A university based on the New South Wales north coast is forging ahead with efforts to position the region as an early receiver of the $43 billion National Broadband Network (NBN).
The Southern Cross University (SCU) has lodged a submission with the Federal Government, which outlines why the region should become one of the first on the mainland to receive the high-speed optical fibre broadband network.
The University’s professor of IT, Peter Croll, said communications minister Stephen Conroy encouraged the submission upon a visit to the region late last year.
Croll said the region would benefit greatly from the NBN, including its growing film industry that makes up seven per cent of the region’s workforce.
“For them broadband technology is a fundamental form of transport,” he said. “When companies get to a certain size, they can’t stay here, but they don’t necessarily go to the city, because of affordability issues.”
Croll also pointed to the possibility of increased remote healthcare consultation services over the NBN as another way the region could benefit.
The proposal for the region, which spans from Tweed Heads in the north, to the Great Lakes district south of Port Macquarie, includes using the University’s Coffs Harbour campus as the main NBN hub.
Croll said a research centre recently built as part of a $10-million upgrade of facilities at the university would serve as the hub.
“A lot of people wonder why we need high-speed broadband, but just look at application development for the iPhone, things really take off once you provide that sort of facility, people can be let loose and their imagination comes up with solutions we haven’t even though about before,” he said.
“We shouldn’t be thinking in terms of what we have now, but what we can do, and how that will change service provision.”
According to Croll, the submission is not an attempt to shake the region of its surfing coastal holiday town image, but rather to promote it. In fact, the submission’s cover features a man on a surfboard in the middle of the ocean, dress in a suit and using his laptop.
“It’s an opportunity from the government’s perspective to show how they can really gain and win,” he said. “Between Brisbane and Sydney alone there is 2 million people, or 10 per cent of the population - who wouldn’t make use of that?
“We’re not talking about isolated communities either, Coffs Harbour understands regional issues and we’re able to demonstrate really quickly how broadband transforms business.”
To accompany the submission, a website has been set up to generate further community, local business and local government involvement.
“The fact that we’ve got collaboration between 14 local governments in the area which puts us in a very strong position,” Croll said.
Federal Member for Page, Janelle Saffin, will lobby the submission in Canberra this week.
The submission can be viewed at the website gobroadband.org.au.