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Alston launches rural satellite Internet trial.

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Media Release



Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate



Alston launches rural satellite internet trial

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, today opened a new era in communications for regional, rural and remote Australia with the official launch of the Farmwide satellite trial.

The trial subsidises very high speed access to the internet, via satellite services, for 400 farm families across Australia - with participants in every State and Territory, including in some of the country's most remote locations.

Participants will be able to access the internet at speeds of up to 400 kilobits per second, which is more than six times greater than an ISDN service. These high speeds will allow almost instant downloads of text, graphics, video and audio services.

The findings of the trial will provide valuable additional information for Government and telecommunications carriers, particularly in relation to the Government's decision to amend the telecommunications Universal Service Obligation to ensure that 100 per cent of Australians have access on demand to a 64 kilobit per second download service.

'For Australians living in regional, rural and remote parts of the country, new technologies such as the internet can create unprecedented opportunities in business, community life, education and health,' Senator Alston said.

'But poor line speeds for many people in rural and remote regions prevent equitable access to the Internet. The introduction of leading-edge satellite technologies can help overcome these problems.

'The challenge now before Farmwide, its participants and project partners is to develop innovative content packages to capitalise on the benefits of these high speed networks in respect to e-commerce, education, health and community services programs.'

Participants in the trial will be provided by Farmwide with the necessary satellite dish and equipment (which cost between $1,200 to $1,600). Participants will pay a $50 a month satellite transmission charges and normal Internet Service Provider access rates.

The trial is funded by the Federal Government, through its $5.5 million Networking the Nation grant to the Farmwide Regional Access Network (FRAN) project.

'While the satellite solution is exciting, it will not be the panacea for all of the ills of rural communication concerns,' Senator Alston said.

'For many people the costs will be uneconomic, so it is encouraging to note that a number of community access services have been included in the range of participants who will be invited to trial this satellite. This will provide access to individuals in the community to the benefits of these quality networks.'

Media Contact: 

Terry O'Connor, Minister's office 0419 636 879 

Doug Miell, Farmwide 02 6273 6384



27 November 1998