Federal Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher visited Dubbo on Monday to announce new National Broadband Network (NBN) services for Australians who use satellites to connect to the internet in rural and remote parts of Australia.
After the announcement, Mr Fletcher and federal Member for Parkes and Regional Services Minister Mark Coulton stopped in at the Australian Community Media (ACM) Dubbo office.
Mr Fletcher answered NBN questions from Daily Liberal editor Craig Thomson and ACM journalist Sharon O'Keeffe.
Craig Thomson:On access to WI-FI in medical emergencies, the Royal Flying Doctor Service say they don't think that's part of the Sky Master Plus NBN package you announced. Is that something you're looking at for people on farms?
Paul Fletcher: With the satellite service, the commitment is 25 megabits per second download speeds, five megabits per second upload. And that will be available at least once every day. Then what you as an end-user do with that connectivity is a matter for you. You might have a modem to send the signal around through WI-FI. Our general view from government is that we want to see the best possible connectivity being provided.
What is important about Sky Muster Plus is we're establishing this principle that we can segregate the traffic... and that's led us to introduce this product which has this category of usage which is not subject to a download cap.Federal Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher.
The NBN overall - $51 billion will be the total amount that has gone in when the roll out is completed next year. And satellite will be well over $1 million. The Sky Muster Plus is all about the shape of product delivered to end-users. You can use your Sky Muster Plus product for video conferencing, movies and heavy data usage applications, confident in knowing you can still check the weather, do internet banking etc. without being affected.
Craig Thomson:A medical call for a medical diagnosis is still metred under this new plan. What's the plan on that?
Paul Fletcher: That is right in the sense of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the particular products that they use. Where it's two way video. That does count towards the cap. Importantly as a separate piece of work, NBN Co is working on developing a business grade service over the satellite. At the moment the service that's delivered over the satellite has a particular set of design characteristics which are designed to make it fit for purpose for the people who are using it. Now typically a business grade product int the telecommunications industry will have things like SLA service level agreements, committed repair times, higher bandwidth and so on. When that comes to market that that will deliver more options for enterprise customers including government customers, not-for-profits but also business customers in mining, agriculture... no doubt there'll be big ag businesses that will find this another option, another choice.
Sharon O'Keeffe: We touched on medicine. Schools and education packages are getting quite video heavy because there is an assumption that the majority of students have access to fairly unlimited downloads.
How are you going to ensure there's not a divide between our children in the bush and what they have access to verse their cohorts when they're either at home from boarding school studying or from a regional town like Tooraweenah?
Paul Fletcher: Going back probably three to four years we did a lot of work on that issue after the satellites were put up into the sky and the service was coming in to the market. Distance education is delivered now with a lot of two-way video with a kid sitting at a computer with a camera in front of them and a teachesr wanting to make best use of that. And parents wanting that too. Very much this is what the NBN is about.
To cut a long story short, at the time what we did was developed a specific education product which uses a different port on the customer premises equipment and that is delivered separate to the household product you might be using for your general use so its not subject to the download limits for the education uses and NBN at the time worked with the education departments in a range of states and territories... because what we found when we looked into it was that different education departments had different polices. In some states and territories there was a subsidy available towards the cost of the broadband that the family paid and others there weren't... that was put in place about three or four years ago and that made a difference.
READ ALSO: Sky Muster Plus' medical malaise
What is important about Sky Muster Plus is we're establishing this principle that we can segregate the traffic... and that's led us to introduce this product which has this category of usage which is not subject to a download cap... there'll be options to do more of that and certainly both education and health stand out as the areas where you'd want to do it.
Clearly what we want people to do is to be able to use the NBN satellite to get the full range of services that broadband can support including things like video conferencing, watching streaming video and so on. But at the same time we want to use the capacity as effectively as possible.
- This text is an edited version of the full interview that took place on Monday. The video above is the full interview.