Pass or fail? Kiama mum grades the NBN

Georgia, 13, Tylah, 7, and Cooper, 11, with mum Julie Lee, are happy with the speedier connection. Picture: DAVE TEASE
Georgia, 13, Tylah, 7, and Cooper, 11, with mum Julie Lee, are happy with the speedier connection. Picture: DAVE TEASE

The National Broadband Network may have brought fast internet to the Lee household in Kiama but Julie Lee is not sure her kids have noticed.

But that’s because 13-year-old Georgia, 11-year-old Cooper and seven-year-old Tylah don’t have anything much to compare it to. They didn’t grow up using a modem or having to sit through endless ‘‘buffering’’ while watching a video online.

‘‘No, they just take it for granted that’s how it should be,’’ Ms Lee said.

‘‘All three of them are all using computers at school and then to come home, they just take it for granted that they should be able to do all these things.

‘‘In the house it’s like, ‘why shouldn’t Tylah be able to watch ABC iview? Why shouldn’t Cooper be able to play Minecraft online with his friends and why shouldn’t Georgia be able to do a project all at the same time as dad watches something online?’.’’

Ms Lee said the children all have their own devices, including laptops and iPads, and seeing them in use at the same time is the most striking difference with the NBN.

‘‘I think the thing that’s more noticeable is the fact that the kids can be using quite a few devices and it doesn’t seem to be disrupted at all,’’ she said.

‘‘It doesn’t seem to slow down the speed.’’

It’s that speed that has also meant the Lee family – who own a T-Box (a digital set-top box) – can’t remember the last time they went to a video store.

‘‘If the kids want to watch a movie they just scroll through the T-Box and have a look online,’’ Ms Lee said.

‘‘Then it’ll just download and it doesn’t take long at all. The kids can download a movie, go and get something to eat and when they come back the movie’s ready.’’

Similar to households across the region, the children in the Lee home are much more tech-savvy than mum and dad.

Ms Lee said husband Jeff doesn’t log onto the internet much and, when he does, he needs the children’s help. But Ms Lee, who tries to keep up-to-date, still finds seven-year-old Tylah knows her way around the computer better.

‘‘If you don’t embrace it you’re going to be left behind,’’ she said. ‘‘As they’re getting older they’re using the computer a lot more than what they did. It’s incorporated into their school life so they also need to be able to do it at home.

The Lee household is with Telstra and it’s been a year since the provider began connecting people to the NBN.

‘‘The internet has come a long way since Telstra introduced dial-up internet in Kiama in 1995,’’ Country Wide area general manager for the Illawarra Michael Marom said.

‘‘Back then customers could look forward to blistering download speeds of 28Kbps. Today our NBN customers enjoy download speeds up to thousands of times faster.’’

Mr Marom said that speed is creating ‘‘Gen NBN’’ – youngster who will never know a world without near instantaneous high-speed internet.

 ‘‘Instead of watching TV or listening to the radio, Gen NBN is streaming their music and TV online,’’ he said.

‘‘They’re Googling answers to questions, Instagraming photos to scores of friends and Skyping relatives across the globe. 

‘‘Most of us remember a time when we wouldn’t have thought this was possible, but today we are beginning to take these technologies for granted – if you played a dial-up tone at a school today, most kids probably couldn’t even tell us what it was.’’