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Monday, 2 December 2002
Page: 6966

Senator Brown asked the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 14 October 2002:

(1) Is the Minister aware that, at Sandford, Tasmania, 30 minutes out of the central business district of Hobart, Telstra has informed residents that they will not be given access to high-speed Internet services for an indefinite period of time.

(2) Is the Minister aware that this is hindering the efforts of residents to establish home-based small business operations.

(3) What does the Minister intend to do to remedy this situation.

Senator Alston (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) Telstra has advised that one particular type of high speed service, ADSL, is not currently available in the Sandford area and it is not planning to provide ADSL in this area in the near future. Telstra has also advised that all Sandford customers have access to high speed services via ISDN and/or satellite technology and that generally customers who make inquiries regarding the availability of a particular technology would be informed about its availability and the availability of alternative technologies.

(2) The Government is aware of the value of access to high speed data services for people wanting to operate home-based small business operations. High speed data services are generally available through a range of technologies including cable, ADSL, ISDN and satellite.

Technical limitations and commercial considerations mean that not all high speed data service technologies are appropriate for all regions of Australia. However, one and two way satellite services are available nationally.

(3) The Government has established an open competitive regulatory framework which actively facilitates entry into the broadband market by providers through both infrastructure deployment or through reselling arrangements.

The Government recognised that broadband will not become available everywhere immediately due to the technical limitations and commercial considerations. It has therefore introduced the Digital Data Service Obligation (DDSO) to act as a safety net. The DDSO guarantees a data speed of 64Kbps to all Australians via an ISDN. For the 4 per cent of Australians who cannot receive ISDN services, an equivalent satellite service is provided with a subsidy for part of the cost of installation under the Special Digital Data Service Obligation (SDDSO).

Looking to the future, the Government has established a Broadband Advisory Group to advise on broadband development initiatives. The Group will provide high level advice and coordinate stakeholder views on both supply-side and demand-side issues. It will work in close consultation with key stakeholders in industry, small business, major service providers and key sectors such as the health, education and the community sectors.