Coonan's 'equal opportunity' broadband

The details of a scheme that promises the most far-flung Aussies a chance to get the same broadband that their city-dwelling cousins have had for some time have been unveiled.Communications Minister Helen Coonan revealed guidelines for the Australian Broadband Guarantee (ABG) program -- the scheme under which those living in the most broadband-deprived areas can claim a AU$2,750 subsidy towards satellite connectivity.

The details of a scheme that promises the most far-flung Aussies a chance to get the same broadband that their city-dwelling cousins have had for some time have been unveiled.

Communications Minister Helen Coonan revealed guidelines for the Australian Broadband Guarantee (ABG) program -- the scheme under which those living in the most broadband-deprived areas can claim a AU$2,750 subsidy towards satellite connectivity. ABG was announced back in March, with Coonan trumpeting that the scheme would fill the remaining broadband blackspots in the country, without releasing details.

According to Coonan, under the scheme, all consumers will be guaranteed "metro-comparable" broadband services. The federal government defines "metro-comparable" speeds as typically at least 512kbps, yet under proposals for Australia's fibre-to-the-node broadband network, speeds of between 12Mbps to 50Mbps for urban areas have been bandied about.

It's estimated around one percent of the population will fall outside both traditional urban broadband and the government subsidised bush network, which will be supplied by OPEL, a joint venture between Optus and Elders.

Coonan said the scheme will provide "a safety net" for all Australians without broadband.

The minister is encouraging ISPs to take a look at the newly released guidelines to identify "business opportunities" around the guarantee as well as the bush broadband network, while consumers are directed to www.dcita.gov.au/broadband for information on whether they can claim the subsidy.

The ABG offers incentives to provide coverage in the most remote areas, on the understanding ISPs registered under the ABG will need to provide speeds typically at least 512kpbs and usage of 1000MB per month to consumers for more than AU$2,500 over three years.

For ISPs to win financial assistance under the ABG, they will need to guarantee service will continue for at least three years after the life of the program and will be able to survive without ongoing support from the government.

According to the new guidelines, the ABG program will run from 14 August 2007 to 30 June 2008.

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