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Regional Australia telecommunications successes.

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Senator the Hon Helen Coonan Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

Media Release

071/05 16 June 2005

Regional Australia telecommunications successes

A review of the Government’s $50 million National Communications Fund (NCF) shows it is connecting rural and regional communities and delivering tangible outcomes in the areas of health and education, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, said today.

The NCF was established by the Australian Government in 2001, in response to the Telecommunications Service Inquiry (Besley Inquiry), to support significant telecommunications projects in the education and health sectors in regional Australia.

Eight projects covering all States and the Northern Territory were allocated $50 million, and supported by additional cash and in-kind c0ntributions of around $120 million. Six of the projects have now been completed, and the two remaining projects will be finalised in 2005- 06.

“The NCF projects include high-speed bandwidth to health and educational institutions, business, local government and community groups in towns in rural areas,” Senator Coonan said.

“Several projects have been able to increase their scope significantly, with some using the funding as a catalyst for bigger projects or are integrating the NCF component into a State-wide communications strategy.

“NCF projects have brought broadband communications to many small communities that would not otherwise have received these services. For instance, Telstra has developed two new products that deliver affordable high bandwidth services to regional areas,” Senator Coonan said.

Eighty five per cent of the Government’s funding has been invested in new or upgraded telecommunications infrastructure, with additional investment in e-health and e-learning equipment and training.

“New broadband infrastructure is supporting videoconferencing for tele-health services in several States so that patients in regional areas can consult a city specialist from their local area,” Senator Coonan said.

“Broadband to schools is opening up new educational opportunities. One project is allowing School of the Air students in remote New South Wales and across the Northern Territory to see their teacher and interact with their classmates for the first time during lessons.

“This investment is further demonstration of the Government’s commitment to providing affordable telecommunications services to all Australians, regardless of where they live.”

Further information on the National Communications Fund and the review report is available at:

Media Contact: Jane McMillan 0438 690 305