SA councils group for bush broadband

Summary:Some 15 of South Australia's regional local councils have joined forces as they attempt to tackle the sticky problem of how to eliminate broadband blackspots in their areas. The group -- dubbed the Central Local Government Region of SA (CLGR) -- collectively covers a large portion of rural South Australia, from the Barossa and Clare valleys through to the Flinders Ranges and the Yorke Peninsula.

Some 15 of South Australia's regional local councils have joined forces as they attempt to tackle the sticky problem of how to eliminate broadband blackspots in their areas.

The group -- dubbed the Central Local Government Region of SA (CLGR) -- collectively covers a large portion of rural South Australia, from the Barossa and Clare valleys through to the Flinders Ranges and the Yorke Peninsula.

Yesterday the group called on the local telecommunications industry to provide ideas on how "modern and affordable" broadband services of speeds of at least 256kbps could be provided throughout that region to residents and businesses.

"There is a widely accepted view that access to the latest technologies such as broadband Internet provides a significant catalyst for communities in terms of their opportunities to develop economically, socially and culturally," said CLGR in documents released through the state government's tendering Web site.

While the request appears primarily aimed at appeasing broadband-starved residents and businesses, the councils' own telecomms spend might also be up for grabs.

"Councils may also consider placing their telecommunications business with a new provider," said the group, noting their collective annual spend in the area was greater than AU$430,000.

The group may select one or more preferred providers from responses to the expressions of interest (EOI) process launched yesterday, or it may proceed to a formal tender process.

The documents indicated government funding could be forthcoming to aid CLGR's goals, through a number of state and federal government funding programs -- for example the federal goverment's Broadband Connect program.

Broadband ADSL and wireless services are currently available in a number of areas within CLGR's collective domain, but the group noted "satellite service remains the only current alternative for many smaller or more remote localities within the region".

The satellite option is not acceptable for many consumer and business applications due to its high latency compared with fixed or wireless broadband, but the councils were not even keen on wireless.

"Wireless service is a low bandwidth option, with limited bandwidth and limited usage, and not comparable to fixed broadband service plans," said CLGR.

In the documents, CLGR identified key areas of demand in the region, saying that there was a "strong and growing interest and commitment to the uptake of broadband" that offered a "significant opportunity" for telcos and Internet service providers.

Topics: Telcos, Broadband, Telstra

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