Govt splurges $61M on bush telecoms

A further $339M to follow.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy will inject $61.1 million to improve regional telecommunications for education, health and emergency services following recommendations from the Regional Telecommunications Review.

Some $46 million is earmarked for government-partnered projects such as remote medical consultation and teleconferencing in schools, while a further $11.4 million will subsidise satellite telecommunications deployments including increasing handset subsidies from 60 to 85 percent.

The $30 million Indigenous Communications Program will receive an additional $3.7 million to provide Internet access and computer training for remote Indigenous communities.

The funding represents 15 percent of a total $400 million from the Building Australia Fund to be invested by the government in response to the review's recommendations.

Applicants seeking funds from the initial round have until September this year to submit proposals, which will be subject to competitive selection. Approved projects will commence in early 2010.

Minister Conroy's department said the government will liaise with the Online and Communications Council and industry to hammer out other recommendations from the review, including those pertaining to the $4.7 billion taxpayer-funded National Broadband Network.

“Australia's regional, rural and remote communities deserve better communications systems and greater participation in the digital economy,” Conroy said.

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