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Govt should help secondary schools with fibre: Mason

Queensland Liberal National Senator Brett Mason is accusing the Australian government of shirking its responsibilities to help secondary schools connect to high-speed fibre.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

Brett Mason, Liberal National senator and shadow minister for Universities and Research, has attacked the Australian government for not lending a helping hand in connecting secondary schools to high-speed fibre.

"When Kevin Rudd promised a laptop for every secondary student, he also promised that they would be connected to fast, up to 100 megabits per second [Mbps] fibre," he said in a statement.

He said that the government's contribution in connecting only "10 schools out of 2,650 in five years is a truly pretty pathetic record for this government."

Mason's damning of the government came during today's Budget Estimates hearings. He admitted that the total number of secondary schools connected to high-speed fibre exceeds 10, but said that it is only due to action taken by various state governments and the schools themselves, rather than by the federal government.

"Moreover, the most current available data shows that only 1 percent of Australian schools enjoy speeds of more than 20Mbps, with the vast majority having to do with speeds below 4Mbps.

"Schools who have already waited five years will have to wait a few more years to receive the fibre connection under the snail pace of the NBN rollout. And hundreds of thousands of computers will remain badly under-utilised without high-speed connection."

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations informed Mason earlier this year (PDF) that of the 201 secondary schools within the NBN footprint, about 96 are already connected via fibre.

"Whether schools already connected to fibre choose to connect to NBN fibre is a matter for the relevant school's authority, taking into account a number of issues, including the commercial arrangements in place with service providers and individual schools, education authorities, or whole-of-government purchasing authorities; and the scope for better deals in relation to capacity and pricing under new commercial arrangements with the rollout of the NBN," the department said in response to questions taken on notice in Budget Estimates earlier this year.

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