Tasmanian utility Aurora Energy has been picked to provide internet services to Tasmanian schools and government on the National Broadband Network (NBN), following a month of controversy over the deployment of internet in the region.
Tasmanian Education Minister Nick McKim said Aurora would start providing services to government schools in the NBN first release sites of Smithton and Scottsdale in the next six weeks.
"This will include content filtering of inappropriate material, virus protection, support for department business applications and internal government systems," McKim said in a statement. "Access to the NBN combined with the Australian Government-funded Connected — Any Student, Any School (CASAS) project under the Digital Regions Initiative will, over time, provide all Tasmanian schools access to cutting-edge technologies to take full advantage of the NBN."
Last month the Tasmanian and federal governments came under criticism after it was revealed that none of the schools in Tasmania had been connected to the NBN. McKim had said at the time that many of the schools were bound to an existing contract, and that Aurora Energy was working closely with schools to reach an agreement.
McKim said that the government would first focus on Scottsdale and Smithton and then extend the arrangement to the rest of Tasmania as construction continues to deliver the NBN across the Apple Isle.
"The first phase has a focus on the set-up and provision of a virtual datacentre that features aggregated data from the three education jurisdictions. Under the second phase, the Department of Education will utilise the systems and services as part of the new eSchool, which will provide online learning opportunities across Tasmanian schools," he said. "This will include services to rural and remote students who can't attend a traditional educational facility."
The third phase would aim to have students in years 11 and 12 in remote or regional locations in Tasmania obtaining their education through the eSchool initiative, without having to travel long distances to school.
"The third phase also extends the use of broadband to the wider Tasmanian community, which will enable all Tasmanians to have access to lifelong learning and training opportunities that previously have been restricted to major regional centres," McKim said.
Construction at the second Tasmanian sites of Triabunna, Sorell, Deloraine, St Helens, Kingston Beach, George Town and South Hobart began in April, and is expected to take four to six months. These sites will have services switched on in 2012, according to NBN Co.