Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity
Government responds to the 2011–12 Regional Telecommunications Review report
The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, today released the Government’s response to the 2011–12 Regional Telecommunications Review.
“This independent review has confirmed that people living in regional Australia support the Gillard Government’s investment in the National Broadband Network and our decision to prioritise the rollout of fast, reliable and affordable broadband to regional areas,” Senator Conroy said.
“There is also strong support for our commitment to uniform wholesale pricing, which ensures people living in rural, remote and regional Australia pay the same wholesale price for broadband as those living in cities. This is something the Coalition continues to oppose, meaning higher prices for Australians in the bush.”
The Regional Communications: Empowering Digital Communities report was tabled in Parliament on 23 May 2012 and the Government has already started implementing its recommendations, including:
- Allowing remote schools and health facilities to access the NBN Co Interim Satellite Service
- Releasing the NBN Co Network Extension policy on 12 July 2012
- Continuing the provision of untimed local calls in the Extended Zones (remote areas of Australia) for 2012–13, in line with the Sinclair Review’s recommendation
- Providing funding to relevant Regional Development Australia committees to help develop digital economy strategies for the rollout of the NBN in regional communities.
“The Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee recognised that many of the Government’s existing programs are successfully helping to improve access to communications for regional Australians,” Senator Conroy said.
These programs include the Indigenous Communications Program and the Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme, as well as the Digital Hubs, Digital Enterprise and Digital Local Government programs.
“The Government will continue to review the effectiveness of these programs and consider their extension as part of future policy processes.”
“I acknowledge the concerns that were raised about mobile coverage in rural and remote areas. The Government encourages NBN Co and mobile carriers to work together to take advantage of the NBN fixed wireless towers to improve mobile coverage across regional Australia.
“The Government will review the impact of the NBN fixed wireless towers on improving mobile coverage before considering whether any additional funding is needed to extend mobile coverage.”
The Committee also requested that the Government work with NBN Co to ensure that people in regional Australia are not left behind as the NBN is rolled out across the country.
“In the Statement of Expectations provided to NBN Co in December 2010, the Government outlined that NBN Co is expected to upgrade its services over time and demonstrate that they are meeting demand and supporting innovation across all technology platforms.
“NBN Co’s Corporate Plan 2012-15 included additional capital expenditure associated with anticipated technology upgrades on both the Fixed Wireless and Long Term Satellite services for regional and remote Australia.”
The Australian Government’s response to the review report is available at: www.dbcde.gov.au/funding_and_programs/regional_telecommunications_review
For more information, including a copy of the final report, visit the Committee's website at www.rtirc.gov.au or call 1800 064 851 (free-call from a landline).
Date: 23 August 2012
Contact: Adam Sims 0408 258 457