Extra $60m for regional telecoms

Summary:Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has tabled his "initial" response to the regional telecommunications review completed by Dr Bill Glasson's team last year: $60 million in extra funding.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has tabled his "initial" response to the regional telecommunications review completed by Dr Bill Glasson's team last year: $60 million in extra funding.

(Rural drive way image by certified su, CC2.0)

"Australia's regional, rural and remote communities deserve better communications systems and greater participation in the digital economy," Conroy said in a statement.

The majority of the money, $46 million, will go to education, health and emergency services projects such as remote medical consultation, diagnosis or treatment, teleconferencing and "digital technologies" for emergency and disaster response.

Those wanting a piece of the funds will need to complete applications by September this year, with projects not expected to start until early next year.

From the remainder, $11.4 million will go to extend satellite phone subsidies for those living in areas without terrestrial coverage to cover 85 per cent of handset cost, up from the current 60 per cent. This would include handset replacement as long as the phone had been bought over three years ago.

Australia's regional, rural and remote communities deserve better communications systems and greater participation in the digital economy

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy

The money was also intended to increase the number of handset subsidies for which health and emergency service organisations were eligible. Currently only two handsets can be subsidised. The final amount, $3.7 million, would go to improving telecommunications, internet access and computer training for remote indigenous communities.

The government had originally earmarked $400 million to spend on the report's recommendations, but Conroy has only dished out $60 million now, as the report advocated spending 10 to 15 per cent of available funds in the initial response. This leaves $340 million for later use.

The government also intended to address other issues raised in the report, but would not respond to recommendations which related to the National Broadband Network until the ongoing process was finalised.

The review was initiated by the previous government to monitor the progress of telecommunications services in rural Australia and determine how the interest earned from the former $2 billion Communications Fund would be spent. The report was tabled to parliament in October last year.

The review travelled around the regional areas and held meetings to pin down problems.

Topics: Government : AU, Reviews

About

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for t... Full Bio

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