In this issue
- Minister's message
- Safeguards for online and mobile content
- Over one million registrations for Do Not Call Register
- Clever Networks continues delivering smart broadband solutions
- $13.6 million to fight net nasties
- Signal strong for digital radio in budget
- Further funding for communication regulator
- Portfolio profile—Australian Film Television and Radio School
Australia has entered a new broadband era. The Australian Government will ensure 99 per cent of the population has access to fast affordable broadband by June 2009 under a landmark funding and legislative initiative, Australia Connected.
Australia Connected will provide 12 megabit per second broadband services to quite literally thousands of rural and regional communities including icon townships such as Birdsville, Bedourie and Windorah and builds on the Government's success to date that has seen more than 4.3 million homes and small businesses connected to broadband across Australia.
The centrepiece of Australia Connected is the immediate rollout in regional and rural areas of a new, competitive and state of the art national broadband network that will extend high speed services out to 99 per cent of the population and provide speeds of 12 megabits per second by mid 2009.
Beyond 2009, this new scaleable network will have the capacity to provide higher speeds as Australia's demand for bandwidth grows, with funding already assured from the ongoing income stream provided by the Government's $2 billion Communications Fund.
This ongoing income stream is a critical ‘insurance policy' for regional and rural Australians to ensure they are not left behind as telecommunications technology blasts into the twenty-first century.
Australia Connected is a comprehensive and complete broadband solution for Australia that involves:
- A new high speed wholesale network: The awarding of a $600 million competitive grant will deliver a mix of fibre optic, ADSL2+ and wireless broadband platforms to rural and regional areas. This rollout has been boosted with an additional $358 million in funding to ensure 99 per cent of the population can access high speed broadband.
- A new commercial high speed network in metropolitan areas: Facilitating a new high speed network build in cities and larger regional centres via an open assessment process and subsequent enabling legislation.
- Australian Broadband Guarantee: A safety net that ensures Australians living in the most remote or difficult to reach areas (the remaining one per cent) are entitled to a subsidised broadband service (providers can receive a subsidy of up to $2750 per household).
- Creation of BroadbandNow: A new one-stop consumer help centre with telephone and web information to assist consumers understand the technology options available to them and provide ready information about how to get connected.
- Preservation of the $2 billion Communications Fund: To ensure the funds are protected in perpetuity by legislation for the benefit of regional and rural Australians and to provide for an income stream for future upgrades.
Australia Connected demonstrates the Government's commitment to ensuring fast affordable broadband services for all Australians, regardless of where they live.
Australia Connected is a significant milestone for Australian telecommunications. This is not a future plan but a plan for the future. I look forward to flicking the fast broadband switch in the coming months and welcoming the advent of a new, world class network for all Australians regardless of where they live.
I hope you enjoy the fifth issue of Communications News.
Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Safeguards for online and mobile content
Consumers are increasingly able to access a range of audiovisual content using next generation mobile phones and other portable electronic devices, and access live streaming video through subscription Internet portals.
This technology has the potential to deliver improved services for consumers and new business opportunities for content providers. However, with broadcasting, Internet and telephone content being readily available via mobile devices, there is a risk that consumers, particularly children, could be exposed to potentially offensive or harmful content, which would otherwise be regulated if shown via other media.
In response, the Government has passed the Communications Legislation Amendment (Content Services) Bill 2007 to address the issue of potentially offensive content being delivered via convergent devices such as 3G mobile phones or through subscription Internet portals.
The legislation establishes a framework to, as far as practical, align the regulation of content delivered online and over convergent devices with the principles used for regulating traditional media. The reforms also regulate emerging content services regardless of the platform or technology.Under the new framework, content that is—or potentially would be—rated X18+ and above must not be delivered or made available to the public. For material rated or likely to be rated R18+, access must be subject to appropriate age verification mechanisms. Commercially provided content that is or is likely to be classified MA15+ or above will also generally require appropriate age verification mechanisms.
Over one million registrations to the Do Not Call Register
I launched the Do Not Call Register in early May, allowing Australians to register their personal phone or mobile details. Postal registration became available in mid-May and phone registrations were announced on a state-by-state basis from mid May.
The Register has been a great success with consumers concerned about being interrupted by unsolicited telemarketing calls. In the first week alone, more than 530 000 registrations were received. There are now approximately 1.17 million telephone numbers registered.
The Register is now fully operational and enforceable. This means telemarketers, except certain public interest organisations which are exempted, must not make calls to numbers listed on the Register. A standard has also been introduced to apply to all telemarketing and research calls, which in particular, restricts the times and days when calls can be made.
Clever Networks continues delivering smart broadband solutions
This program is about smarter delivery of essential services. Again, the second round will be focusing on projects that will make innovative use of broadband to deliver improved outcomes in health, education, government and emergency services.
It is likely that successful applications under this funding round will involve projects from service providers in regional Australia. Applications close on 9 July 2007, and the guidelines and the submission pack for round two are now available online.
I have already announced five out of 16 preferred applicants under round one of the Clever Networks program, including:
- $1.4 million for a project to help people with disabilities in Victoria;
- $4.0 million for two projects to provide broadband links between health facilities within the North Coast and Greater Western regions of New South Wales;
- $1.1 million for a project to deliver technical education online through the resources of TAFE South Australia; and
- $2.3 million for a project to deliver high speed broadband infrastructure in South Australia to improve government services in the regional centres of Berri, Murray Bridge and Port Pirie.
$13.6 million to fight net nasties
I was very pleased to be able to announce a $13.6 million package of measures in the recent budget to help protect home users and small businesses from electronic attacks and fraud.
Under this package, the Stay Smart Online website (www.staysmartonline.gov.au) will be enhanced with additional content, tools and resources and a national alert service. The national alert service will provide simple, easy to understand alerts for home users and small businesses, highlighting specific security threats within an Australian context.
A national e-security awareness week will be held annually in collaboration with industry and community organisations. This will help raise the overall community level of awareness of e-security threats and to encourage smart online practices.
An education module for schools will also be introduced to help educate young people about the importance of e-security. This recognises that young people are often the heaviest Internet users within households and so need to be well informed about how to stay secure online.
The Australian Internet Security Initiative will also be expanded. This will help internet service providers to identify compromised computers, notify the relevant owners and help them to take appropriate action to restore their computer security.
This $13.6 million package forms part of a $73.6 million whole-of-government initiative to strengthen the electronic operating environment for business, home users and government agencies.
Signal strong for digital radio in budget
I was pleased to announce that Australians would benefit from improved radio services through $10.5 million in funding provided through the recent budget. Community broadcasters will receive some $10.1 million over four years to establish digital radio services in collaboration with the commercial broadcasters. Funding will also be placed in contingent reserves for the ABC and SBS to jointly roll out digital radio. The actual cost of the national broadcasters' rollout will be determined following a tender process.
The Government's digital radio legislation, which was passed by Parliament on 10 May this year, will enable the introduction of digital radio in Australia from 1 January 2009, starting with the six state capital cities. Digital radio has the potential to provide listeners with access to a number of additional features. These include multiple channels from a single licensee and the ability to pause and rewind radio broadcasts, access text based news and weather updates, and view playlist information and still pictures.
Based on the overseas introduction of digital radio, it has been shown that this technology works most effectively as a supplement to existing radio services, rather than as a replacement technology.
This funding will help the successful introduction of the new digital radio platform, and ensure a mix of commercial, community and national radio broadcasts are available in digital mode.
Further funding for communication regulator
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is responsible for the regulation of broadcasting, Internet content, radiocommunications and telecommunications in Australia.
The 2007–08 Budget included an additional $16.3 million in funding for ACMA over the next four years. This additional funding recognises the rapid expansion of the communications sector over the past few years.
Next generation networks are being rolled out, wireless broadband is on the rise, the latest mobile phones and other portable devices are giving us remote access to instant messaging and emails. These new services and technologies mean greater activity in the sector, increased challenges for industry regulation and spectrum management, and increased consumer and industry expectations of the regulator.
ACMA plays a vital role in licensing telecommunications carriers, monitoring Internet content, enforcing anti-spam legislation, ensuring compliance with cross-media rules, managing and allocating spectrum for radio and television broadcasts, and supporting the development of codes of practice by the telecommunications and broadcasting industries.
Portfolio profile - Australian Film Television and Radio School
The Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) is the national centre for professional education and advanced training in film, television and radio.
It was established in 1973 to advance the success and sustainability of Australia's screen and broadcast industries, particularly through strengthening the skills base of the industry. It does this by recognising and developing new and emerging talent, and by giving industry professionals opportunities to gain additional skills to assist them in their creative and professional development.
AFTRS graduates and students have won more than 400 awards including the Cannes Palme d'Or, Camera d'Or, Palme d'Or for best short film (twice), two Academy Awards® for Best Cinematography, an Academy Award® for Best Screenplay, 22 Australian Film Institute Awards and 10 Best Short Fiction Awards at the Sydney Film Festival.