Conroy gives rural ISPs guidance on bush broadband

Conroy gives rural ISPs guidance on bush broadband

Summary: Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy has issued a new set of guidelines for ISPs servicing rural and regional Australia, on the back of the Federal government's decision to extend the Australian Broadband Guarantee as part of last Tuesday's budget.


Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy has issued a new set of guidelines for ISPs servicing rural and regional Australia, on the back of the Federal government's decision to extend the Australian Broadband Guarantee (ABG) as part of last Tuesday's budget.

"The Rudd government has announced that AU$270.7 million will be made available to fund the Australian Broadband Guarantee program until June 2012," said Conroy in a statement. "It is important that all Australians have equitable access to broadband, both while the network is being rolled out, and in those most remote areas that the new [fibre-to-the-node] network may not cover," he said.

The draft guidelines — developed in consultation with rural broadband providers and other industry groups — assert that rural ISPs will now have to provide a higher level of service than "currently required", by introducing a cap on excess data charges, and include standard contract clauses in sign-up agreements for all users.

The guidelines dictate that rural ISPs are required to provide access speeds of at least 512/128Kbps to be eligible for ABG funding, with the government also granting subsidies for "added value services" of 1Mbps and over.

Peter Coroneos, CEO of the Internet Industry Association (IIA), believes that by prioritising a "higher level of service" for regional Australia, the government is hoping for users outside of capital cities to attain a "metro-equivalent" service.

"By introducing a 1Mbps capability, I think what [the government's] doing is getting more or less consistent with metropolitan areas," he said.

"We haven't had any adverse reports about any of the guidelines yet, but the draft has only been out a couple of days," said Coroneos.

"At this stage we have to remember it's a draft, so it's still open to suggestion," he said. The government consultation process for the industry closes on 28 May.

Under the guarantee, the Federal government will offer subsidy payments of up to AU$6,000 per customer through a three-tiered funding system, which offers higher payments according to how remote or poorly covered an area may be.

"The recognition that you need to allow for higher expenditure in very remote or hazardous areas is a positive from a public policy standpoint ... the more remote some users are the more important their broadband connections become," said Coroneos.

The guidelines also state that data shaping will occur at "no less than 64Kbps at no cost or excess data charges of no more than five cents per megabyte".

The IIA CEO said he was also encouraged by the move to cap excess data charges, although he was unsure about the maximum five cents per megabyte rate.

"There are probably hundreds of different plans out there, so it's hard to form a view as to whether five cents is reasonable or not," he said.

The government's decision to extend the ABG, and ensuing draft guidelines, have put an end to speculation that the Labor government planned to cut the ABG program, after Opposition spokesperson for Communications, Bruce Billson, pointed to Labor inactivity over the ABG as a sign it was about to be cut.

Topics: Broadband, Government AU, Networking, NBN, Tech Industry

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  • The gulf widens

    So 98% of the population are supposed to get a minimum of 12mbps and the other 2% get 512kbps...The gulf between the haves and have nots continues to rise..
  • The price you pay

    It's the price one pays for living in a rural area.

    Just as a city-dweller doesn't expect acres of land, clear blue skies and a country lifestyle, I find it difficult to fathom how the rural population demands city-equivalent data services.

    The government has provided subsidized satellite and wireless connectivity for the rural population - 1Mb satellites services are hardly insufficient for a residential internet connection.

    If it bothers you all that much, move to the city.
  • Fair enough

    Harsh but true!! I think this whole city/country is in need of some commonsense
  • Speeds

    Many areas classified as "regional" have had ADSL 1 speeds for many years. Where I live, which has a population of over 10,000 people, we've had Telstra's ADSL DSLAM in our exchange since 1999. Having that then, and getting absolutely nothing now and over the past few years, means that the privatization of Telstra was another area where the Howard government screwed-over the people living in regional areas.
  • Leechers On A Wireless Network Bad News

    If shaping is mandatory and there is no controls on use after shaping, then any attempt at providing a wireless network will fall over. Optus applies a $300 leech penalty for good reason. Virgin's Network was near collapse in some areas. Unless ISPs are allowed to de-leech promptly without penalty, then entering into a shaped contract on wireless will NOT WORK.
  • Simplistic view

    To say 'it's the price one pays for living in a rural area' is most simplistic and is shooting yourself in the foot. Farmers and miners are two of the larger groups that reside in rural Australia. Without them, the country would be an entirely different place. Who would grow the wheat and canola that is in, or indirectly associated with much of what you eat? And to be competitive nowadays, the Internet is vital.
  • Shaping is fine.

    Mate - I doubt anyone is leeching too much pr0n on 64kbps.

    Be serious for a minute. Once you get shaped, you find the average torrent is gone before you get it.

    On the other hand, certain *coughs* wireless plans available in rural Australia right now go to great lengths to trumpet incredibly high speeds, incredibly low data caps, and of course, NO UPPER LIMIT on excess data charges.

    Anyone for a $20000 monthly bill due to virus activity (or - yes - kids *sighs*). This wouldn't be an issue if a shaped plan were at least available. Charge more for it. But give us a choice.

    And i doubt any large wireless Telco is going to fall over from allowing users shaping at 64k. Not with the 'premium' charges they have just now.
  • Reality Check

    Why people live in the bush is irrelevant. They do and everyone benefits from it in some way.

    I see references to internet speed. A little while ago I noted my download speed was 7Kb/s. That's pretty average. Often it's less than 1Kb/s and 10b/s is not unusual. Back when I was on dial-up I thought 2.5Kb/s was good but my satellite service doesn't get that high about 20% of the time and is 7 times more expensive.
    My only other option is Telstra Wireless. Last time I looked I could sign up for 1GB per month for about $80 (and they include upload in that 1GB). A lot of that 1GB will be used by Windoze Updates and a fair swag of the rest will be software updates and spam (including adverts).
    City folk get much more for much less from Telstra competitors so why can't the Government give me something similar, even at twice the price? I can put up with paying a penalty to placate the city folk who don't have a clue.
  • Typical city slicker ignorance

    If people in some of the most remote areas of the world can have a telephone service why not Internet? Why do city slickers get on their soap box and waffle on about "the price one pays" when all it amounts to is petty excuses.

    At the moment I host my own mail, DNS and web services and a couple of other things and none of this can be done on a satellite connection for several reasons. Firstly, acceptable use policies disallow it and secondly because of the latency that exists.

    For the record, I've lived in city flats and in remote areas so I am biased in neither direction. If it is good enough for Sydney then it should be good enough for the bush too.