The Australian government has announced plans to tax non-NBN users as a means of funding NBN costs.
Under the bill, announced by Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, households and businesses not using the NBN will be hit with a $7.10 monthly fee. That’s $85 Over the course of the year.
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The proceeds of that tax would be used to fund the future costs of commercially nonviable parts of the NBN network, and reduce reliance on the federal budget.
The bill, if passed, would see Australians taxed from July 2020. It was first introduced in 2018.
“The money collected from the base component of the charge would be used to fund the losses NBN Co incurs in constructing and operating its fixed wireless and satellite networks, replacing the company’s opaque internal cross-subsidy from its fixed line networks,” Fletcher said on Thursday.
Shadow minister Michelle Rowland responded by describing the bill as one supporting a levy with a primary purpose of reducing competition.
She also noted that Fletcher in September said the government would “boost competition” among networks.
“At a time of uncertainty, the last thing the industry needs is a minister who says one thing and then does another,” Rowland said.
The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance has also come out swinging, criticising the plan as one that penalises Australians for wanting to use an internet service that works.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in October announced it would investigate the affordability of basic NBN plans, due to concerns that the NBN Co’s wholesale pricing structure was forcing consumers with no desire for higher speed plans out of the market, due to the associated higher costs.
“Most consumers have no choice but to migrate to the NBN if they want to keep their home service active, but are at risk of not being able to obtain a comparable NBN service at a similar price to their ADSL service,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
The ACCC first sounded the alarm in April after the NBN’s pricing changes saw many basic plans cut, and also voiced concerns over the NBN’s use of discounts to deliver cheaper prices, before withdrawing the discounts.
“This lack of certainty creates unnecessary risks that may ultimately be passed on to consumers, who may face higher prices and reduced quality and product offerings as a result,” Sims said.
According to ATA policy director, Emilie Dye, the NBN is a “$51 billion mess” created by the government.
“Now in a misguided attempt to pay for the disaster and punish the Australians who refuse to use a broken internet system, the government is charging taxpayers an additional $7.10 on their internet each month,” said.
“Policy makers believe the new tax will incentivise at least a few schmucks to switch to their faulty internet. A few people will switch. But in reality this policy prices the poorest Australians out of working internet and onto a failed government substitute.”
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