The Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG) has taken the plight of bush broadband to heart, launching a series of regional broadband seminars with a pilot in Dubbo this Thursday, 20 November.
John Pack, technical services executive at ATUG, said regional consumers and businesses needed to understand the benefits broadband could bring. So far, the bush lagged behind the cities in broadband uptake although some authorities believed Australian business needed broadband to stay competitive, he said.
Creating demand in the regions complemented other broadband promotion strategies, such as government investment in infrastructure, Pack said.
“The only effective way we can have broadband in regional areas is to grow demand so that the carriers are in a position to start to put in infrastructure to provide it,” Pack said.
He said Dubbo in western NSW was chosen for its vibrancy and status as a regional centre. Should the pilot succeed, the lobby group would run about 20 seminars across Australia in 2004.
“We're expecting a good turnout,” Pack said. “[And] there's a lot of people who have rung up in support from various areas, including the Gold Coast, saying come up here [and run one] and we'll give you a hand.”
The seminar -- run by ATUG with the Service Providers Industry Association (SPAN) and the Small Enterprise Telecommunications Centre Ltd (SETEL) -- would discuss case studies, give talks, answer queries and run live demonstrations from 12.30pm to 4pm at the Expo Centre in Dubbo's showgrounds. Entry (and lunch) was free, Pack said.
“We have the example of one [regional] business that processes photography for professional photographers. By using broadband, he cut down [processing] time from 2.5 weeks to 2.5 days and since then, his business is growing 20 percent every month,” he said. “And people can learn from what's been done in other regional areas, such as Yuralla and Armidale, by working with universities and schools.”
Satellite company iPStar, microwave radio supplier LongReach Wireless, ISP Pacific Internet and networking vendors NetComm and D-Link sponsored the pilot, with support also received from the Australian Communications Authority, Request Broadband and Macquarie Communications. Countrywide would install DSL for the afternoon's demonstrations, Pack said.
Attendees would also get a showbag of case studies and product information to take away, he said, but the event would be educational, not advertorial.
“It's terribly important that we are seen as not flying the flag for any particular carrier and it's quite interesting when you look at it -- it's not only telephone wires and DSL, there's satellite and wireless and microwave [on show],” Pack said.
ATUG is funded by member subscriptions, its annual conference and seminars. It has the stated aim of achieving “high quality telecommunications services at OECD benchmark prices for Australian businesses”.