Wheatbelt small businesses report low internet quality

Twenty-five percent of Wheatbelt small businesses have poor internet compared to just 11 percent in Perth, according to a report by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre. 

The reported titled, Falling Though the Net: The Digital Divide in Western Australia, revealed a divide between people in major cities and those who live in rural and remote areas despite an increase of internet acess over the last decade. 

Report author Professor Alan Duncan said the divide is primarily due to the lack of sufficient infrastructure. 

“Across very remote parts of Australia, only 69 per cent of households have access to the internet, although WA is punching above its weight on this front, with 83 per cent of very remote households connected,” he said.

The BCEC Small Business Survey highlights that internet quality and coverage does vary significantly between Western Australia’s regions.

“The report found 26 per cent of small businesses in the South West and Pilbara regions rated the quality of their internet infrastructure as low, compared with 25 per cent in the Wheatbelt and only 11 per cent in Perth,” said report co-author Dr Daniel Kiely.

“Poor internet access presents a particular challenge for businesses in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector, with 27 per cent rating the quality of both mobile and internet services as low.

“In the Gascoyne, 24.9 per cent of small businesses rated the quality of broadband as low, while another 16.8 per cent rated the quality as very high, suggesting a sharp divide between the broadband services available to businesses within the same region.”

The report found 19.2 per cent of small business owners in WA rated their internet as low quality. 

The volume of data downloaded by Australians has increased by more than 500 per cent in five years and report researchers said competition is expected to improve quality and reduce prices, thereby reducing digital inequality.

Key findings:

  • 8 out of 10 of households in WA’s most remote regions access the internet. This compares to 7 out of 10 households in the most remote areas of NSW and SA.
  • A larger share of internet users in remote areas of WA access the internet for health services, social media, and for purchasing goods and services, compared to those in urban centres.
  • Across WA, 20 per cent of small business owners rated their broadband as very high quality and 19.2 per cent rated broadband or internet as low quality.
  • 26 per cent of small businesses in the South West and Pilbara regions rated the quality of their internet infrastructure as low, compared with 25 per cent in the Wheatbelt and only 11 per cent in Perth.
  • The agriculture, forestry and fishing industry has the largest share (27 per cent) of small businesses rating both their mobile and internet services as low.