Broadband launch puts UNE and Armidale at the forefront

Published 19 May 2011

juliaArmidale and the University of New England yesterday celebrated becoming the first centre in mainland Australia to receive the National Broadband Network.

At a launch in Armidale, accompanied by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy the Hon. Stephen Conroy, Tony Windsor MP, the Member for Northern Tablelands and UNE Chancellor Richard Torbay, and the CEO of NBNCo Mike Quigley, the Prime Minister flicked the switch on the connection of NBN services to Armidale residents.

Speaking at the launch, the Prime Minister said: “The NBN will end the tyranny of distance between rural and regional Australia and our capital cities, literally changing the way Australians live and work.”

Senator Conroy emphasised that the day marked a significant milestone in the Government’s vision to deliver high- speed broadband to every home, school and business. “May 18 will mark the day the communications landscape in mainland Australia underwent a historic transformation,” he said.

Mr Quigley thanked the University for its collaboration and support with the rollout, emphasising that the National Broadband Network provided fair access for all, including in particular regional communities.

UNE showcased its broadband innovations at the launch, including SmartFarm technology (which includes sensor platforms for crops, pasture and livestock, mentoring and diagnostic applications for farm machinery, and high-definition videoconferencing), and UNE’s collaboration with the University of California Irvine School of Medicine, which brings high-tech broadband-enabled educational applications to regional Australian medical students.

UNE’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber, said: “This event is recognition of the role that the city of Armidale, the region and this University have played in leading the agenda in the largest nation-building investment in Australia’s history. With our community, industry and government partners, we’ll continue to work on the promise of the National Broadband Network, showing the value of broadband applications in providing high-quality services – particularly education – to Australians wherever they live.”

“It’s important that we keep the momentum going,” Professor Barber said.  “We’re determined to make the most of this opportunity for our students and our community.”

The Prime Minister went on to launch a joint project between the New England Institute of TAFE and UNE, in which the project partners will lead the dissemination of free media-rich open-source digital educational materials and communication applications for individual and workplace training, including lead-in to VET and university courses, through a joint portal (the EDUONE portal). The EDUONE portal draws upon the NBN to deliver stimulating, media-rich training programs to maximise the potential of high-speed communications in regions and remote areas. This project has received $3.5 million in funding through the Commonwealth’s Digital Regions Initiative fund.

The Prime Minister concluded her visit with an interview on UNE’s TUNE! FM radio station with Professor Barber, which included discussion of the measures included in the Budget for regional universities, and the Government’s higher education agenda. (The interview is available at http://tunefm.net/NBN-GillardBarber.wav.)

THE PHOTOGRAPH of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, displayed here was taken during her interview in the TUNE! FM studio.