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Broadband boost for rural and remote Australia.

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20 April 2004 47/04

Regional and remote Australia will have better access to broadband services with $13.8 million of funding from the Australian Government's Coordinated Communications Infrastructure Fund (CCIF).

This first round of CCIF funding will support seven projects across Australia, including:

● a fibre optic cable backbone running from the Charles Darwin University

campus in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, through the MacDonnell Ranges to a number of institutions including the Desert Knowledge Precinct;

● a broadband infrastructure project for 12 communities in the remote

Ngaanyatjarra Lands of Western Australia;

● a microwave broadband backbone along the Yorke Peninsula, South Australia,

with 'tails' to Maitland, Minlaton, Warooka and Yorketown; and

● a 'last mile' infrastructure project that will bring broadband to 16 towns in Far

North Queensland.

The CCIF's focus is to encourage health, education and other sectors of public interest to work together and maximise opportunities for improved broadband access and services in rural, regional and remote Australia.

Funding agreements will be negotiated with each of the seven selected applicants to build on the Australian Government's $13.8 million investment, with the aim of achieving a total of $39 million in funding for these important projects.

The $23.7 million CCIF is one element of the Government's National Broadband Strategy and forms part of the Government's response to the Regional Telecommunications Inquiry (RTI).

The Government agreed to implement all 39 recommendations of the RTI and has committed $142.8 million to implement the National Broadband Strategy's action plan.

These funds will provide better access and more affordable broadband services in

rural, regional and remote Australia.

A full list of the projects to receive funding under CCIF is attached.

The Government will call for a second round of CCIF applications later in the year. More information on the CCIF program is available at

Media Contact: Carina Tan-Van Baren (02) 6277 7480 or 0439 425 373

First round Broadband projects funded under the Coordinated Communications Infrastructure Fund

Northern Territory This project is a 10km broadband fibre optic backbone between Charles Darwin University (Alice Springs Campus) and a series of research and educational institutions in the Desert Knowledge Precinct south of the city.

Charles Darwin University will lead the project. Partners include, Northern Territory Government, Desert Knowledge Australia, Bachelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, and Amcom Telecommunications.

Alice Springs is the heart of tertiary education in Central Australia and building the infrastructure will help improve IT enabled education services in the region. It will leverage off Australia Research and Education Network (AREN) initiatives and enhance investments in institutions such as the Desert Knowledge Precinct, which includes the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre.

The fibre will run south from the University past the hospital and through Heavitree Gap. The terrain and cultural significance of the MacDonnell Ranges has made it difficult to install radio/microwave links to connect the institutions south of the city with broadband infrastructure. The fibre optic link will overcome those difficulties.

Media contact: Dr Scott D Snyder, Charles Darwin University, (08) 8946 6439, or 0419 850 724

Western Australia This project will establish a broadband backbone and last mile services to 12 indigenous communities - including schools, police, justice and health agencies - in one of the most remote regions of Australia, the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in Western Australia.

The Western Australia Department of Industry and Resources will manage the project. A large range of organisations will contribute resources including: Ngaanyatjarraku Shire, Western Australian Police Service, Western Australian Department of Justice, Ngaanyatjarra Health, WA Department of Local Government and Regional Development, and the WA Department of Treasury and Finance.

For the first time the government agencies, not-for-profit organisations and commercial entities of the region will be able to enjoy high-speed data, Internet, videoconferencing and voice services which will drastically impact on their ability to deliver their services. This will present significant social, economic and health benefits to the region.

The Ngaanyatjarra Lands is a region of Western Australia near the Northern Territory and South Australia borders.

Media contacts: Sheryl Siekierka, WA Department of Industry and Resources, (08) 9222 5677

South Australia CCIF will fund a high-speed wireless broadband backbone project along the Yorke Peninsula, with 'tails' to Maitland, Minlaton, Warooka and Yorketown.

The District Council of Yorke Peninsula will manage the project, with the South Australian Government and Agile Communications providing support.

Microwave towers will be installed at five centres - Maitland, Mount Rat, Minlaton, Warooka and Yorketown - to provide high-speed communications through the major business and population centres of the Peninsula.

The project also includes a 10 km radial access wireless local loop around major regional towns to enable data, voice and video capabilities for regional businesses, government services, rural health services, not-for-profit organisations and individuals. Future extensions of wireless access to coastal settlements are planned.

The region is a major grain producer, is South

Australia's third largest tourist region, and is within 90 km of Adelaide by water. However, the Yorke Peninsula's communications infrastructure is equivalent to that of a remote Australian region. This project will, for the first time, provide the region with cost effective broadband and telephone communications.

Media contact: Andrew Cheel, District Council of Yorke Peninsula, (08) 8853 3800

Queensland CCIF is funding a 'last mile' infrastructure project that will provide DSL capability for telephone exchanges in 16 remote towns in Far North Queensland.

Queensland Health (State Government) will manage the project. Partners include the state agencies Education Queensland, Department of Employment and Training, and Department of Emergency Services.

The project is expected to benefit 16 small hospitals and health clinics, 17 primary and secondary schools, 15 ambulance and nine fire stations, and three TAFE campuses.

The 16 communities are some of the remotest in Queensland and are considered the most likely to benefit from improved access to information and services provided by the government agencies.

The services will include improved education services delivered through Queensland's Distance Education Program; development of telehealth services including palliative care, oncology support and mental health services; and improve inter-departmental information sharing.

The project infrastructure will be rolled out during 2004-05, and the telecommunications service carrier will be selected through a competitive tender process. The carrier will deliver the required broadband telecommunications services to the consortium members by upgrading existing services.

Media contact: Danielle Hornsby, Queensland Health, (07) 4616 6919

New South Wales CCIF will fund a two-stage rollout of a fibre optic backbone between Lithgow and Dubbo.

The NSW Office of Information and Communications Technology will manage the project, and the State Government has drawn together all key agencies to support and contribute to the project. Other key partners include NSW Transgrid and AARNet.

The first stage of the program is to extend a fibre backbone from Lithgow to Orange in 2004-05. Under stage two the backbone will continue through to Dubbo in 2005-06. The total cost of both stages will be almost $11 million.

The project is particularly important because it completes key links in the national broadband backbone. The backbone will support education, health and other government services, and also underpins the NSW state government strategy for deploying competitive telecommunications infrastructure throughout major regional centres.

Media contact: Colin Griffith, NSW Office of Information and Communications Technology, (02) 9372 8790

Victoria The Loddon Mallee Health Alliance (LMHA) is currently building a broadband WAN (Wide Area Network) for its activities in 32 towns in Victoria's Loddon Mallee region. CCIF funding will make broadband delivered services available to communities in the Loddon Mallee. That will occur by providing SHDSL (Single Pair High-speed Digital Subscriber Line) and/or ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) coverage to those communities.

LMHA will run the project. Partners include Telstra Country Wide andExtel Communications.

The ADSL coverage will use an innovative Australian product developed by Extel Communications that has the potential to deliver ADSL services up to 27 km from the exchange. Technological constraints currently limit ADSL coverage to between four and five km from the exchange.

The Loddon Mallee extends from Kyneton, north to Echuca, west to Mildura and the South Australian border and back to Bendigo in the east.

Media contact: Bruce Winzar, Loddon Mallee Health Alliance, (03) 5442 3444

Tasmania The Tasmanian Broadband for Regional Centres Project will complete the State's high-bandwidth fibre optic backbone. CCIF funds will be used to (1) connect major regional centres of Tasmania - Launceston, Devonport and Burnie - into the state-owned fibre optic backbone, and (2) connect that backbone to Hobart.

The State Government of Tasmania will manage the project.

The new broadband infrastructure will enable services to hospitals, schools, university and TAFE campuses in regions that have not attracted competitive commercial providers. The backbone will also provide the foundation for the Tasmanian Research and Education Network (TREN) which is being established by the University of Tasmania and AARNet to connect Tasmania's research and higher education institutions.

The broadband backbone will be used to provide residents with high-bandwidth health and education services that include video-conferencing, data streaming for on-line learning, professional networking, and access to specialist practitioners in schools and hospitals.

Media contact: Katie Ault, Tasmanian Government, (03) 6233 6630