Kiama prepares free NBN 'hubs'

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Kiama prepares free NBN 'hubs'

Criteria for government grants lags NBN connections.

Kiama Municipal Council is expected to be one of the first places in Australia to erect community 'hubs' with free access to the National Broadband Network in an attempt to educate locals on the possibilities it brings.

The area, which was today officially launched by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and NBN Co chief Mike Quigley, would host up to four hubs built around general education of the network's use as well as several e-health initiatives hosted in the area.

The council would rely on a portion of the $23.5 million in Federal Government grants Conroy announced would be provided to fund digital hubs in the first 40 NBN-connected communities.

Kiama councillor Neil Riley, who headed up the council's digital economy strategy launched in May, told iTnews the council had yet to receive the criteria for the government grants but had continued discussions with the Federal Government and NBN Co.

Discussions were also occuring with Intel and the Australian Information Industry Association's digital experience representatives to gain access to funding.

Hubs would be located at the Kiama library, access to which would be served through a private fibre connection to the council chambers which itself was now connected to the network.

Other connections were planned for the North Kiama Neighbourhood Centre and Blue Haven Village, which would also host a program designed to prevent falls in elderly patients through video games such as Dance Dance Revolution.

"We've got a whole bunch of people from health, from education, from business, from other community groups and we're exploring what their needs are," Riley said.

"We're going to build it with the community in mind rather than saying 'here you go, have fun'."

The hubs were some of the 2350 premises connected to the NBN network in the Kiama/Minnamurra Downs area, making up 80 percent of properties that had consented to an NBN connection.

Nine users had been connected to the network during its trial period, which would increase ahead of volume use from September onwards.

The council hoped to use the NBN to broadcast live council meetings and educate some of the 800 small businesses in the area on the use of broadband.

"In terms of social equity, everyone has access to the broadband," Kiama mayor Sandra Mcarthy said at the launch of the network.

"I do believe it will serve as a template for other communities that will roll out as we continue with this major project throughout Australia."

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