Rural communities fear ‘data drought’ despite launch of NBN satellite Sky Muster

ABC News

Frustrated rural internet customers fear it could be 18 months before their substandard services are improved by the National Broadband Network (NBN Co) satellite Sky Muster.

The new half-a-billion-dollar satellite was launched this week, but due to months of testing will not be commercially available until mid-2016. Central Queensland farmer Kristy Sparrow said the bush cannot wait that long. Ms Sparrow has called on NBN Co to do more to improve speeds and lift data limits for those struggling with the congested interim satellite service (ISS), which Sky Muster will replace.

To address the congestion on the oversold system NBN Co introduced a fair use policy at the start of the year. All ISS users had their data plans cut.

Megan Munchenberg from Gregory Downs station in far north Queensland has seen the impact on her two children, who study by school of the air.

Alex Appleton doing distance education from schoolroom on Islay Plains Station, Alpha Queensland.

Alex Appleton doing distance education from schoolroom on Islay Plains Station, Alpha Queensland.

In March the station schoolroom’s 100 gigabyte plan was halved to 50 gigabytes, then three months later reduced to 45 gigabytes.

“Each child by standard has been recommended that they need 20 gigabytes month each. Currently we have 20 gigabytes for five children,” she said.

Despite rationing, the schoolroom cannot make it through the month, and their internet is “shaped”, or drastically slowed. “It’s pretty much just turn the computer off and walk away because the ability to do anything is impossible,” Ms Munchenberg said.

NBN Co’s general manager for fixed wireless and satellite, Gavin Williams, said he does not like to hear stories of hardship caused by the ISS.

“It’s incredibly humbling when you hear the real world impacts of individuals in the bush just trying to do things that people in the city just take for granted,” he said.

“When you can’t do a banking transaction because it times out, that a kid has to get up at 5:00am to do a lesson, they’re heartbreaking stories.”

Ms Sparrow said there is an information drought about the new long-term satellite service (LSS) and called on NBN Co to provide more information.

“How much are these families going to be able to access? What data limits? What costs? How long is it going to take to service every family?” she said.

“It’s a digital world and there’s a digital divide. The interim satellite at least deserves to be fixed until then.”

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GM of Industry Strategy & Public Policy at Vodafone Hutchison Australia to present at Australian Regional Development Conference

Matthew Lobb, General Manager, Industry Strategy & Public Policy at Vodafone Hutchison Australia will present at the Australian Regional Development Conference will be held at the Commercial Club Albury on the 26– 27 August 2015 .

The conference is an initiative of the Association for Sustainability in Business Inc., a non-Government ‘not-for-profit’ organisation.

Speaker Introduction: Matthew Lobb has overall responsibility for Vodafone’s government and stakeholder relations, regulatory affairs and public policy reform agenda. A key focus of this work is to advocate the need for a level competitive playing field in Australian telecommunications that fosters innovation and drives improvements to customer service.

Matthew joined Vodafone in 2011 after working as General Manager for Industry Engagement at NBN Co from 2009. Prior to this Matthew had an eight year stint in Telstra and held a range of roles including Director, Telstra Consumer Pricing, Group Manager, Commercial Development and Group Regulatory Manager, Telstra Wholesale.

Matthew also has extensive experience within Government having worked as an advisor to the Minister for Transport and Roads in NSW and to the Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs in the Federal Government.

Matthew is a Rhodes Scholar and has Honours degrees in Economics and in Law from the Australian National University, a MA from Oxford University and a MSc (International Relations) from the London School of Economics.

Presentation Title: Utilising the NBN to deliver improved regional mobile telecommunications coverage and choice


Regional consumers are demanding mobile coverage and 83 percent of regional consumers agree that being able to choose their mobile provider is important.

Overcoming the roadblocks to mobile competition in regional areas will ensure consumers and businesses receive more coverage, better value, better service, choice and innovation.

Australia’s telecommunications market has undergone a profound change in the last 15 years and Australian consumers have become some of the most technologically savvy in the world. These changes and the rapid uptake of new technology have fundamentally changed our lives and benefited our economy.

In many places in regional Australia the economy and consumers are being denied access to reliable mobile phone coverage and the benefits that flow from mobility. The Australian telecommunications market is not driving sufficient investment in regional mobile infrastructure to deliver the benefits of the mobility to all Australians. Incentivising investment and removing the roadblocks to coverage expansion is a policy challenge that must be overcome.

In many areas of Australia it is only economically viable to build one set of mobile infrastructure. The best approach to deliver improved mobile coverage and increase consumer choice is for Government to facilitate telecommunications industry collaboration that reduces costs by better sharing infrastructure.

This includes leveraging the substantial investments that the NBN is undertaking in regional Australia. There are also a range of other policy levers that can be used to encourage infrastructure sharing. This includes better utilisation of the $300m per annum Universal Service Obligation payments that are currently not directed to mobile infrastructure.

The needs of mobile networks are technically similar to other uses of the NBN. In regional areas the NBN can reduce the costs of building mobile networks to expand coverage by utilising the NBN’s fixed-line network for ‘access backhaul’ services. NBN’s fixed-wireless network which is currently being built can also provide a foundation for the expansion of mobile coverage across Australia.

To view and/or download the Australian Regional Development Conference program, please click here.

Mayor of Dubbo to present on the NBN at the Australian Regional Development Conference


The Mayor of Dubbo, Councillor Mathew Dickerson, will present at the Australian Regional Development Conference will be held at the Commercial Club Albury on the 26– 27 August 2015.

Mayor of Dubbo, Councillor Mathew Dickerson

Mayor of Dubbo, Councillor Mathew Dickerson

Speaker Bio:   Councillor Mathew Dickerson has a small business career that goes back to when he was aged 12 when he started his first small business, and has since started a total of 6 small businesses.

He has a long history of success in small business both from a financial perspective but also winning many awards. Among some of the major awards collected Mathew has the Microsoft Worldwide Partner of the Year, the Australian Business Council Award for Innovation and the Small Business Champions Award as the best IT business in Australia.

Mathew still retains ownership of two small businesses but spends his time writing and talking about small business with the most successful of his three books called Small Business Ru!es. He also writes a monthly column for a nationwide magazine, a fortnightly column for an American magazine and appears as a permanent guest on the nationwide Tony Delroy show to discuss small business concepts.

In his spare time he spends time with his wife and four children, he is an active member of Mensa, races Mountain Bikes and has served his local community as their Mayor since 2011.

Presentation Title:   Is the NBN the saviour of Regional Australia?

Presentation Overview: A population concentration map of Australia from the early 1900s showed many population centres across the nation. In essence, people needed to live where they worked. Along came the motor car – and then air travel – and a population concentration map of Australia today is vastly different with minimal population centres away from the coastal capitals. Overwhelmingly people are now choosing where they lived based on the hard to define quality of ‘amenity’. In short, for regional Australia to attract people, towns and cities across the nation must offer equivalent – or better – services and infrastructure to what major cities offer. The NBN is a key piece of this magical quality of ‘amenity’ and, if your town or city is connected to the NBN, how can you leverage off that to grow your population and GDP.

To be redirected to the Australian Regional Development Conference website please click here.

Call for Abstracts Open for Australian Regional Development Conference

Call for Abstracts are open for the Australian Regional Development Conference, an initiative of the Association for Sustainability in Business Inc., a non-Government ‘not-for-profit’ organisation. The program will include an extensive range of topics with Keynote Presenters, Concurrent Sessions, Case Studies, Workshops and Poster Presentations.

Authors or organisations interested in submitting a paper or presenting a workshop are invited to submit an abstract of no more than 300 words outlining the aims, contents and conclusions of their paper or presentation; or about their intended role in a workshop.

The Conference Streams are below (followed by sub-themes for concurrent sessions):

  • Innovation
  • Infrastructure
  • Cultural Tourism / Regional Tourism Development
  • Free Trade Agreements
  • Transport and Logistics
  • NBN / Broadband Communication
  • Banking / Finance

Sub themes for concurrent sessions:

  • Innovation
  • Infrastructure
  • Cultural Tourism / Regional Tourism Development
  • Free Trade Agreements
  • Transport and Logistics
  • NBN / Broadband Communication
  • Banking / Finance

All presenters at the conference can have papers included in the “Book of Proceedings” which is published internationally with an ISBN number. Peer reviewing is available. Delegates also have access to the podcast resource, post conference. A collection of presentations on Regional Development recorded in 2014 and 2015.

For more information or to submit an abstract, please click here.

Is remote and rural Australia being dudded by the NBN? NBN and rural Australia

Rural and remote Australia and telecommunications and digital services

Is remote and rural Australia being dudded by the NBN?

Remote and rural Australia are contributing to GDP, are they receiving equity in telecommunication and digital services. Lagging essential services impact on economic and community development for rural and regional Australia.

By Mark A Gregory, RMIT University

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is an important nation-building project that’s being implemented at a time of fundamental change in the way we utilise services over the digital network.

For most Australians – those of us in big cities – the NBN will be a big improvement over the existing access network, thanks to fibre connections.

But for the 7% of Australians in regional and remote areas, the NBN will take the form of either fixed wireless or satellite services.

These services will provide customers with download speeds of 12MB/s compared to the 100MB/s fibre customers will enjoy. The disparity in upload speeds is even greater.

So are these wireless and satellite services really good enough? Are Australians in rural areas being dudded of appropriate infrastructure?

And should there be flexibility in the NBN roll-out plan to allow remote shires to contribute to bringing fibre to their communities?

Remote control

The remote Barcoo Shire in western Queensland is a pertinent example of a region that will miss out on the best of the NBN.

Bruce Scott, former mayor of Barcoo Shire told ABC Radio’s AM in late September:

The national information superhighway is so critically important and if we’ve got a second-rate service coming into these communities what reason is there for people to stay?

Scott said that while satellite services planned for Barcoo are a great solution for domestic broadband, they won’t support communities that need real-time, high-bandwidth services – services such as health care, education and government services.

Satellites will not provide video links for hospital clinics, for access to school curriculums – it won’t provide what is needed for these towns to function.

Current Barcoo Shire mayor Julie Groves and Geoffrey Morton, mayor of Diamantina Shire – to the west of Barcoo Shire – proposed earlier this year that 700km of optic fibre, costing A$22 million, should be laid to connect five towns in their shires to the NBN.

Julie Groves told AAP and Suzanne Tindal in July:

We also need our residents and visitors to be able to access mobile communication for safety, business and social media.

Our younger generation will not stay if they are not connected.

In Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory remote towns and communities are sure to have similar concerns to those voiced in the Barcoo and Diamantina Shires.

Design flaw

As well as dudding residents of rural Australian towns, the current NBN design fails to take into account the more than two million Australians and international tourists that take to the roads every year during winter and journey into the outback.

In 2011 outback Queensland had an estimated 381,000 international and domestic visitors who stayed for more than two million nights.

As mentioned, the NBN makes provision for fixed wireless and satellite services yet caravans and motor homes are often moved into remote Australia and reside in one or more locations for months on end.

The NBN will not cater for caravans and motor homes and so for many tourists, WiFi is the only low-cost option.

Unfortunately, for many regional and remote towns – such as those in the Barcoo and Diamantina shires – WiFi hot-spots are not available. Nor are they likely to become available if business is forced to use the NBN fixed wireless and satellite services.

We have already reached the point where travellers need and expect to have internet access. This, in turn, means WiFi is a fundamental service that travellers demand.

Fibre is needed to help support businesses such as caravan parks, hotels and motels so they can provide WiFi to their customers.

Mobile cellular services are also very limited in rural areas. At the Birdsville horse races held every September, only Telstra and Optus provide (limited) mobile service and there is a only limited cellular data available.

As a result, holiday-makers in rural areas have little or no opportunity to utilise the digital network on their journeys.

Quite simply, without fibre connections to regional towns and communities, rural and remote Australia will be left behind.


As is ever the problem with large infrastructure projects, cost is one of the driving factors. While it would be unfeasible to lay enough fibre to connect all Australians to the NBN, it would certainly be possible to increase fibre coverage.

Barcoo and Diamantina shires have committed A$5.5 million to extending fibre coverage into their jurisdictions, calling for state and federal funding to make the plans a reality.

The new Queensland government is in cost-cutting mode and is therefore unlikely to be keen to participate until the budget is an improved position.

But the previous Queensland state government had committed A$2.8 million and indicated it would consider dollar-for-dollar matching.

While the federal government has provided more than A$350 million to fund regional broadband-related projects – including the Digital Regions Initiative, Clever Networks, Indigenous Communications Program and the Regional Backbone Blackspots Program – it is yet to respond to the Barcoo and Diamantina proposal.

It is unlikely the federal government will want to contribute to a fibre network in one area of remote Australia, given the risk of other remote shires calling for similar funding.

Furthermore, efforts to increase fibre roll-out in rural areas are likely to undermine the NBN Co. business case and invite concern about whether or not the NBN satellites are needed.

Is there room for flexibility?

Regional and remote Australia fulfils an important and valuable role in many aspects of Australian business, society and culture.

As Australians we need to ask ourselves the question: are the people that live in remote areas any less important than those that live in urban areas?

Should the government and NBN Co be flexible with the proposed NBN roll-out? More specifically, should remote shires be able to contribute towards fibre network connections if there is demand and a willingness among the community?

The answer should be a resounding yes.

The federal government needs to positively respond to the Barcoo and Diamantina proposal so the project can move ahead. Other regional and remote councils are likely to follow the Barcoo and Diamantina shires with their own proposals and those too should be supported.

Remote and rural Australia

Rural Telecommunications
Rural Telecommunications


The need for flexibility with the NBN roll-out should not be a political football: it should be an opportunity for all Australians to participate equally in the digital revolution, irrespective of where they live or travel around this nation.

Mark A Gregory does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. The ConversationThis article was originally published at The Conversation.  Read the original article.

NBN and rural Australia

Have your say about Mobile, broadband and technology at the Australian Regional Development Conference.

NBN Co will be presenting at Australian Regional Development Conference in October in Albury.