Broadband Services Expert Group Recommendations

by way of Tony Barry
Wed, 1 Mar 1995 17:12:36 +1000


          The Expert Group believes that new communications services
          will be fundamental to Australia's future.  Communications
          industries themselves - whether producing equipment,
          content, or carrying services - are among the fastest
          growing industries, and are making a vital contribution to
          our exports. Even more importantly they are crucial to the
          competitiveness of virtually all other industries.
          Australia's future depends on its success as
          an information society.

          Because our business competitiveness will be so dependent on
          the use of new communications services, the Expert Group
          believes that, while the following recommendations are
          largely directed to government, business also must be
          encouraged to take up the challenges offered and to play its
          part in the development of an information society.

          Our success must be built on the talents and enthusiasm of
          Australians, particularly business and young people, and on
          widespread reach of new communications services.

          The Expert Group proposes that a National Strategy for New
          communications Networks be implemented based on three key
          elements: education and community access; industry
          development; and the role of government. The strategy would
          be underpinned by a commitment to education and equity of
          access.  The new communications technologies have
          the potential to improve the quality of learning in schools,
          and to make a major contribution to equity in educational
          opportunity across the country:  Links to schools and other
          community centres.

          The Expert Group recommends that, with the spread of
          broadband infrastructure,  broadband links be provided to
          all schools, libraries, medical and community centres by the
          year 2001.

          The Cooperative Multimedia Centres should also be linked to
          this network.   In the interim, the Group recommends that
          schools and libraries be connected to available
          narrowband digital links for access to information services
          such as the Internet.  The Group recommends that connections
          be funded on a dollar-for-dollar basis by the
          State/Territory and Commonwealth Governments.

          National Strategy for Broadband Networking in Education

          The Expert Group recommends the development of a National
          Strategy for Broadband Networking in Education in
          anticipation of the extension of high capacity links to
          educational institutions by 2001.  The Group recommends that
          Open Net be funded to administer a program of pilot projects
          on broadband services such as the sharing of visual
          resources through, for example, image libraries.
          Complementing the schools-based education elements, there
          needs to be an approach to training and use of services
          within the community:


          The Expert Group recommends that, as communications services

          Funding for extension of new infrastructure and technology
          to educational institutions (such as TAFEs) should include
          significant training and support components.

          Funds should be made available to community organisations
          for targeted training programs.

          Government funded support for training facilities and
          personnel should be made available at libraries and

          Community applications fund

          The Expert Group recommends that the Department of
          Communications and the Arts administer a program to support
          innovative applications of communications services by the
          community sector.  Initial funding of $10 million should be
          made available over three years.

          The Group proposes action to stimulate the development of
          Australian industries as the second leg of  the strategy:

          Industry development plans

          The Expert Group recommends that the Government require all
          cable network operators involved in broadb and service
          provision to implement industry development plans for the
          telecommunications supply industry.

          Extension of networks

          The Expert Group recommends that telecommunications carriers
          and broadband network operators be required to inform
          government annually of their strategies for upgrading their
          networks, including the expected level of digitisation of
          existing network services, and the expected extent of
          broadband network coverage.  This requirement should be
          reviewed by the
          year 2000.

          Services and applications

          The Expert Group recommends that a priority element of a
          national strategy for new communications networks be
          acceleration of the development, demonstration and use of
          networked services and applications.

          Local content

          The Expert Group recommends that providers of broadband
          entertainment and information services be obliged to commit
          at least 10 per cent of their expenditure on content to new
          Australian content.  The obligation should be reviewed by
          the year 2000.

          Business and government must play a role, both as major
          users of communications networks and by working together to
          develop an appropriate regulatory environment to support the
          introduction of new services.  The Expert Group believes
          that the business sector is well placed to make use of new
          services, and must use its leverage within the Australian
          and international economies to lead the adoption of
          innovative and beneficial broadband services. The
          Government's role will be especially important in leading
          the development of services that have particular social

          Government use of networks

          The Expert Group recommends that the Commonwealth Government
          should establish a fund, to be allocated on a matching-funds
          basis, to projects for new networked information
          services put forward by agencies.  Preference should be
          given to those projects with the greatest user benefits and
          widest applicability as a model for other government

          The Commonwealth should wherever possible participate in
          pilot projects such as those proposed by Telstra.

          Open access to networks

          The Expert Group recommends that, once interactive services
          develop, the communications regulatory regime should promote
          open and equitable access arrangements for users,
          service providers and broadband carriers (recognising the
          necessity of a period of transition from pay television to
          broadband services to ensure there is no delay in the
          roll-out of cable in Australia). This should be based on
          diverse and flexible pricing arrangements, pricing
          transparency in the provision of carriage and content, and
          commercially negotiated connection charges.


          The Expert Group recommends that the privacy of users of
          advanced networks be protected by developing a
          self-regulatory scheme for network participants within the
          framework of the Privacy Act.

          Conditional access systems

          The Expert Group recommends that existing classification
          systems be applied to equivalent material commercially
          available on the new networks.

          The Expert Group recommends that network operators and
          service providers be obliged to offer facilities, such as
          personal identification numbers, through which parents can
          restrict access to particular types of material.


          To support the National Strategy, the Group believes that
          some continuing mechanisms for providing advice and for
          consultation with the community on future information and
          communications issues will be needed.

          National Information Services Council

          The Expert Group recommends that, to provide leadership for
          the national strategy, the Government establish a National
          Information Services Council, chaired by the Prime
          Minister, and in his absence the Minister for Communications
          and the Arts, and including visionary and informed people
          drawn from industry, creators, carriers, users, consumers
          and researchers.

          Ministerial Committee on National Information Services

          The Expert Group recommends that the Government establish a
          Ministerial Committee on National Information Services, to
          be chaired by the Minister for Communications and the
          Arts, with membership including the Ministers for Finance,
          Industry, Science and Technology, Consumer Affairs, and
          Employment, Education and Training.  The Committee would
          have responsibility for coordination of policy across the
          relevant sectors, including government use of networks.

          The involvement of the States is vital, so the Council of
          Australian Governments should be involved in the discussion
          of national information services issues.

          The Group believes that there may be a need for other bodies
          to support the Council on particular issues.  It recommends
          that the Council should review existing arrangements as
          well as look at the issues of how best to assess community
          needs for new communications services and develop standards,
          and consider the need for a sub-group on standards:

          Broadband Standards Advisory Group

          A Broadband Standards Advisory Group, chaired by industry,
          to address networking standards issues and to advise on
          standards development and implementation.

          The Group also believes that there is a need for further
          research into the communications needs of consumers as
          services evolve in the future.  The Group considers that a
          Commonwealth government research agency, such as the Bureau
          of Transport and Communications Economics, would be
          appropriately placed to conduct this research.

          Research into Consumer Needs

          The Group recommends that a Commonwealth government research
          agency, such as the Bureau of Transport and Communications
          Economics, should be funded to coordinate a program of
          social research to identify the needs of particular groups
          of telecommunications consumers that are not currently being