Conroy green-lights ISP filter and $4.7B broadband plan at first industry address

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Conroy green-lights ISP filter and $4.7B broadband plan at first industry address

Senator Stephen Conroy gave his first major address to the IT industry as the new Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy at a gala dinner event Thursday night where he outlined the Government’s future ICT goals including its fibre-based broadband plans, digital education reform and ISP-level filtering.

Speaking at the Internet Industry Association Annual Gala Dinner, Conroy reiterated the Government’s commitment to building its $4.7 billion high-speed fibre-based broadband network.

“While the Government has insisted that the network will offer minimum speeds —and I emphasise minimum speeds—of 12 megabits per second to 98 percent of Australian homes and businesses; we believe it could actually go much further,” he said.

Although Conroy did not elaborate on the Government’s FttN plans, he speculated that both Telstra and the G9 may bid with VDSL technology to build the network in partnership with the Government.

Conroy also spoke of Labor’s “education revolution,” pledging to invest $1 billion to ensure secondary school students could participate effectively in the digital landscape.

$900 million will be invested in the National Secondary School Computer Fund to provide new or upgraded computer technology for secondary students, while $100 million will be used to support high-speed fibre-to-the premises broadband connections to schools.

On the security front, Conroy outlined plans for a range of e-security initiatives to target awareness among home users, students and small businesses.

These include an E-Security Awareness Week, a National E-Security Alert Service for home users and SMEs to provide them with up-to-date information, and a Youth Advisory Group that will form part of its cyber-safety strategy.

Finally, Conroy all but green-lighted the Rudd Government’s election commitment to introduce ISP level filtering to reduce the exposure of children to illegal content, this despite much furore from the industry when it was first tabled as a real possibility.

“Labor has never argued that ISP filtering is a silver bullet solution, but it is an important step in the overall strategy to make the internet a safer place for children,” Conroy said.

Although he acknowledged ISP level filtering could potentially affect Internet speeds, Conroy added little else to quell concerns surrounding the issue, other than to say there would be a trial process to iron out any technical anomalies.

“I can assure you that we will go forward through an informed, consultative and considered process to ensure that a workable solution is found,” Conroy said. “This evening, I ask the industry to continue engaging with the Government and with my Department to ensure that we achieve an outcome for ISP filtering that meets the needs of industry and the wider community.”

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