Feds grapple with ABG under-participation

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Feds grapple with ABG under-participation

The Department of Communications and Broadband has made a callout to ISPs to take advantage of the ‘free marketing’ and customer lead generation offered by the Australian Broadband Guarantee (ABG) initiative.

Speaking at the Broadband World 2008 conference in Sydney yesterday, the Department’s acting assistant secretary for the broadband infrastructure branch, Simon Cobcroft, claimed that Parliament struggled to understand ‘why more people haven’t taken [the ABG] up’, particularly with incentives of up to $6,000 for difficult connections now on the table.

“We’re providing free marketing,” said Cobcroft.

“We’re referring customers to ISPs all the time. If you’re providing metro-comparable services [in under-serviced areas] then we will refer consumers to you.”

Cobcroft said with much of the ‘low-lying fruit’ taken already, and with an NBN on the cards, the focus of the initiative would likely shift to target customers that live in areas where broadband provision is ‘difficult and costly’. Those customers would therefore eligible for the new maximum incentive payments, he said.

Cobcroft also called on ISPs to contribute additional coverage information to the Department to help it build on its own coverage maps, which combine data from MapInfo, Geosciences Australia and commercial sources in an attempt to create an independent picture of actual broadband coverage.

“We’re continually refining the maps to get an accurate idea of where the coverage is,” said Cobcroft.

“It’s not just an ideal map of the maximum coverage area around a tower. It also factors in things like the line of sight.”

Cobcroft also foreshadowed an additional review of the ABG initiative, which may see an altered definition of the minimum requirements for a metro comparable service.

The current definition is ‘any service that offers a minimum 512kbps download and 128kbps upload data speed, 3GB per month data usage at a total cost of $2,500 (GST inclusive) over three years (including installation and connection fees).’

“It’s not rocket science that we would review this in light of the NBN,” said Cobcroft.

“We are going to look at it again next year and would expect the limit to increase.”
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