Remote Telecommunications / Broadband for the Bush
IRCA has continued to advocate for appropriate telecommunications infrastructure for remote Australia, arguing that there is huge unmet demand for basic telephony services not being address by the National Broadband network (NBN).
In December 2011, IRCA submitted a detailed response to the Regional Telecommunications Review 2011–12, outlining the potential of a widening digital divide under current NBN planning. It included:
Effective and accessible communications are essential for people living in small disparate communities to overcome the inequities due to remoteness. The future viability of communities will be largely determined by the quality of communications infrastructure connecting them. Under current NBN planning, 93% of Australians will have access to the fibre-to-the-home at 100Mbps, while the 3% of Australians living in remote areas of Australia will receive a satellite solution at 12/1Mbps. There is real concern that this discrepancy will lead to a two-speed economy, reducing the ability to provide two-way applications needed for remote health, education, justice and media services, and will effectively limit the economic and social development opportunities in remote Australia. Further, the satellite solution will exclude mobile telephony from being viable in remote areas.
The final report ‘Regional Communications: Empowering Digital Communities’ (released June 2012) cited several quotes from IRCA’s submission. The report contains many significant recommendations for remote communities which IRCA will continue to push to be implemented.
Following the successful ‘Broadband for the Bush’ forum held in Alice Springs in 2011, IRCA has built strong partnerships with key remote-focussed organisations – Centre for Appropriate Technology, Ninti One, Centre for Remote Health, Desert Knowledge Australia, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), Swinburne University – leading to planning of a follow up Broadband for the Bush 2 Forum for July 2012 and the establishment a ‘Broadband for the Bush’ Alliance as a powerful advocacy, project and research group for remote Australia.
Other IRCA activities relating to telecommunications advocacy included:
• Submitting a response to the Convergence Review in October 2011, outlining existing convergence within the industry but highlighting the lack of adequate telecommunications infrastructure, limiting remote participation in a convergent digital economy;
• Meetings with Minister Conroy’s advisers and DBCDE representatives regarding remote broadband and telecommunication needs;
• Participating on the Advisory Committee to the Home Internet Research Project undertaken by Centre for Appropriate Technology/ Swinburne University in 3 remote NT communities;
• Developing a strategic working partnership with ACCAN.