A new study has found that a combination of low internet penetration, poor network quality, and slow speeds can make it difficult for people with internet problems to get a good connection.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, is the first to examine the effect of internet speeds on the quality of internet connections and the likelihood of people with Internet problems getting them.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco used a data set of more than 11,000 Australians to analyse the quality and availability of internet services in Australia, from fixed broadband to mobile broadband.
The researchers used data from the Australian National Broadband Network (ANB), which was launched in February, as well as data from three different Australian state-owned broadband networks.
They compared these three networks to data from a separate dataset, from the internet provider Optus, which was released in March.
The team found that the availability of fixed broadband was significantly lower in rural areas than in metropolitan areas, and that there was a significant difference in broadband quality between rural and urban areas.
They also found that people with poor internet connections were more likely to have difficulty getting access to a high-speed internet connection than those with good internet connections.
The analysis also found differences in broadband availability between rural residents and those in the urban centres.
The findings highlight the need for better broadband networks in rural and regional areas, says lead researcher Michael Chia, a professor of information technology at the university.
“In many places, the network providers are not capable of delivering fast broadband to their customers,” Chia told New Scientist.
“People have no access to high-quality broadband.
They have no internet service at all.”
The findings of this research highlight the lack of infrastructure for the provision of high-capacity broadband to rural and remote Australians, and highlights the need to provide more high-bandwidth infrastructure for these areas, Chia says.
The results are also important for the development of a national broadband network, he says.
“If you have a network that is able to deliver high-end services, then it will be a big plus for the economy.”
While the findings are important, Chiang says the researchers have yet to find a way to make high-definition broadband available to people in remote areas.
“We need to get the infrastructure for high-resolution broadband to be available to remote areas,” he says, “and this will be the challenge of the next decade.”
The researchers also found some evidence that rural people were not as likely to use fixed broadband as those in urban areas, although this was not statistically significant.
“The research shows that people are able to get broadband on their mobile phones, but the internet is still a bottleneck in rural Australia,” Chiang said.
The research team will now study the effect that internet service providers have on the availability and quality of their networks.
“There is still more to do to develop better broadband and services,” Chiam says.
Chiang will be speaking at the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) Communications and Communications Technology (CCT) conference in Melbourne next month.