Access to the Internet is becoming increasingly important. Many businesses are Internet only, including those that provide products and services for other businesses. And many employers are going to websites like Elance, and oDesk to do their hiring, especially for short-term projects. So, the lack of Internet access not only makes life harder for the average individual, but also for businesses and the nation’s economy.

Australia’s new broadband network (NBN) will provide high-speed broadband access for every home and every business in the country.  According to the NBN website, 93% of the nation’s homes, businesses and schools will have “high-speed fibre optic network cable that will provide broadband speeds up to one gigabit per second.” The other 7%, those who are in outlying areas, will have a “combination of fixed-wireless and satellite technologies providing peak speeds of 12 megabits per second.”

What this means for Australian residents is increased opportunities. They will have the option to telecommute or work remotely for clients anywhere in the world. They will have access to education in the form of online colleges and universities, or if their local colleges or universities offer online degree programs, broadband access will make that option available, too. They will be able to shop online, engage with friends and family via social media and communicate via email.

What this means for Australian businesses is the ability to compete in a global marketplace. They will have access to customers and vendors from around the world. They will have the option of using outsourcing sites like Elance, and oDesk to hire temporary employees or independent contractors. This is especially important for small businesses and non-profits with limited budgets. Employers can offer telecommuting opportunities to their employees or hire new employees who work remotely. “The government will provide $12.4 million over three years to a Digital Enterprise initiative to assist small-to-medium enterprises and not-for-profit organisations (including local cultural organisations) in the 40 communities that will first benefit from the NBN,” according to the NBN site.

The NBN service is already available in Armidale, NSW; Kiama Downs/Minnamurra, NSW; Brunswick, Vic; Townsville, Qld; Willunga, SA; Midway Point, Tas; Scottsdale, Tas; and Smithton, Tas. Many service providers have already established pricing structures for providing broadband, voice and bundled services. The good news is that people can stay with their current service providers or choose new ones.

For the environmentally conscious, the new broadband network will support applications that encourage people to make more efficient use of water, energy, transportation and infrastructure. This is important because Australia’s population has grown at a rate of 1.4% annually for the past 40 years to the approximately 22.4 million living there today. For example, NBN Co estimates that 120,000,000 litres of fuel could be saved annually if the number of Australians who telecommute increased by just 10%.

Access to Australia’s new broadband network will come at a cost, of course. But it will provide greater opportunities for residents to find work and for businesses to compete in a global marketplace, which in the long run, will bode well for the nation’s economy.

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