Half cut from revised broadband guarantee

Less than half of those eligible for the previous bush broadband guarantee will be able to apply under the new iteration

The number of premises eligible for the Federal Government's Australian Broadband Guarantee (ABG) will be cut by more than half under a revised iteration of the program beginning next month.

A spokesperson for the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy told Computerworld Australia that around 220,000 homes and businesses will be able to sign up to the revised broadband guarantee; less than half of the 500,000 homes and businesses that have been under past revisions.

"During the past two years there have been changes to commercial offerings from Internet service providers that had incremental effects on the Australian Broadband Guarantee service areas, but the availability of metro-comparable services on the majority of Telstra’s Next G network has had the greatest impact," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Telstra currently claims its Next G Network spans 2.1 million square kilometres and serves 99 per cent of the population.

According to ITNews, competing telco Optus is reportedly considering legal options in regards to a set of coverage maps from Telstra comparing the two telcos' national metro and rural 3G coverage.

The communications department ceased accepting applications for the Australian Broadband Guarantee under the 2008-2010 version of the program on 15 June 2010, and will recommence once the 2010-2011 program begins on 1 July. Along with a smaller subset of eligible premises, ISPs providing services under the ABG will have to meet new minimum standards, including a doubled minimum downstream speed of one megabit per second (Mbps) and a monthly quota of 6GB per month.

In May, communications minister, Stephen Conroy, said that 59,000 premises had signed up to services under the guarantee under the Rudd Government.

A web-based Broadband Service Locator on the department website has been taken down for the fortnight prior to the release of the new ABG program, disallowing potential customers from finding out whether they are eligible.

The department refused to provide maps or lists of eligible premises for past programs for privacy reasons, and would not say whether any particular areas would be targeted under the new scheme. However, existing ABG customers will be eligible to upgrade to the new minimum speeds regardless of whether their home or business is outside the revised ABG areas.

Those ISPs already eligible under the ABG will be continue to receive the $6000 per customer subsidy for the next year.

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