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Digitisation essential for competitiveness post-COVID: Ombudsman welcomes NBN’s $700m free SMB upgrades

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has welcomed NBN Co’s $700 million plan to support small business innovation.

Under the three-year plan, NBN Co has pledged to build fibre optic cable to business premises free of charge and make business-grade fibre services more affordable.

“1.4 million businesses across Australia are now eligible to have fibre installed to their premises at no cost,” Ms Carnell says.

“Of those – about 700,000 business in 240 business fibre zones – many of which are high streets in regional areas – are also eligible for cheaper plans.

“In fact, point-to-point fibre on demand infrastructure will be made available in 85 regional zones, giving small businesses in those areas greater choice.

“According to NBN Co, plans to improve affordability could see internet bills as much as halved for small businesses on business grade plans. This will come as a welcome relief, particularly those small businesses struggling in this COVID crisis.

“Internet access is essential to the vast majority of small businesses, so it is important for retail providers such as Telstra, Optus and TPG to co-operate and pass these savings on.

“This also acts as an incentive to small businesses to ensure they have a digital presence, at a time when more consumers are shopping online.

“A recently released survey of more than 1000 Australians conducted on behalf of NBN Co, revealed close to half (49%) of respondents had increased their online shopping during the pandemic shutdown period and 70% have been consciously supporting local businesses online.

“It revealed more than two thirds of those surveyed wanted to support more local businesses, however they were restricted by the limited digital presence.

“COVID-19 has delivered a harsh lesson that small businesses can’t rely on outdated business models and brick-and-mortar stores anymore.

“Digitisation is now essential for a small business to be truly competitive.

“PwC modelling estimates small businesses could unlock more than $49 billion of private sector output over a decade by adopting better use of mobile and internet technologies. More than half of this benefit could be realised in rural and regional Australia.”

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