Showing posts with label telecommunications. Show all posts
Showing posts with label telecommunications. Show all posts

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Murdoch has managed to deprive NSW Northern Rivers region of most of its local print newspapers & now Morrison is attacking our most reliable news source, the ABC


The Age, 25 June 2020: 

ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose has lashed out at Communications Minister Paul Fletcher over the Morrison government's handling of its multimillion-dollar budget cuts and accused him of lying about the national broadcaster's efforts to collaborate with SBS. 

In a fresh war of words between the taxpayer-funded broadcaster and the Coalition government, Ms Buttrose has accused Mr Fletcher of twice failing to provide the ABC board and management with the critical data that informed an independent report proposing the closure of two broadcast channels and the sharing of back-office and support services with fellow public broadcaster SBS. 

Ms Buttrose has also said the government misrepresented the ABC's efforts to work closer with SBS. In a strongly-worded letter to Mr Fletcher, seen by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Ms Buttrose said the ABC's board had asked her to "convey its concerns" about Mr Fletcher's lack of response to correspondence between the pair in September last year. 

"We raised a number of issues but were particularly interested in seeing 'the information - data, models and assumptions - which formed the basis for the savings estimates provided in the report'," Ms Buttrose wrote. "I appreciate you have a busy schedule but we would appreciate an answer to our queries." 

Ms Buttrose said several media reports, which ABC management believes were informed by Mr Fletcher, had suggested the ABC "had neglected to 'collaborate more closely with SBS'". 

"This is incorrect," Ms Buttrose wrote. "David Anderson has had several conversations with SBS about sharing costs". 

A Peter Tonagh-led review of the public broadcasters was handed to the Morrison government in March last year, but its details were kept confidential as the ABC developed plans to cut costs. Some recommendations - such as an increased focus on digital growth, improving the ABC's iview platform and reducing investment in products that are not central to the ABC charter - were effectively adopted in the plan announced yesterday, but an ABC spokesman said that if all had been implemented there would have been more cuts. 

In the September correspondence between the pair, Ms Buttrose said the board said several proposals in the review "lack enough detail to allow an evaluation of whether the suggested savings can be realised". 

"In some cases, the savings estimates are presented in aggregate for the two national broadcasters and it is unclear what proportion of them has been attributed to the ABC, rather than SBS," she said. 

In particular, the review estimates that the national broadcasters could together save "a minimum of $45 million" by reducing multichannel services and "between $80 million and $115 million per annum" through focusing expenditure on what it characterises as "core" activities and a greater focus on digital delivery. 

"However, it provides no information as to how these figures were derived or the proportions attributed to the ABC," she said. Sources said Ms Buttrose had also raised the issue with Mr Fletcher at a face-to-face meeting between the pair at ABC's Ultimo headquarters on Tuesday. 

Mr Fletcher and Prime Minister Scott Morrison staunchly defended the level of funding provided to the ABC, insisting the government has not cut its budget, and backed the national broadcaster's efforts to be more focused on regional and suburban Australia. "There are no cuts ... the ABC's funding is increasing every year," Mr Morrison said on Thursday. "The ABC would be the only media company or organisation in Australia today whose revenue, their funding, is increasing. It would be the only one in the country. We are seeing regional mastheads by commercial newspapers abolished." 

The ABC announced a range of cuts on Wednesday, including 250 job losses and the end of the 7.45am radio news bulletin, in a bid to save $40 million until 2022. Managing director David Anderson also announced plans to cut poor-performing content, reduce episodes of Australian Story and Foreign Correspondent and lease space at the ABC's Sydney headquarters in Ultimo. The measures triggered a wave of criticism about the funding squeeze imposed on the broadcaster by the Coalition in recent federal budgets.

ABC News, 27 June 2020: 

The ABC put forward two separate proposals offering to open more regional Australian studios, expand its coverage of remote communities and hire more journalists in rural areas in return for the federal government dumping its decision to freeze annual funding indexation. 

Correspondence between ABC managing director David Anderson and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and seen by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, show the national broadcaster was prepared to invest tens of millions of dollars more outside capital city centres if the Morrison government was prepared to reverse its budget cuts. 

In a proposal made after the Black Summer bushfires in January, ABC management told Mr Fletcher the national broadcaster would be able to find $10 million a year to employ more regional journalists if indexation was restored

Mr Anderson's letter, sent to Mr Fletcher on January 24, said he was writing to ask the government to consider a reversal of the indexation pause, which is expected to cost the broadcaster up to $84 million over three years, to safeguard the future sustainability of the ABC. 

"If indexation was restored, combined with savings and efficiencies that the ABC has identified in recent months, the Corporation would be in a position to commit an additional investment of up to $10 million per annum to employ more journalists in regional Australia and generate more content from regions for the local and national stories," Mr Anderson wrote. 

Several government sources have confirmed Mr Fletcher did not reply to the letter, nor did he discuss the proposal with the ABC or his National Party colleagues, who have constantly raised concerns over the future of regional media outlets, following a spate of natural disasters including last summer's fires.... [my yellow highting]

The Saturday Paper, 27 June 2020: 

Two days before the ABC confirmed that up to 250 jobs will be cut across the organisation, the federal government finalised a $200,000 offer for consultants to prepare a report on news and media business models looking specifically at the impact of public broadcasters “on commercial operators”. 

An approach to market for the report was closed on Monday, with the federal Communications Department under minister Paul Fletcher requesting the successful bidder evaluate failed, successful and emerging news media operating models from around the world. 

As it happens, a key requirement of the research, due before the end of August, is also a hobby horse of the ABC’s commercial rivals. 

The tender asks consultants to examine “the role of publicly-funded (non-commercial) media organisations in the production and dissemination of news and media content in the comparable jurisdictions, and the impacts and interactions of publicly-funded entities with commercial operators”. 

This is the argument News Corp makes against the ABC: that it is cutting into the audiences of commercial enterprises such as Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, websites and pay television business. 

“The report will be used as an input to inform policy advice and decision-making in relation to the news and media sectors. The end-users of the report include Commonwealth officials, relevant Ministers, and their staff,” the tender documents say. 

“The report is not intended for public release.”......

BACKGROUND

ABC News, 26 June 2029: 

The ABC has not only helped shape Australia, we are the national voice that unites us. 

It’s about democracy. Without the ABC we would have a balkanised and parochial bunch of broadcasters that are in danger of being compromised by profit and more intent on dividing than unifying. 

Imagine what it would be like during the bushfire season if we had to rely only on state-based or even regionally based media outlets. When we are in the middle of bushfires, don’t we want to know that they are being covered by a knowledgeable and experienced network of journalists with all the supporting infrastructure of a large national network? 

The ABC, funded by all of us, regardless of our creed – race, age, political beliefs – is us. It’s the way we build cross-cultural understanding, the way we help each other in times of need. It’s who we are collectively. Why would anyone want to diminish that and make us less than who we are? 

This has been a devastating week for the ABC. With unemployment at an all-time high to have to inform up to 250 people they no longer had a job has been an incredibly difficult task. 

Cuts to services caused by the ongoing reduction in our budget forced this action upon us and although we knew what had to be done, our hearts were with our employees. 

Let me clarify the cuts because there seems to be some confusion in Government circles about them. The 2018 Budget papers clearly state that the Government’s savings measures reduce funding to the ABC by $14.623 million in 2019-20, $27.842 million in 2020-21, and $41.284 million in 2021-22. This reduction totals $83.75 million on our operational base. 

It is true that over the three years the ABC budget does still increase but by a reduced amount, due to indexation on the fixed cost of transmission and distribution services. Previously, it was rising by a further $83.75 million over the same three years for indexation on our operational base. This is the funding that has been cut and considered a saving by the government. 

These funding cuts are unsustainable if we are to provide the media services that Australians expect of us. Indexation must be renewed. 

The strength of the ABC and its relationship with the nation comes from the very people who work for us. They are passionate about public broadcasting and are prepared to work for less than they would be paid by commercial media to deliver it. The creativity in the programs they produce, the dogged and independent journalism they pursue and the connection with communities everywhere they provide through conversations is at the very heart of what the ABC delivers to our audiences. 

The ABC has a statutory requirement to operate as efficiently as possible. We have a strong track record in identifying savings and reinvesting them in services. This is how we created ABC News 24, ABC iview and a range of packages to boost services in rural and regional Australia. 

There is no other authority better placed to manage the ABC than the ABC itself. We know our business and we are determined to honour our commitment to independence. All Australians expect this of us just as they expect the Government to provide the appropriate funds to allow us to do so. 

The ABC is essential in generating and preserving Australia’s democratic culture. An independent, well-funded national broadcaster allows Australians, wherever they live, to connect. It is how we share our identity, how we tell our stories, how we listen to each other, how we ask for help and how we give it. 

 Ita Buttrose AC OBE 
 ABC Chair

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

From the moment then Liberal MP for Warringah Tony Abbott became Australia's prime minister the National Broadband Network became one enormous rolling disaster


This is what est. $50 billion dollar spend of taxpayer money by the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has delivered in rural and regional Australia.....

Clarence Valley Independent, 21 May 2020:

As far as stories about inept management go, the bungled provision of National Broadband Network (NBN) services for the residents of Woombah features a tangled web of politics, bureaucracy, obfuscation and buck passing. 


Seven years after the process began; a recent survey conducted by the Woombah Residents Association has revealed that 60 per cent of the village’s residents are still unable to connect to the NBN. 

The association has written to Page MP Kevin Hogan, Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher and Deputy Prime Minister Michael Mc Cormack expressing their dissatisfaction. 

The COVID-19 lockdown has served to amplify the problem, with one frustrated couple, Robin and Einion Thomas, writing to Mr Hogan: “After contacting your office my email was sent to [NBN Co’s regional manager] Ian Scott. 

“He phoned me and suggested, as we had been unable to connect to the fixed wireless tower, a satellite service would be a good option, [however], a 300Mb plan I saw was for $200 per month. 

“It was also suggested we keep our ADSL line, as satellite is limited and ADSL would be needed if we wanted to do streaming, video conferencing and working with cloud-based services. 

“…Right now [the ADSL] is struggling and this is putting additional pressures on us in our home-based working environment. 

 “Neither of the suggestions made by Ian [is] workable, acceptable or affordable to us.” 

The saga began in April 2013 when Woombah residents were informed that a 40 metre high fixed wireless (NBN) tower was going to be erected at 97 West Street – within weeks a group of residents known as the Woombah Tower Action Group (WTAG), began lobbying to prevent its construction. 

The tower was erected in December 2013 and was commissioned in March 2015. 

As it turned out WTAG’s failed campaign was on the money when it was revealed that fewer than two in ten residences were covered by the tower’s broadcast footprint. 

One of the group’s members, Dane Webb, wrote to Page MP Kevin Hogan, declaring at the time: “This has to go down in history as one of the most ridiculous exercises ever, as it [the tower’s service area] covers – wait for it – TWO complete streets and a few partial streets.” (‘NBN tower fails to deliver’, Clarence Valley Review, March 23, 2015).... 

A panacea to the problem appeared to be close in March/April 2019 when NBN Co’s regional manager, Ian Scott, advised the Woombah Residents Association that two towers – one at Mororo and another at Palmers Island – would provide NBN services to Woombah residents. 

However, according to residents, things have not improved since the towers were commissioned. 

On May 12 the residents association wrote in its media release and/or correspondence: “Despite the huge expense involved in building these additional towers fewer than 40 per cent of our community members can successfully access the NBN fixed wireless internet. 

“Woombah has a population of approximately 1,000 residents and is dependent on tourism, farming and fishing. “It is the second fastest growing community in the Clarence. 

“The population is set to expand over the next year with the development of 147 new homes in a caravan park in the village. 

“…We note that a recent media release from [Communications Minister Paul Fletcher’s] office stated: ‘The importance of fast, affordable broadband delivered quickly has never been clearer than during the current COVID-19 pandemic (27/4/2020).’ 

“We agree wholeheartedly with your statement and would like to draw your attention to the problems we in Woombah face connecting to the NBN.”

According to finder on 21 May 2020, by the end of June 2020 it is expected that:

By the end of the rollout, roughly 40% of premises will be connected via Fibre to the Node or Fibre to the Basement (also known as Fibre to the Building) – the vast majority of these will be Fibre to the Node. 

Fibre to the Node connections still rely on the copper phone lines to cover the last few hundred metres, while Fibre to the Basement runs copper into the basement of multi-dwelling buildings and relies on the building's copper wiring. 

Meanwhile, around 12% will be dependent on Fibre to the Curb, reliant on much shorter copper runs, while 19% will be lucky enough to have Fibre to the Premises running all the way into their home. 

That leaves 21% using the HFC (hybrid fiber-coaxial) cable networks, 5% on fixed-wireless and 3% on SkyMuster satellite.

Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, Broadband Performance Data, May 2020:



Monday, 3 February 2020

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison & his merry band of cost cutters decided to save $9.2 million a year by cutting off CapTel phones for the profoundly deaf. Luckily this new front in Morrison's ongoing war on the poor & vulnerable was something of a fizzer


"The Commonwealth Government has awarded American company, Concentrix Services a contract to deliver the National Relay Service (NRS). One of the first things Concentrix is contracted to do is to shut down the CapTel handset service on 1 February 2020." [Deaf Forum of Australia, July 2019]

ABC News, 31 January 2020: 

Thousands of hearing-impaired Australians could face a return to 1980s technology from today after the Federal Government cancelled a deal to support text-captioning telephones. 

Phones with CapTel captioning display words on a large screen in near real time, so deaf and hearing-impaired users can make calls and see the responses. 

But in a decision criticised by disability advocates, the phones will not work as of February 1, after the Department of Communications declined to renew the service provider's contract with the National Relay Service (NRS).  
A new company won the contract. [Concentrix Services Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of the SYNNEX Corporation]

It will force users to take up alternative options, with many choosing to revert back to what are known as TTY teletypewriter phones — technology first introduced in the 1980s. 

For Christine O'Reilly, the CapTel phone changed her life. Ms O'Reilly's hearing has been deteriorating since childhood and now at 62, she is profoundly hearing impaired. 

"When I received the CapTel I was so overjoyed I burst into tears," she said..... 

Critics say the decision has come down to one thing: money. 

The cost of the NRS has blown out in recent years, from $26.3 million in 2015-16, to $31.2 million in 2017-18...... 

The new NRS contract awarded last June provides for $22 million per year over three years. 

Until recently there were more than 3,500 CapTel handsets distributed across Australia. The Department of Communications estimates about 1,000 are still active. 

"I certainly acknowledge any transition of this kind is challenging, particularly for older Australians who may not be as familiar with technology," 

Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said. "We've retained a team of trainers who've been going to meet individually with CapTel users to brief them on their alternatives." .....

It is expected many users will switch to TTY teletypewriter phones, which have a small two-line screen for text above the number pad. 

"We're having to go backwards in time, and everyone else can get the latest iPhone," said Dr Alex Harrison, a profoundly deaf veterinarian in Adelaide. 

"[I feel] enormously frustrated and discriminated against," he said. 

Dr Harrison said the CapTel phone had revolutionised his practice, allowing him to easily make up to 10 calls a day. 

Making a call on a TTY phone is much more complicated. "If I want to make a phone call on the TTY, I have to call a 133 number first … and they'll put me through to an operator," he explained. 

Once you do that, you may be put on hold or told you are in a queue to make a call. 

On January 7, the department acknowledged wait times to get through were unacceptable. 

"We understand and acknowledge community disappointment about these issues and can assure you that we are focused on resolving these concerns as a priority," it said. 

To address the wait times, the relay service provider Concentrix is currently hiring and training additional staff. 

New staff took their first calls just prior to Christmas and more staff will commence during the rest of January. 

Other options offered by the Department of Communications are internet-based call captioning and apps designed to work on mobile phones and tablets. 

But users said many of the online options were much slower and less user-friendly, requiring them to fill in multiple fields just to initiate a phone call. 

"The other options are far too slow. They're primitive," Ms O'Reilly said. 

 And advocates point out the average age of CapTel phone users is more than 80. 

"For an elderly person who's not tech savvy, [these options] can be very intimidating, and often they can't do it. Some of these people are 80 or 90, and they really struggle with that," Dr Harrison said..... [my annotation in red]

"It is indeed a big shock to many Australians, and myself, who rely and need the Captel handset. It seems to me that this section of people with a hearing loss have been sacrificed in a big way so that the TTY can be ‘re-introduced’ and then plunge those who went deaf later in life and whom can speak, right back in the dark ages. It is also a direct insult to the intelligence of the people who worked long and hard to get Captel up and running in Australia. Many of our members have spoken of their dismay and disgust, particularly being isolated and the loss of their independence. In the long run, this move will cost the Australian government much more than it does now." [Deaf Forum of Australia, July 2019]


Thankfully, Captioned Telephone International, the company whose contact the Morrison Government refused to renew and, its president Rob Engelke, have bigger, kinder hearts than either Prime Minister Scott Morrison or Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher, as Mr. Engelke has committed the company to maintaining the CapTel system for those Australians who would otherwise lose their handsets by arranging for the routing of all calls through the company's U.S. captioning centres, while it investigates long-term options based in Australia.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Another federal Coalition Government ‘epic fail’



Seems whatever our neigbour to the west, the National Party’s Barnaby Joyce, touches turns to dross……


A phone tower that Barnaby Joyce fought for ended up on the northern NSW property of long-time friend and mining baron Gina Rinehart, who gets an annual fee to host the tower. Locals are baffled why the tower was put there over another location, as it's plagued with reception problems.

The Northern Daily Leader reports that Kingstown's community in Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce's New England electorate campaigned hard for the tower, switched on two weeks ago, to be co-located with a police and emergency services tower at the highest point in the district.

But it was built instead at Sundown Valley Pastoral Company, bought by Ms Rinehart's pastoral arm Hancock Prospecting in August last year. Landowners are paid a yearly fee by telecommunications companies to have towers placed on their property.

Kingstown resident Jeff Condren led the charge for a tower to be funded by the federal government's Mobile Blackspot Program and called it an "epic fail".

"Now that the tower has been in operation for several weeks it's evident the community concerns relating to the location and the service was well-justified," he said.

"Service levels drop to nothing just a couple of kilometres in any direction.....

Friday, 24 August 2018

Australian Attorney-General releases a draft bill which will allow the gaoling of Australian citizens for 10 years if they refuse to reveal passwords or encryption codes



According to Crikey.com.au on 15 August 2018:

In addition to its village idiot approach to undermining end-to-end encryption in new surveillance laws, the government is also seeking a blunt-force trauma approach: it wants to jail people for a decade if they refuse to give up the password to their devices.

Under the draft Assistance and Access Bill 2018 unveiled yesterday, the government is giving police, spy agencies and regulators like the ATO the power to demand that tech companies help them plant malware on computers and phones to help it defeat end-to-end encryption.


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Oi, Malcolm! Where's our NBN?


With only three years of borrowed money left to complete roll out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) and still not yet at the halfway mark, serious questions about this increasingly sub-standard telecommunications infrastructure are being asked.

Australian Medical Association, media release, 17 January 2017:

Better Access to High Speed Broadband for Rural and Remote Health Care - 2016
1
10 Jan 2017


1.  Introduction

Approximately 30 per cent of Australia’s population lives outside the major metropolitan areas[1]. Regional, rural and remote Australians often struggle to access health services that urban Australians would see as a basic right. These inequalities mean that they have lower life expectancy, worse outcomes on leading indicators of health, and poorer access to care compared to people in major cities.

In 2016 the AMA conducted a Rural Health Issues Survey, which sought input from rural doctors across Australia to identify key solutions to improving regional, rural and remote health care. The survey identified access to high-speed broadband for medical practices as a key priority.

This result reflects not only the increasing reliance by medical practices on the internet for their day to day operations, but also the increasing opportunities for the provision of healthcare services to rural and remote communities via eHealth and telemedicine. For the full potential of these opportunities to be realised, good quality, affordable, and reliable high-speed internet access is essential.

The AMA recognises that technology-based patient consultations and other telehealth initiatives can improve access to care and can enhance efficiency in medical practice, but the need for better access to high speed broadband goes beyond supporting rural and remote health. In today’s world, it is a critical factor to support communities in their daily activities, education, and business, and has the potential to drive innovation and boost the rural economy.

This position statement outlines the importance of better access to high speed broadband for medical practices, other healthcare providers and institutions, and patients, to improve regional, rural and remote health care in Australia, and highlights key solutions for achieving this.

2. Internet access in regional rural and remote Australia

Despite its tremendous growth, internet access is not distributed equally within Australia, and internet use by country people has yet to reach the level of use in capital cities, for a wide range of reasons.

In many country areas the internet connection is still very poor.[2] In 2015, 80 percent of non-urban Australians had an internet connection at home compared with 89 percent of those in capital cities[3]. Internet use via mobile phone was much lower in non-urban areas, at 37 percent, compared to 60 percent for capital cities[4]. This reflects the patchy, unreliable or absent mobile coverage in many rural and remote areas. While mobile broadband use was highest in non-urban areas, at 29 percent, compared to 25 percent in capital cities, mobile broadband is currently not a good solution for business or eHealth, due to the relatively small amounts of data on the relatively costly plans available.

Internet services, particularly in more isolated areas, only make available relatively small download allowances and these come at a much higher cost and slower speed than those services available in metropolitan areas.

3. Supporting regional rural and remote health

3.1   The need for better access for health services
The health sector needs telecommunications connectivity for health service delivery and management, doing business with Government and complying with Government requirements, continuing professional development, online education, mentoring, and clinical decision and other support.

Health was identified in the Regional Telecommunications Review report[5] as one of the particular segments of the community requiring special consideration. To effectively leverage telecommunications technology to deliver better health outcomes at lower cost in regional, rural and remote areas and to implement new models of health care, both mobile and broadband technology must be reliable, affordable, and supply adequate capacity.

However, the utilisation of telehealth and telemedicine in rural and remote Australia remains patchy and is not used to full potential, because of no, or inadequate internet access. As noted in the Regional Telecommunications Review report[6], the ability of hospitals and clinics to support remotely located clinicians and patients via video conferencing and remote monitoring could be severely limited in areas serviced by satellite, which may not be able to consistently and reliably deliver the necessary capacity and technical capability.

The AMA Rural Health Issues Survey received many comments from rural doctors on the problems encountered with poor internet access. For example:

  • High-speed broadband [is the] single most critical issue to run practices now, many areas not getting the best from NBN.
  • Internet services by satellite are slow and time consuming. Reliable internet services at reasonable speed and reliability is critical.
  • Internet services are a critical area [of concern]. The NBN has been deficient in providing a comprehensive coverage even in areas that are under 25km from a major regional centre i.e. Orange and Dubbo. 
As mainstream healthcare provision becomes increasingly technology based and requires more and faster broadband services to operate, there is a real risk that regional, rural and remote areas of Australia will be left further and further behind in their ability to provide quality health services.

3.2. The benefits of high speed broadband for rural and remote health care
High-speed affordable broadband connectivity to the Internet has become essential to modern society, and offers widely recognised economic and social benefits, with numerous studies showing a strong link between broadband growth and rapid economic development[7]. Affordable and reliable broadband access can support the development of new content, applications and services that allow people to work in new ways, changing business processes in ways that stimulate productivity and potentially increase labour-force participation[8].

3.2.1  Economic benefits
It has been estimated that in New Zealand, the benefits from broadband-enabled health care could reach around $6 billion over a 20-year period[9]. These benefits come from reduced hospital, travel and drug costs and improvements in care. A case study by Deloitte Access Economics shows savings to a single older Australian of $7,400 per year, with savings to the Government, through reduced health and service provision costs, of over $14,500[10].

3.2.2 Driving greater efficiency and reducing costs
Telehealth practice will be one of the most important online services in the broadband future, enabling significant changes to work practices to drive greater efficiency and reduce costs[11].

If sufficiently supported, telehealth services, such as video-conferencing, could become more effective in complementing local health services. They could be used to expand specialty care to patients in areas with shortages of health care providers as well as extend primary care to remote areas, reducing the need to travel, and increasing the frequency of patient and primary care provider interactions. By providing timely access to services and specialists, telehealth could improve the ability to identify developing conditions, and thereby reduce the need for more costly treatments and hospitalisations in the future. Telehealth could also help to educate, train and support remote healthcare workers on location and support people with chronic conditions to manage their health.[12]

A CSIRO report on home monitoring of chronic disease[13], for example, shows that a modest investment in home monitoring technology, allied to risk stratification tools and remote monitoring, could save the healthcare system up to $3 billion a year in avoidable admissions to hospital, reduced length of stay and fewer demands on primary care.

3.2.3 Supporting eHealth solutions now and into the future
eHealth encompasses patient access to doctors via online consultation, remote patient monitoring, online tools and resources for patients and doctors, clinical communications between healthcare providers, and professional’s access to information databases and electronic health record systems. If sufficiently supported with affordable, high-speed broadband services, eHealth has potential to improve health outcomes at all levels, from preventative health, specialist and acute care and self-management of chronic conditions, through to home monitoring for people living with disabilities[14].

Advances in information technology will act as a catalyst for the development of a range of potential eHealth solutions to some of the challenges faced by rural and remote communities. If available and accessible, improved connectivity will facilitate new and emerging best practice models of health care, such as those which incorporate high definition video conferences, data exchange and high resolution image transfer[15].

Technological advancements in health care that could become the way of the future, if affordable and sufficient access to broadband services becomes available, include better point of care diagnostics, resulting in faster, cohesive patient care; biosensors and trackers to allow real time monitoring; 3D printed medical technology products; virtual reality environments that could accelerate behavioural change in patients; and social media platforms to improve patient experience and track population trends[16].

3.2.4 Supporting education and training
The internet also plays a big part in the lives of doctors and their families, assisting with education and social cohesion. It enables rural doctors to learn from the most current resources, explore treatment options, watch demonstrations of procedures and attend live discussions with experts.
Access to high speed broadband has the potential to change the way medical education, training and supervision is delivered in rural and remote areas [17]. As pressure on access to prevocational and vocational training places increases, harnessing this technology to support training is a viable strategy to create additional training places in rural and remote locations and ultimately improve access to specialist services for rural and remote patients.

The use of telehealth and telesupervision as an adjunct to face-to-face teaching will allow doctors in training to remain in rural and remote settings to complete their training, and enhance the likelihood that they will choose to work long term in a rural areas. Improved information and communications technology will enhance the learning experiences for trainees at rural sites and during rural rotations, provide exposure to innovative models of care, and improve supervisor capacity by allowing supervisors to transfer knowledge, supervise and mentor trainees remotely. 

Improved telehealth and communication technology infrastructure to support teaching and training at rural sites will also enhance professional collaboration between rural and remote medical generalist practitioners and other specialists in the provision of shared care, skills transfer and education.

The requirement for doctors to maintain their skills is a fundamental component of medical registration. It is important that processes mandated by the Medical Board of Australia, including in revalidation proposals, do not discriminate against medical practitioners working in rural and remote Australia. Access to high speed broadband is an essential support for rural and remote practitioners who must comply with these requirements.

4. What can be done to improve broadband access for country Australians?

The AMA is of the view that high-speed broadband should be available to the same standard and at the same cost to all communities, businesses and services across the whole of Australia. The platforms used must be able to accommodate future developments in information and communications technologies and provide connectivity through suitable combinations of fibre, mobile phone, wireless, and satellite technologies. For rural practices, in order to be incorporated routinely in everyday practice (clinical, educational and administrative), network connectivity must be sufficient, reliable, ubiquitous and dependable.

The Government must ensure that broadband services are affordable in regional, rural and remote Australia. Lack of affordability is regarded as one of the most important barriers to good internet access for country people whose incomes, on average, are 15 per cent lower than those of city people[18].

Government policies play a tremendous role in bringing internet access to underserved groups and regions. Unless issues around equitable and affordable access to telecommunications in regional, rural and remote Australia are addressed, the potential benefits of the digital economy for non-urban Australians will go unrealised.

The AMA urges the Government to consider the following actions:

·       Fully consider the recommendations of the 2015 Regional Telecommunications Review, and, in particular, adopt Recommendations 8, 9, and 12, to:
o    Develop a new Consumer Communication Standard for voice and data which would provide technology neutral standards in terms of availability, accessibility, affordability, performance and reliability.
o    Establish a new funding mechanism, the Consumer Communication Fund to replace the existing telecommunications industry levy and underwrite over the longer term, necessary loss-making infrastructure and services in regional Australia.
o    Collect benchmark data on availability and affordability of broadband data and voice services (including mobile services), to be reported annually, in order to improve the understanding of the changing circumstances of regional telecommunications.
·       Extend the boundaries of the NBN’s fibre cable and fixed wireless footprints and mobile coverage wherever possible.
·       Begin an incremental process of terrestrial network expansion over the longer term to address increase in usage over time.
·       Develop measures to prioritise or optimise the broadband capacity available by satellite for hospitals and medical practices, such as exempting or allocating higher data allowance quotas, or providing a separate data allowance (as is the case with distance education[19]).
·       Create universal unmetered online access to government, hospital and health services for people and businesses in rural and remote areas.[20]
·       Establish an innovation budget for development of local infrastructure solutions for rural and remote areas.[21]
·       Engage with state and local government and related stakeholders who wish to co-invest or coordinate planning to achieve the optimum overall infrastructure outcome for their area. This could involve public-private partnerships or the leveraging of philanthropic infrastructure funding through, for example, tax concessions.




[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2015), Australia’s Welfare 2015
[3] Australian Communications and Media Authority (2016), Regional Australians Online
[4] Ibid
[5] Australian Government Regional Telecommunications Review (2015)
[6] Ibid.
[7] Alcatel-Lucent (2012), Building the Benefits of Broadband. How New Zealand can increase the social & economic impacts of high-speed broadband
[8] Centre for Energy-efficient Telecommunications (CEET)(2015), Economic Benefit of the National Broadband Network
[9] Alcatel-Lucent (2012), op.cit.
[10] Deloitte Access Economics (2013), Benefits of High-Speed Broadband for Australian Households. Commissioned by the Australian Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
[11] CEET (2015), op.cit.
[12] National Rural Health Alliance (2013), eHealth and telehealth in rural and remote Australia. Accessed October 2016
[13] Prof. Branko Celler et al (2016), Home Monitoring of Chronic Disease for Aged Care, CSIRO Australian e-Health Research Centre.
[14] National Rural Health Alliance (2013) op. cit.
[15] National Rural Health Alliance (2016), website accessed October 2016
[16] Deloitte (2016), Design, service and infrastructure plan for Victoria’s rural and regional health system discussion paper, commissioned by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.
[17] Wearne S M (2013), Using telehealth infrastructure for remote supervision could create medical training places where they are needed. Medical Journal of Australia, 198 (11): 633-634. 17 June 2013.
[18] AIHW (2016), Are things different outside the major cities? Accessed October 2016.
[19] Australian Government (2016), Australian Government Response to the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee Report: Regional Telecommunications Review 2015.
[20]Broadband for the Bush Alliance (2016), Broadband for the Bush Forum V: Digital Journeys Communiqué
[21]Broadband for the Bush Alliance (2014), Broadband for the Bush Forum III: Building a Better Digital Future Communiqué

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