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COVID accelerates increase in internet use

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The COVID-19 pandemic has helped drive rapid growth in Australians' online activity, increasing data downloads and heightening demand for high-speed internet plans, according to recently released research from the ACMA.

The research, which explores telecommunications trends, showed there were 8.2 million active broadband connections in Australia as of June 2021, up 11% on the previous year.

It also revealed considerable growth in data traffic, with Australians downloading a total of 9.8 million terabytes of data in the three months to June 2021, a 20% increase compared to June last year.

The shift towards digital communications over the last two years has resulted in unprecedented reliance on telecommunications.

Almost half of NBN plan upgrades in 2020–21 were due to people working from home needing better support.

The research showed that Australians were increasingly turning to the internet for a range of everyday activities, including work, accessing services, banking and shopping. Some 45% of internet users worked online from home in the first half of 2021, with those in full-time employment most likely to do so.

Meanwhile, 41% of internet users accessed telehealth consultations in this period, 92% reported doing their banking online, and 85% had made an online purchase.

While older Australians continue to trail younger people in their online engagement, internet use among those aged over 55 grew significantly from over the previous two years.

Some 98% of older Australians are now online, up from 76% in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Despite increased demands on Australia’s broadband network, the research suggested that consumer satisfaction with their telco services remained mostly the same or higher during 2020–21.

The three reports from the Communications and media in Australia research series are available on the ACMA website – Trends and developments in telecommunications 2020–21, and the interactive reports, How we communicate and How we use the internet.

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