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STANDING COMMITTEE ON INFRASTRUCTURE AND COMMUNICATIONS
04/04/2011
Role and potential of the National Broadband Network

CHAIR —Welcome. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that the hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. We have a written submission from you, and a very comprehensive and excellent submission it is too. We thank you for that. I invite you to make some opening comments to your submission and then we will have a question-and-answer session.

Mr Carmichael —Thank you. The City of Tea Tree Gully is a metropolitan city to the north-east of Adelaide. It has a population of about 100,000, a workforce of about 51,000, some 6,000 registered businesses and an area of 95 square kilometres. Modbury is a regional centre of the city and is a ready-made market for the National Broadband Network. It has a Westfield Tea Tree Plaza shopping centre, a major TAFE campus, a bus interchange link to Adelaide’s CBD, a major public hospital, a large telephone exchange and a range of regional government offices, banks and retail outlets. With this background, the city remains delighted that Modbury was announced in July 2010 as one of NBN’s second release sites, with 3,000 trial premises, and again in January 2011 as one of NBN’s points of interconnect, with approximately 72,657 premises to be serviced.

We now wish to confirm that we are very supportive of the early implementation of the National Broadband Network within the Modbury trial area and shortly thereafter within our entire city, of some 36,000 premises, in order that all of our residents might have equal opportunity to benefit from the National Broadband Network. In this regard, the city’s draft strategic plan 2011-15 includes a strategic direction to capitalise on opportunities created by the National Broadband Network by working collaboratively with NBN Co. Ltd to assist the delivery of the National Broadband Network in our city and to develop a digital strategy to connect our residents and enable them to capitalise on digital communications technology. In particular, we are keen to optimise connections and the uptake of digital services by the trial 3,000 Modbury premises, and we therefore see the urgent need for a local information and engagement strategy to explain the infrastructure and the benefits of digital services to our community.

The city is also very keen to investigate how the National Broadband Network can best deliver local government services to its residents, including digital, social, community, health, aged-care, infrastructure, utility, environment, business, information and library services. We are keen to be positioned as an early adopter of high-speed broadband and to take on the role of developing and trialling the digital delivery of local government services using the National Broadband Network. We would therefore welcome discussions with NBN Co. Ltd and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy as to how these initiatives might best be progressed and funded and as to how the city might participate in any community information or engagement strategies. We want these strategies to be part of our city’s communication with our community alongside our website, newsletters and the outreach services of our community library and seven community and recreation centres. Considering that the announced Modbury point of interconnect can service 72,657 premises, we also see merit in working in cooperation with nearby metropolitan councils.

It should also be noted that Modbury is a major health precinct, with a public hospital, a new GP plus superclinic and non-government sector health service providers. The city also has a range of policies and programs to provide and support community health and aged-care services for present and future older residents. We are keen to see the National Broadband Network being implemented as soon as possible in our entire city and the surrounding region to allow for the most efficient and effective provision of digital health and aged-care services, with particular emphasis on services such as diagnosis, chronic condition management, monitoring and treatment, any of which will allow older residents to continually access digital health and aged-care services in their homes or in residential care. In this regard, it should be noted that in this city about 11,000, or 11.7 per cent, of our residents are over 65 years of age and that this number is growing.

We are also supportive of the implementation of the National Broadband Network in that our city has eight high schools and a regional TAFE and is keen to support programs which encourage mathematics, science, technology, health and aged-care curricula and thereby improve employment opportunities for our city’s some 27,600 students. In particular, we see synergies in linking these educational resources to one another and to local and regional industries by means of the National Broadband Network.

We are also keen to establish demonstration sites in our city for the National Broadband Network. In particular, we have a major community library with 36.7 full-time equivalent staff and 1,000 to 1,500 visitors per day, and it is very keen to build upon existing services to enable the library to promote the benefits of the National Broadband Network as a demonstration site. Access to the National Broadband Network would also enable us to improve our digital literacy training and improve our social and information services to all of our residents, including students. We are also keen to be able to use the National Broadband Network to develop an e-book service as a new digital service for our 37,157 active library members.

We are also about to open a youth innovation centre for our city’s youth. This could have an IT suite to serve as a demonstration site to again promote the benefits of the National Broadband Network and to again use the National Broadband Network to deliver new social and information services, including employment related services, to our city’s youth. Our seven community and recreation centres and the Tea Tree Gully Business Enterprise Centre could also be demonstration sites at a community level for the National Broadband Network. We would again welcome discussions with NBN Co. Ltd and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy as to how the above initiatives might be progressed and funded.

In 2009-10 the city had community assets of $1.95 billion, and we see the National Broadband Network as the basis for the future implementation of intelligent digital infrastructure to manage and maintain these community assets. We also have programs related to the collection and treatment of stormwater and waste water, including an investment of some $50 million over the last six years, and we see the National Broadband Network as the basis for the future development and management of these programs by, for example, allowing the use of remote digital operating and monitoring systems. It also should be noted that the current operating and monitoring systems of the stormwater and waste-water facilities of the city are presently subject to black spots and outages due to inconsistent internet service and that these difficulties would be expected to be overcome with the implementation of the National Broadband Network in this city of 95 square kilometres. We also have 592 parks and reserves and see the National Broadband Network as the basis for managing their future sustainability by, for example, allowing the use of remote digital systems to control and monitor efficient water use.

The city has some 6,000 registered businesses, and 4,125 of these are understood to be home based businesses. This equates to a home based business operating in every ninth home in a city of some 36,000 households. At present, we receive ongoing complaints from these home based businesses that they are in black spots or otherwise receive inconsistent internet service. Home based businesses such as website developers, accounting and professional services, design and creative service providers and retail business have reported that they see the implementation of the National Broadband Network in our entire city as the key to continuing and growing their businesses and contributing to the city’s local economy. In particular, it will enable small business to link into the supply chains of big business and into government purchasing and assist existing businesses to take up emerging technologies. There is little in the way of research and development and innovation support within our city; it is therefore necessary for city businesses and other organisations to work with regional and other external research and development institutions and innovation support, and this will be facilitated by the implementation of the National Broadband Network in our city.

In summary, we are very supportive of the early implementation of the National Broadband Network for the trial 3,000 premises in our regional centre of Modbury; of optimising the connections to and uptake of digital services by these 3,000 trial premises; of the extension of the implementation of the National Broadband Network to our entire city of 36,000 households; of supporting a local information and engagement strategy, including the setting up of demonstration sites, to optimise the connections to the National Broadband Network; of the uptake of digital services by our 36,000 households; and of making our city a truly digital city. On behalf of the city I would like to thank the committee for this opportunity to present our views on the importance to our entire city of the early implementation of the National Broadband Network. Thank you.

CHAIR —Thanks. I want to start with an issue that has been of great interest to me, and that is home based businesses. Your submission is one of the few we have had so far that has made some attempt to quantify this. I think it is about six years since any sort of survey was done by the ABS on the level of home based businesses, but we get the general feeling that it is a burgeoning area and that very few people have collected data on it. Could you fill us in on where your data came from and what it told you about that area.

Mr Carmichael —That figure of 4,125 is the actual figure from the 2006 census, and that is listed as ‘companies without any employees’. That is an approximation, and I would say it is a conservative one. It works out to be one in every nine homes. But when you talk to people like the business centre they seem to think it is more like one in every seven. That means every time you walk down any street in our city you are going to be walking past people who are operating home based businesses. So it is a big thing. People phone me all the time saying they have difficulty receiving or sending information through the internet and they are very desirous of seeing their broadband extended. So I am very pleased to be here today to speak on their behalf and tell you this is something small household businesses are very interested in.

CHAIR —From a council perspective is this a new sector for non-capital city economic development? Do you see it as replacing businesses that would have been store based? Do you have any sense of the nature of those businesses?

Mr Carmichael —Home based businesses are just about always one-person businesses. As soon as they want to grow their business they need to take a step into another commercial office, an incubation centre or whatever. That is usually the starting point. Certainly some will stay that small, but that is usually where they start. As soon as they are going to employ people or have people coming and going, they are probably no longer suited to being in a residential area. But when they start up they are very suited to being home based.

CHAIR —One model we have had some evidence on is where councils have a common area. I think they call them gardening projects. They are home based businesses but when they get to the point where they need to have a meeting space or a part-time office facility they have one place that they rent out and utilise. Have you seen that model?

Mr Carmichael —Yes. That model is very successful in Port Adelaide. There is a very good incubation centre there. I went to visit it and I was very impressed. We are now looking at having one in the City of Tea Tree Gully. It is likely to be colocated with our business enterprise centre. The idea is that people will be able to come there and share conference facilities and computer facilities and have meetings and start to have a few staff. It is lower rent and they do not have to worry about signing up for a five-year lease and so forth. We see that as being suitable for some businesses when that need to grow from being a one-person business to the next step. But they are not really suited for bigger businesses. They are not quite a serviced office, either. It is more like helping people along. And they can get business advice as well. It is not just about going there and setting up shop.

CHAIR —What complaints about broadband do they come to you with? Is it about access and availability? Is it about pricing? What sort of information are you getting?

Mr Carmichael —It is usually about the poor reception and difficulty with capacity. It is okay for email but it is not good enough if they are designing a website and sending that back and forth.

CHAIR —So they are unable to get ADSL2 because it is not available on the copper they have got? Do they give you some idea about what reasons are being given?

Mr Carmichael —There are two issues. Some people just have copper and that is not enough for what they want to do with their business if it is in IT related business. For other people it is just about the generally poor service, and that relates to mobile phones just as much. Mike mentioned wireless internet, and similarly they complained to me that that does not work; they have black spots that stop that from operating as well. I recently saw a map of the black spots in the city and I was surprised to find that they are all over the place; they are not, as you would think, just in one shadow. As a matter of fact, when people phone me I always ask them where they are from, and it surprises me how many different parts of the city they are from. It is a broad problem.

CHAIR —You talked about the council’s interest in local information and engagement around the NBN. We have certainly had evidence from the early rollout places that if that where that is not done effectively it would go past people’s homes and businesses and it was not be connected because people do not understand the potential. Are you able to talk to NBN Co. and to government departments about doing that? Is there something you would like us to consider in providing advice on how to engage with councils to do that?

Mr Carmichael —We see this information and engagement program as being very important. If we are going to have 3,000 trial premises we want that to be successful so that we can move on to have the whole city covered. It would look really bad if we encourage them to come and there is not take-up. So we need to have a system where we are promoting connection and an understanding of how the infrastructure works but also encouraging people to take up digital services. Willunga has a very high connection rate because they had a very good engagement process. We want to work out whose engagement process it is—is it ours, is it the department’s, is it NBN Co.’s? We certainly want to support that process, but we just want to make sure there is an efficient process of engagement with the community and information so that it is successful. We do not want it to go past people’s houses and have them not connect.

Mr NEVILLE —I want to take off at that same point. Does that figure of 4,125 out of the 6,000 businesses in the area include people who work for other companies from home—people who take work home?

Mr Carmichael —No, it does not. The census figure is purely the businesses that do not have any employees.

Mr NEVILLE —That actually register as a business?

Mr Carmichael —Yes.

Mr NEVILLE —How well developed are the NBN plans for Tea Tree Gully?

Mr Carmichael —We have continually asked them for the design so that we can see which of our 36,000 premises will be in the trial.

Mr NEVILLE —Do you expect to cover the whole city of 95 square kilometres?

Mr Carmichael —Yes, one day. The 36,000 ratepayers would all expect to have equal service.

Mr NEVILLE —So they are only going to do to a sample initially?

Mr Carmichael —They are going to do the Modbury regional centre, which I guess is the high take-up area with the major premises there. It will be near where our council building is, and near Westfield, the hospital, the TAFE and so forth. There will only be 3,000 in the trial, but we have 36,000 premises. Of course, we want all our ratepayers to have equal opportunity. So we want to do really well with those 3,000 and have a good take-up, good connection and good use of services so that the NBN Co. will be well disposed to doing the rest of them. We have 72,657 premises that can be serviced from the point of interconnect. We only want 36,000 of them. The other 36,000 would be for neighbouring council areas. That is why we are working very closely with some of our neighbours to jointly look at that. We are looking at working with northern suburbs and eastern suburbs.

Mr NEVILLE —What are the target dates, first, for the trial and, second, to connect up the rest of the interconnect area?

Mr Carmichael —The dates keep shifting. The last time we heard was mid-2011. We are not hearing very much, so I guess it is going to be the latter part of 2011.

Mr NEVILLE —Is that for the trial?

Mr Carmichael —That is just for the trial and it is just for putting it down past the 3,000 premises. It is not for connecting to the houses, which we expect would be early in 2012.

Mr NEVILLE —And it is definitely opt out?

Mr Carmichael —My understanding is that it is opt in. You would know from being on the committee that things change all the time. We were thinking of telling people it was going to be early in the year and now we are glad we have not because people’s expectations would be raised and they would be phoning every five minutes asking, ‘Where is it?’

Mr NEVILLE —We saw in Tasmania that a number of owners of business premises, as distinct from the businesses in them, did not accept the junction box on the building and therefore all the subsidiary businesses or the lessees within that building were themselves deprived of a connection. Have you any plans in mind to make sure that you get a very high uptake? I know you have been critical of the information, but you must have a scenario within your council for how you plan to engage the community or, initially, the trial community.

Mr Carmichael —It is not an easy question in some ways. We try and work out whether it is our engagement strategy or whether it should be NBN’s engagement strategy or the department’s engagement strategy. Our present thinking is that we are going to support them with their strategy. It is their network, it is not ours, so we are thinking that we would like to find out what their engagement strategy is so that we can work with them. Certainly we do not want to have the problems they have had in other places. We want to have a high uptake, we want people to accept it being connected to their houses or to their office buildings and we want people to consider taking up the digital services so that it can be a success for our city and help our city have a comparative advantage or a competitive advantage in attracting business and doing business. For the economic development of our city, we see it as an extra form of infrastructure that will give us an advantage over some other areas that might be more attractive in other ways.

What we have to understand is that we might have 100,000 people but we are basically a residential city with only pockets of business, like the Modbury centre. There are not a lot, relatively speaking, of businesses. But we do see that having the high-speed broadband means that we can attract the new-age businesses, the knowledge industries, the creative industries, the defence, the IT—things that are low impact—because people certainly do not want to have any heavy industry in this residential area but they would be very attracted to R&D or some of the new-age businesses.

Mr NEVILLE —Since you have such a relatively small sample in your central business district—again, I am talking with knowledge of Tasmania—do you have any strategy to stop other companies selling predatory packages to slow down the NBN in the area?

Mr Carmichael —No, we have not. It has not been a concern to us.

Mr HUSIC —I want to follow on from Mr Neville’s questions—I do not know if we would describe it as ‘great minds’ but I was on the same line of thought—and ask about the way the council is shaping up to organise itself to take advantage of the second release site. For example, are you working with chambers of commerce or business or regional development authorities to maximise the benefit of the NBN to your area?

The second question was to focus on page 3 of your submission, which concerns remote digital monitoring and the type of efficiencies you imagine might come about by applying the NBN to that exercise and activity. So the first question is how you are organising it and how you are liaising with NBN Co, and are there things that you think could be done better with NBN on preparing for the roll-out. The second is remote monitoring.

Mr Carmichael —We are in very regular contact with NBN Co. Perhaps every week we would be in contact with them about how things are progressing, whether they have got the design. We are very concerned about overpromising. Recently the mayor asked me when we were going to start the engagement strategy. I said that we dare not get everyone’s hopes up until we know definitely who is going to get it—which of the 36,000 are going to get it. You can just imagine: as soon as we announce it people are going to say, ‘Gee, why is that guy across the road getting it and we are not?’ So we really are still holding back until we know which are going to be the 3,000 and when the timing will be confirmed. Then they will come and speak to our elected members and specify when they are going to start putting the cable in the ground. That is when we will start the engagement strategy in earnest. Certainly, there is a lot of our community that do not have any idea about what it means to them—the benefits of high speed broadband. Certainly, we want to do a lot to make sure they do generally understand the benefits. In particular, we are interested in things like demonstration sites where people can come in and see it and feel it, and see the cable and understand that it is not something to be worried about but is something that is of benefit to them.

The second question concerned remote digital monitoring, as on page 3 of the submission. I did speak to the people who operate our stormwater processing and our waste water processing. They said it is a real issue that the system keeps dropping out and that they cannot properly monitor and control the collection and usage of the water.

CHAIR —At the moment there is a system but it is not reliable. Is that right?

Mr —Yes, it is not reliable. Our re-use of water is continuing to grow. To send it off to our various ovals and reserves and to perhaps sell it to neighbouring councils, we need to have a reliable system. That is what we are looking for.

Mr HUSIC —Has the council estimated what would be the economic benefit to the council of improving that remote monitoring, in terms of call-outs, better use of the resources and the system? Do you have any economic efficiencies that are being calculated as a result?

Mr Carmichael —No, I don’t have that figure. I can get it for you if you like. I am sure that the people would be pleased to do those numbers for you.

CHAIR —It would be very useful.

Mrs PRENTICE —Obviously, the city already provides many services. What are the services and operations that you currently provide to your residents that, if you had NBN to every home, you would save money on or provide more effectively and efficiently?

Mr Carmichael —There is a very large range of services that would be involved. At the moment they have to call us when they have some sort of difficulty. If we have the broadband we could have sensors and things that will tell us that there is a sign that needs replacing or a road that needs to be fixed, or whatever. There are those sorts of things. Things as basic as sending out rates notices and communicating with them can all be done electronically instead relying on the mail. Our library is very keen to have an e-book lending service through the internet, which they cannot do with the present broadband. We would like to do some more training on digital matters in our economy. When I speak to our IT people they say they would be very interested in providing new services to people, like monitoring their power use or their water use, or generally being more connected with what we do.

Mrs PRENTICE —To achieve the real savings you need 100 per cent take-up, do you not?

Mr Carmichael —Yes. In the early days when we were discussing this we were perhaps wondering whether we could become some sort of user ourselves. We could then make sure that all our people are connected and add a little bit to their rates notice. That way it would not be a separate cost to them. We could become a service provider ourselves. It is early days but our city is not closed to investing in providing this new service to ratepayers, and then perhaps working it in with the other services we provide.

Mr STEPHEN JONES —I presume that most of the residents in your council area commute into Adelaide for work. There is not a lot of employment directly within the area. Is that correct?

Mr Carmichael —Eighty per cent of our workforce leaves every morning, but they do not all go to the city. They also go to the industrial areas to the north, to Elizabeth or Salisbury. That is certainly the case, but some of the service providers come to work in our area. But overall people do commute out every morning.

Mr STEPHEN JONES —Have you had any consultations or discussions about the potential benefits of telecommuting for the residents within your council area?

Mr Carmichael —We are very aware that there would be a big benefit if all those people did not have to jump in their cars every day. There would be a big benefit to the environment in not having to drive back and forth, and of course there would be a big improvement in productivity. If they currently have to drive for 45 minutes twice a day, five days a week, those are so many more hours they could be working from home. They would be more productive and they could be more flexible. It would be more in keeping with work-life balance if they did not spend so much time commuting. So there is a lot to be said for people being able to work from home, and it is happening all around us as we speak, I think.

Mr SYMON —Of the 36,000 premises you have in Tea Tree Gully at the moment, do you know what percentage are currently connected to the internet?

Mr Carmichael —I have tried to get those figures but I just cannot get a current figure. I would just have to guess.

Mr SYMON —Any idea of the percentage of businesses that are connected?

Mr Carmichael —I would say they would all be connected.

Mr SYMON —All of them?

Mr Carmichael —Yes. I do not know whether that connection is satisfactory, but they would all be connected.

Mr SYMON —That leads to my next question. You spoke earlier on about the current ADSL connections and the black spots and problems you have with that. Have you got limitations with distances from exchanges, or dropouts of speeds or lines because of that?

Mr Carmichael —Yes, we do. I guess when you have a city of 95 square kilometres—and it is a fairly long shape too—when you get further from an exchange speeds do drop down a lot. I am not a technical person, but I think that is to do with the way that the copper cables were installed. It means the speed drops off dramatically as you get further from the exchange and as more people are using it.

Mr SYMON —Along those lines, is there a wide choice of internet service providers currently available in the area?

Mr Carmichael —My understanding is that it is the usual number.

Mr SYMON —So it is not limited to just one or two?

Mr Carmichael —No-one has ever come to me and said they had difficulty finding a provider.

Mr SYMON —Finally, I will go back to the opt-in versus opt-out model of connections to premises and back to what Mr Fletcher said. In Tasmania there was an opt-in model and a particular problem that we heard about was that the businesses that leased premises did not get to say yes or no to it because the letter went to the landlord. From your side of things, it might be worth looking at an information campaign, particularly for businesses, letting them know that this is a benefit that is about to come their way but also for the landlords of those businesses. I was wondering if you had a thought in that direction.

Mr Carmichael —I guess my main thought is to thank you for that idea. I had not really thought of it myself, but you are quite right. Usually there is one connection to a business premises which I think is supposed to spread to all the tenants. Yes, it seems to be that part of our strategy should be engagement with landlords to encourage them to provide this as an extra service for their tenants.

Mr NEVILLE —Considering you have so many people working outside the town—in other words, they are not there Monday to Friday—that is an extraordinarily high number of people using the library. There are 36.7 full-time staff equivalents, and 1,000 to 1,500 people come into the library every day. I have not heard of a library being used to that extent.

Mr Carmichael —I got those figures from the library. It is an extraordinarily busy building and it is for all age groups. A lot of them go there to use the IT. I think there are 29 computers. The people all come in and take turns using them.

Mr NEVILLE —Is that a free service, a nominal cost service or what?

Mr Carmichael —They get that as part of their rates. I have some figures here for 2010. We have a meter that counts people as they go in and out of the door. We had 388,853 people come to that library. We had events held by the library such as training on how to use computers. We had 28,851 people come along for different events at the library. We ran 733 different events at the library. The number of active members—as I said before, people who have borrowed from the library in the last three years—is 37,157. And so it goes on.

Mr NEVILLE —If any organisation is going to benefit from high speed broadband, that one will.

Mr Carmichael —Our library staff are very active and very keen people. You have to understand that, whereas other people have sublibraries or different branches, we have only one library for those 100,000 people. They all have to come to that one library. Certainly it is a very busy place. We like to see it as a demonstration site, as we do our youth innovation centre and community centre, so that people can come along and see. If you go to our library now, you can see e-books. People can pick them up and play with them. They do not want to be in a commercial area where there might be pressure to buy. They can come and investigate for themselves what an e-book looks like.

Mr NEVILLE —I suppose the time will come when libraries will be empowered to have borrowing services on electronic mediums such as e-books, Kindles and the like.

Mr Carmichael —What will happen at our library once we get the internet service up is that, if you are a library member, you will have access to our e-books through your internet. So it will change things.

Mr NEVILLE —That is impressive.

CHAIR —We have about five minutes left, so I might follow up with a few questions. I am particularly interested in a number of points in your submission. You talk about the digital literacy. Am I correct in understanding that, other than being a big commuter city, you have a large ageing population?

Mr Carmichael —Yes.

CHAIR —I am interested to know what age care services the council provides and where you would see broadband to the home or to the facility helping you with that range of services.

Mr Carmichael —I am not from the community services area but we do have services. We collect the aged people and take them to the shopping centres and the library. We have a transport service. We have the home care service. At a guess, our budget might be $1 million for helping people to stay at home with their home maintenance and care.

CHAIR —This is a visit based service, is it?

Mr Carmichael —It is usually people phoning in but then volunteers go out to help them. That is our usual service. We see that as more of an issue as time goes by, because more people are getting older in our city and there are a lot more residential aged care facilities being built—hundreds every year—so it is a real trend.

CHAIR —Do you have an idea of the current size of your aged care population in terms of low care and high care residential facilities?

Mr Carmichael —No, but I can find that out. As I said, we have 11,000 people over age 65. I would not like them all to turn up on the same day.

CHAIR —It is interesting. I used an example the other day when we were talking about this. In my own electorate, I visited some new social housing of that age demographic. The lady who was very proudly showing us her new unit said, as we went through the door: ‘Just ignore that. That is my Skype running. I am talking to my friends in the US.’ She was 78, I think. You will be dealing with a different demographic as people age and still want to have those sorts of connections.

Mr Carmichael —My local advice is that the older population is very active on the internet and want to keep in contact with their families, who are spread out, with things like Skype.

CHAIR —This is interesting, because I suspect as a society we are underestimating how significant that sort of connection is for that demographic—and you have had the same experience.

Mr Carmichael —People of retirement age are coming to the library for their digital literacy training.

CHAIR —The other thing that is touched on in your submission is the social connection issue. I think perhaps cities and suburbs like yours, particularly in the example you just gave, understand this. Another thing that has been said to us relates to people with disabilities and their capacity to engage in work. Work that is home based is a real opportunity for them. I just wonder whether you have looked at that sector of your community as well and the potential for them either through tele-work or home based businesses.

Mr Carmichael —We have done recent work for the disabled community. I can provide that to the committee.

CHAIR —That would be very interesting for us.

Mr Carmichael —It is a strategy for assisting the disabled and also action plans over the next few years—things we will be doing to help that community. As you say, they will be major beneficiaries of broadband.

CHAIR —They were very keen to make sure that we understand that we still have to plan and modify our buildings so that they are not captured in their homes by this new technology but have new opportunities opened for them. So we would be interested in looking at the strategies you have in that area.

Mr Carmichael —Certainly.

CHAIR —There are no more questions from the panel. Thank you for your attendance here today. The additional information you have been asked to provide can be forwarded to the secretariat. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence to which you can make corrections of grammar and fact. Once again, thank you very much. It is very useful information for us.

[2.12 pm]