Thursday, May 17, 2012

NBN Applications in the 2012/2013 Federal Budget

The ABC has pointed out some projects to use the NBN in the federal budget (NBN facts and fallout from the Budget, David Braue, 16 May 2012). Obviously none of the initiatives labelled as using the NBN are actually dependent on the NBN and will work just as well on existing high speed networks. If the NBN did not exist, the government might well be doing exactly the same projects, just without the NBN branding. But they do point the way to how government can provide better and cheaper services where ubiquitous high speed networking is available. Also exactly how to deliver services online, build software and train staff will take many years, so it is good to start before then NBN is widely deployed. Another NBN related item is re-stacking the radio spectrum freed up in the switch to digital TV. This will make available large sections of radio frequency ideal for mobile digital communications, ideal to provide a wireless complement to the fixed NBN infrastructure.

Virtual English Tuition for Migrants

The Government will provide $5.0 million over three years to pilot virtual English tuition via the National Broadband Network (NBN). Starting in 2012, the service will support new migrants living in Regional Australia with a distance learning package that complements the Adult Migrant English Program.

The trial will have two phases. Phase one will provide enhanced distance learning online resources for teachers and home tutors while phase two will deliver interactive services in communities connected to the NBN.

The program will be reviewed in 2013‑14 to test the viability of expanding the services nationwide.

Provision for this funding has already been included in the forward estimates.

Further information can be found in the joint press release of 7 February 2012 issued by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and the Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.

Remote Hearing and Vision Services for Children program

The Government is providing $4.9 million over three years to improve access to allied health and education services to an additional 125 children with hearing and/or vision impairment in outer regional and remote Australia. This program will be delivered across Australia in 2012‑13.

Utilising the National Broadband Network (NBN) where available, children and their families will have access to information, guidance, support, and skills development from qualified allied health and education services where such expertise may otherwise be scarce in regional and remote locations. The program will be delivered via a combination of high definition videoconferencing, mailed packages with lesson plans, information sheets, multi–media resources, telephone, fax, and email. In regions where the NBN is being rolled out, the government will provide for upgrades to existing videoconferencing infrastructure to ensure it is of high definition quality.

Attorney-General's National Broadband Network Regional Legal Assistance Program

The National Broadband Network (NBN) Regional Legal Assistance Program provides grant funding to trial NBN-based initiatives that seek to strengthen and increase legal assistance delivery in regional and remote areas. Legal assistance providers will be funded to trial the use of the NBN in innovative service delivery as well as to support regional or remote legal assistance staff. The total Program funding is $4.0 million over four years.

Digital Productivity — putting museums online for public access

The Government will provide $2.4 million over two years from 2011‑12 (including $0.4 million in capital funding in 2011‑12 and $0.02 million in 2012‑13) to provide online remote access to national cultural institutions to help demonstrate the opportunities offered by the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Using the high bandwidth capability of the NBN, visitors will be able to undertake virtual tours of these institutions via mobile robots. Users will be able to engage and interact with local visitors and tour guides and will be provided with a range of additional on‑screen information to enhance their experience.

Funding for this measure was included as a 'decision taken but not yet announced' in the 2011‑12 Budget.

This measure is part of the Government's broader digital economy strategy.

National Broadband Network — regional and remote information

The Government has provided $20.0 million in 2011‑12 to improve public understanding, address misconceptions and provide updated information about the National Broadband Network (NBN).

These activities will be focused on regional and remote areas where access to the NBN will be provided through fixed wireless and satellite services.budget

National Broadband Network — support for NBN Co‑Telstra Definitive Agreements

The Government provided $321.6 million on 30 March 2012 to Telstra to support the Definitive Agreements between NBN Co and Telstra, as agreed in June 2010.

In June 2010, NBN Co and Telstra entered into a series of agreements regarding the use of Telstra's infrastructure and the progressive migration of Telstra's customers to the National Broadband Network. In support of the agreements, the Government committed to provide approximately $2 billion of value through a series of public policy reforms and a payment to Telstra, the value of which equated to $190.0 million post‑tax in net present value terms.

Provision for this funding was included in the Contingency Reserve in the 2011‑12 Budget.

Further information can be found in the joint press release of 7 March 2012 issued by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation and the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

Human Services Video Conferencing

The Government, through a collaborative effort, will pilot an initiative—Digital Productivity — leveraging the NBN infrastructure—to enhance service delivery through video conferencing. The pilot aims to increase equitable access to specialist face-to-face services via high-definition videoconferencing, for people in regional Australia who connect to the NBN from their residential homes, or connect to the NBN via a regional video access point. A budget of $6.2 million has been allocated to the Department for the pilot over the four financial years to 2014-15. The pilot will be designed collaboratively with citizens, service providers and other third party organisations such as community, education and healthcare providers.

Digital Television Switchover — spectrum restacking

The Government will provide $143.2 million over five years (including capital funding of $0.4 million in 2013‑14 and $0.3 million in 2014‑15) to ensure free‑to‑air commercial and national broadcasters vacate the digital dividend spectrum in a timely fashion. This funding will assist broadcasters to replace and retune existing transmission equipment and allow the digital dividend spectrum to be cleared as soon as possible after the switch‑off of analog television services on 31 December 2013.

This measure includes $26.1 million to research, develop, and conduct a communications campaign for the purpose of informing communities about the process. The measure also includes $9.7 million to be provided to the Australian Communication and Media Authority and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to conduct research and an evaluation of the process, respond to inquiries about the digital switchover, and maintain the mySwitch website to provide information about reception questions.

Funding from this measure for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Special Broadcasting Service is not for publication to protect the national broadcasters' position in any future negotiations with service providers.

The cost of this measure will be partially offset by a provision of $53.0 million previously included in the Contingency Reserve for assistance to broadcasters for spectrum restacking.

Further information on the digital dividend can be found in the press release of 24 June 2010 issued by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

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