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.”

Read more.

Remote economic participation in Australia – call for abstracts

Sustainable towns

Remote Economic Participation

Remote Economic Participation

Remote Economic Participation will be discussed at an upcoming Australian Regional Development Conference, to be held in Albury in October 2014.

The call for abstracts is now open and includes streams on economic and community development.

The conference focuses on regional, rural and remote economic and community development and sustainability. Specifically presentation on solutions and issues that address social and economic disadvantage in remote Australia will be of interest.

Presentations on the Australian Government’s national ‘Closing The Gap’ priority policy, which aims to halve the unemployment, welfare and other differences between Aboriginal people in remote areas and the rest of Australia will also be of interest to attendees.

Also presentations on human geography; social science; systems science; spatial and quantitative modelling; demographic modelling; education systems; regional economics; business modelling; policy analysis are welcome.

The conference aims to increased awareness in regional and remote areas of Australia of economic development; increased capacity for regional areas;  promote collaboration of the synergies between regional and remote and urban areas; raise discussion on training, and employment and provide equal focus on economic and community development.

Contact the conference secretariat for more information on the call for abstracts or conference registration for this conference via the website

 Australian Regional Development Conference,
15-16 October Albury 2014
Abstracts close: 28th April 2014
End of Early Bird 4th September 2014