RealTime IT News

Telstra, Government to Boost Broadband Uptake

Telecommunications carrier Telstra has partnered with the Federal Government in a new project to trial broadband digital services among residents of the Tasmanian city of Launceston, in a new push behind uptake of the technology.

The organisations' joint effort, called the Launceston Broadband Project, has three components. The first, a multimedia development laboratory called B-elab, was launched last August to help test the commercial viability of Telstra's future online products. The second component is a high speed trial of broadband ADSL services for 2000 to 5000 homes and businesses in Launceston, while the third is funding and support for technology businesses in the region as part of the Federal Government's $5 million development fund.

As part of the second project component, residents will be given the option to take part in the Launceston Broadband Project, to gain access to broadband connectivity through Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) at prices that are more than 40 per cent cheaper than Telstras BigPond Advances standard ADSL rate.

ADSL, a technology that delivers high speed Internet access over standard copper lines, will be used in the Launceston project for consumers to receive large graphics, video and play online games.

"Other ISPs in Launceston will also be able to offer high speed Internet access via ADSL to the community as part of the project," said Telstras B-elab manager Tony Oetterli.

While the Federal Government has contributed to this Launceston initiative, it has also outlined a $30 million strategy to deliver computers, training and Internet connectivity to 152 small towns in regional and rural NSW.

The strategy is designed to gradually connect Australian country areas to help them interact beyond their regional boundaries. "Connectivity and access to computers is a big issues for country people, particularly in small towns," said Minister for Information Technology Kim Yeadon. "Without this sort of access in the future, people will find it difficult to fully participate in society because new technologies are increasingly important for business, education and access to information."

Under the strategy, the Government plans to deliver broadband access to 62 more "small country" towns, under the $15.45 million Community Technology Centre program the Federal Government jointly funds. These centres will provide access to teleconferencing, email, online education, telecommuting and basic IT skills training, and the government intends to create 19 regional coordinator jobs to deliver these services and establish the centres.

"The Federal Government has committed $5 million of the strategy budget to extend Internet access and computer training to 90 more regional towns through the $14.5 million Rural Link project. Rural Link will also build on its NSW.net program that provides free Internet access and training through 87 NSW libraries," said Yeadon.

The strategy also includes the distribution of 159 $400,000 legacy computers used during the Sydney Olympics to regional communities, and moves by the government to encourage broadband access to regional areas through department contracts."