindsay MacDonald at Blackall, the pleasure was in not having to wake up after 1am to update devices, do banking and so on.
“It will relieve stress caused by fear of being shaped and unable to access the internet,” she said.
Christie Gavel said she would be able to continue studying online for her Bachelor of Education degree, not only feeling comfortable she shouldn’t be shaped, but pleased she wouldn’t have to constantly ask her children to not enjoy their own devices or leave their own study for school time only.
They are among the 240,000 homes and businesses in regional and remote Australia that can now access new peak and off peak packages of up to 300GB of maximum data per month through phone and internet providers, thanks to the provision of extra capacity on the satellite service.
The announcement was made in June, following intense disappointment at the limited capacity offered following the Sky Muster satellite broadband service launch in 2015.
While welcoming the announcement at the time, BIRRR co-founder Kristy Sparrow said the ball was in the court of retail service providers to pass on the extra data to consumers.
“We’re urging the RSPs to really have a think about the plans and make sure they meet regional Australians’ internet needs in terms of costs and the data limits,” she said in June.
This week she said the majority of providers had launched new plans from the start of October to take advantage of the increased allowances.
“While previous limits, which sat well below ‘average Australian household usage’, saw many rural, regional and remote Australians being ‘shaped’ for exceeding ‘on peak’ limits, the new plan offerings are so far being received well by members of the BIRRR group,” Kristy said.
“The previous maximum, 75GB peak, was inadequate for the multiple needs of rural customers.”
According to Peter Gurney, the general manager of nbn community affairs, Sky Muster users needed to acknowledge the service by its nature had a finite amount of data and so there would always be a fair use policy in place.
“We want people to have a good experience and that will ensure they’ll get good speeds,” he said.
“Average household usage is 120GB a month across all technologies, so Sky Muster users are now more in line with where the community is. They’re starting to have good parity with metropolitan counterparts.”
Mr Gurney said he was keen for people to understand how to use off-peak scheduling, saying that a rural and remote information hub was planned for the nbn co website in a couple of months, filled with similar tips and tricks for fixed wireless and Sky Muster users.
He advised people to shop around and find a package that suited their needs.
Kristy noted that some of the recommendations in the report put forward by the nbn Joint Standing Committee last week included a regional and remote reference group, and for Sky Muster’s data limits to be linked to average Australian fixed line use.
“This link is key to ensuring that rural, regional and remote Australians are not further left behind when it comes to accessing reasonable and reliable internet to conduct their businesses, education, social and recreational activities,” she said.