Indigenous communities to get satellite phones

Indigenous communities to get satellite phones

Emergency calls free for three years

Some 100 remote indigenous communities will have access to basic telephone services with the introduction of satellite phones early next year.

Part of the federal government's $89.9 million Backing Indigenous Ability (BIA) program, the satellite "community phones" will provide very small and remote communities with the ability to make emergency and other calls with pre-paid cards.

ICT minister Senator Helen Coonan announced last month that community phones will be provided to around 300 permanent remote indigenous communities.

These additional community phones follow the successful trial installation of 216 community phones in 124 remote Indigenous communities.

A 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey identified 110 very small remote indigenous communities which do not have a payphone.

The BIA program intends to provide these 110 communities with a satellite handset, including any network access charges for three years, which would allow the community access to free emergency calls and free incoming calls, with outgoing calls to be paid by the community using prepaid cards.

The government cannot publish the names of the communities "for privacy reasons".

The BIA program comprises $36.6 million for telecommunications, $50 million for National Indigenous Television, and $3.3 million for an Indigenous Remote Radio Replacement (IRRR) program.

All funding is part of the government's $1.1 billion Connect Australia package.

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