Affordable internet for older Australians

A new study released by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has revealed that older Australians believe the internet is too expensive to use. Drew investigates how much it really costs and how to make it more affordable.

Authored by Dr Sandra Haukka of QUT, the study surveyed a group of 149 Australians aged 50 years and older. The major findings included:
– 53 per cent of participants said their interest in the internet was ‘moderate’ or ‘above’, while 46 per cent said their interest was ‘nil’ or ‘low’.
– Almost two-thirds of participants said they had ‘very low’ internet skills.
– More than 40 per cent of participants said cost was a barrier to using the internet.
– One-third (34 per cent) of participants said the internet would improve their daily life.

Low-cost internet connection
Low-cost internet does not always refer to dial-up connections. ONESeniors provides inexpensive internet plans for Australians on a pension. Whether you are looking for a mobile broadband modem to plug into your laptop, or are simply a light internet user, ONESeniors can provide you with 500Mb of downloads for just $10 per month. The modem itself is free – all you have to pay for is the $16.50 delivery fee.

For those looking for something more permanent and with a higher download limit, ADSL broadband plans start from just $29.95 per month with unlimited downloads.

That comes to $0.33 per day for mobile broadband or $1 per day for ADSL services. These become cheaper if you decide to bundle your home phone, mobile and ADSL services into one plan.

“There are serious negative impacts for those without access to the internet, such as the inability to access Centrelink, which is shifting more and more of its services online, or obtaining their health records from Australia’s e-health record system when it becomes widely available in July 2012.” Dr Haukka said.

Free internet access outside the home
In 2008, the Australian Government implemented a program called ‘Broadband for Seniors’ which has enabled 2000 internet kiosks to be installed around Australia, providing free internet access to Australian Seniors. The Government announced the continuation of funding earlier this year until at least 30 June 2015.
Find a free internet kiosk in your area.

Unfortunately, not every suburb, especially in regional areas, will have a free Broadband for Seniors kiosk nearby. For people in areas without a kiosk, your local library is a great place to access the internet for free.

“Many seniors told us they need one-on-one help, more cheap classes, equipment, a helpline and clear instructions,” Dr Haukka said.

Computer clubs and learning
With 158 computer clubs listed, the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association is the best place to start looking for computer help and inexpensive computer courses. The Kingston U3A, for example, costs $40 for an annual membership and computer courses cost $5 per session.

Low-cost computers
Connect IT is Australia’s largest non-profit computer refurbisher selling low-cost computers to Centrelink or Department of Veterans Affairs benefit card holders, and to schools and non-profit organisations. Packages start from $330 including delivery and include a six-month warranty and free telephone technical support.

The Calculations

Light Internet User
Computer $330
Internet connection $120 per year + $16.50 delivery
Total: $466.50

Normal Internet User
Computer $330
Internet connection $360 per year
Total: $690.00

Looking at the figures, to purchase and maintain a computer and internet connection costs under $2 per day. Keep in mind that free internet access is available at over 2000 internet kiosks and 540 libraries Australia-wide.

Do these figures ring true to you? Do you find internet expensive?

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