South Australian Labor to expand fibre broadband if re-elected

A re-elected South Australian Labor government will invest AU$35 million in expanding its GigCity fibre broadband network, and will create a Department of Digital Innovation.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

South Australia's Labor government will invest AU$35 million in expanding its GigCity fibre broadband network if it is re-elected next month, current Premier Jay Weatherill has announced.

"We're stepping in where the Federal Liberal Government has failed; under a re-elected Labor Government, Adelaide will have the fastest, cheapest internet speeds in the nation," Weatherill said in a tweet on Tuesday morning.

The so-called Fishbone network will be expanded across metro Adelaide in order to "make Adelaide the home of Australia's fastest internet", the state's Labor party said, and is expected to create around 3,000 new jobs across digital products and services, mining, agriculture, tourism, and advanced manufacturing.

"It will enable thousands of businesses and households to connect to ultra-fast internet that is many times faster than the National Broadband Network (NBN) and significantly cheaper," a joint statement from Weatherill and South Australian Minister for Innovation Kyam Maher said.

If re-elected, the Labor party will also establish a Department of Digital Innovation to "oversee the expansion of the Fishbone network" as well as attracting new businesses to the state.

"The department will also develop a digital inclusion plan to narrow the digital divide in South Australia, ensuring all members of our community can fully participate economically and socially," the Labor party explained.

"This will include establishing a roundtable of the community sector, government, and business."

According to the current premier, free public Wi-Fi will also be expanded across communities and on public transport.

Adelaide's GigCity 1Gbps network was launched in August, with Weatherill at the time saying it made Adelaide one of the "most connected cities" in the globe.

The government in June selected EscapeNet to be the internet service provider for its gigabit-speed network, and set aside AU$2.9 million over four years in its state Budget to extend the network into more areas.

In December, the City of Adelaide then announced that TPG will be progressively rolling out its 10-gigabit fibre broadband network across the city beginning in "early 2018".

Ten Gigabit Adelaide access points will be installed in buildings free of charge by the city and TPG, with the cost for accessing services "considerably less" than current options on the market.

Adelaide's 10Gbps network was originally allocated AU$4 million in the state Budget back in June 2016 to provide an alternative to the federal government's NBN.

Weatherill last week also pledged to invest AU$6.7 million in coding classes for the state's 114,000 public primary school students if re-elected, after last month promising laptops for Year 10 students -- an initiative that would cost the state AU$70 million over five years.

South Australia has been focused on becoming an innovation state, at the end of last year attempting to push through laws in Parliament that would encourage tech companies to undertake research projects there -- but at the cost of potentially waiving most other state laws.

"To the extent that the governor considers necessary for the purposes of the project or activity and subject to this section, provide that an Act, specified provision of an Act, or any other law does not apply, or applies with specified modifications, in respect of the project or activity," the Research, Development and Innovation Bill 2017 states.

While the Bill 2017 has been shelved for now, it has bipartisan support despite protests from the Greens Party and from the Law Society of South Australia.

South Australia has also been allowing driverless car trials on its roads, with companies wanting to test their technology required to simply submit plans of the proposed trial and have sufficient insurance to protect themselves and the public.

South Australia heads to the polls on March 17.

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