Australian Government, 2005–06 Budget

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

National Broadband Strategy

The purpose of the National Broadband Strategy is to coordinate activities across government and to provide a holistic approach to broadband development in Australia with a view to achieving long-term strategic outcomes.

Three major funding programmes will form the Australian Government's commitment to the National Broadband Strategy. A major emphasis of these funding programmes will be to provide access to affordable broadband services in regional Australia.

The total value of the Australian Government funding for the National Broadband Strategy is $142.8 million over four years, commencing 2003-04. This funding includes the Coordinated Communications Infrastructure Fund, Demand Aggregation Broker Programme, High Bandwidth Incentive Scheme and the cost of running the National Broadband Strategy Implementation Group.

Higher Bandwidth Incentive Scheme

The Higher Bandwidth Incentive Scheme (HiBIS) is a $107.8 million programme, launched in April 2004. The three year scheme was designed to provide regional Australians with access to higher bandwidth services at prices comparable to those available in metropolitan Australia.

HiBIS operates in regional, rural and remote areas where broadband is unlikely to be provided commercially in the immediate future and targets residential users, small business and not-for-profit organisations. HiBIS customers benefit from improved access to more affordable and reliable higher bandwidth services.

HiBIS has now assisted more than 400 communities in regional areas using satellite, wireless, cable and ADSL technologies. There are currently 30 HiBIS registered providers.

The Metropolitan Broadband Blackspots Programme

The Metropolitan Broadband Blackspots Programme is a three-year $50 million initiative, commencing with $10 million in 2005-06, which will provide access to equitably priced broadband services in metropolitan areas where such services are not available. The MBBP will complement the HiBIS through providing assistance in those areas where HiBIS does not apply. These areas are each state and territory capital city and the adjacent regional centres of Wollongong, the Central Coast of New South Wales, Newcastle, Geelong, Palmerston and the Gold Coast, including Tweed Heads.

Coordinated Communications Infrastructure Fund

The Coordinated Communications Infrastructure Fund is providing $23.7 million over four years from 2003‑04 with $11.8 million provided for 2005-06 to fund broadband infrastructure projects in regional, rural and remote areas. This infrastructure will support improvements in the delivery of health, education, government and other services that will lead to significant economic and social outcomes.

Demand Aggregation Broker Programme

The $4.7 million for 2005-06 for the Demand Aggregation Broker Programme will allow broadband development strategies to be developed at the national, state and community level.

The Demand Aggregation Broker Programme comprises three elements:

  • National Strategic Advisers will focus on multi-jurisdictional broadband initiatives in the health and education sectors respectively. The Advisers will develop sectoral broadband strategies to improve broadband access and application in consultation with relevant agencies and institutions.
  • State and territory based brokers will work with governments and communities within a state or territory to develop broadband demand aggregation projects, both across sectors and within particular geographic areas.
  • Community Based Broadband Demand Aggregation Brokers will assist community organisations to aggregate demand in their region and to negotiate with telecommunications service providers to progress broadband rollout in their local area. Each broker will progress a specific project to provide improved access to broadband, greater choice of service providers and more affordable pricing for the local community.

Launceston Broadband Project

The Launceston Broadband Project (LBP) is a $30 million joint initiative between the Australian Government and Telstra, funded as part of the Telstra Social Bonus Package with $15 million from the Australian Government and $15 million from Telstra. The LBP has been operating since June 2000 and will conclude in June 2006.

The LBP is helping Tasmania to participate in the commercial opportunities offered by the information economy. The wider Australian community benefits through the development of broadband applications which are developed and trialled in the Broadband eLab.

Consumer Representation and Research Grants

Funding of $3.4 million over four years from 2002-03 will be provided for consumer representation and research in telecommunications. In accordance with the Australian Government's response to the Telecommunications Services Inquiry, priority is being given in the Consumer Representation Grants Programme to representation of people with disabilities and those living and working in regional areas. A total of $800,000 will be allocated in 2005-06.

IT training in very remote communities

The IT Training and Technical Support Programme is an $8.8 million competitive funding programme designed to provide people and organisations located in very remote areas of Australia with better access to basic information computer technology training and technical support. The programme runs for four years from 2004-05. In 2005-06, $4.3 million will be allocated.

Satellite phone handset subsidy scheme

The Satellite Phone Handset Subsidy Scheme has been allocated additional funding of $3 million over four years from 2003‑04 to broaden the Scheme to subsidise maritime and aviation users as well as terrestrial users. The revised Scheme commenced in March 2004 and is scheduled to continue until June 2007.

Expansion of Terrestrial Mobile Phone Coverage Programme

An additional $15.9 million will be spent over three years from 2004-05 to increase and improve mobile phone coverage in regional Australia. Telstra was the successful tenderer and will construct new mobile phone facilities at 62 regional locations.


Miscellaneous