Article – Broadband spreads wider in NT

4 July 2014
Neda Vanovac
The Australian

THE time for message sticks is over, says the mayor of a remote Northern Territory Aboriginal community now plugged into the wider community via a new 3G mobile phone tower.

PEPPIMENARTI, about 320k south of Darwin, is one of eight Aboriginal communities including Papunya and Palumpa to receive access to 3G mobile phone services through a joint NT government-Telstra tower project worth $5.76 million.
Another six communities now also have access to ADSL2+ broadband internet, including Wadeye in the Top End, and Mutitjulu, Hermannsburg and Elliot in central Australia.
Deputy Chief Minister Dave Tollner on Friday acknowledged the coverage was long overdue, but said construction of 13 telecommunications towers had been fast-tracked over the past year.
“What it means for these communities is enormous,” he told reporters, citing improved health and education services.
He said the government’s plan to develop northern Australia was reliant on strong communications networks.
“It is one of those things that will factor in the minds of businesses looking to set up in remote communities,” he said.
The NT has an area of more than one million square kilometres and the expense of covering such a vast expanse has been an obstacle, said Brian O’Keefe, area general manager for Telstra.
“Most of the big communities with 400 or 500 people now have mobile phone coverage,” he said. “This particular project means that 8000 people who didn’t have mobile or fixed broadband before, now do.”
Tara Black, 25, said there had been a huge change since Peppimenarti’s tower was completed last month.
“It was really poor, just home phones,” she said as her 18-month-old daughter Nevaeh swiped her heavily cracked and worn iPad screen.
She said the connection was very fast: “She plays, we use it for internet, most things.”
Improved telecommunications services were vital for the community of 200, said Harold Wilson, mayor of the Western Daly Regional Council.
“I think it will improve how you manage things … and for health and safety,” he said.”Up on the road people can ring you if they break down. There are a lot of people communicating; just to talk to people, it’s important.”The time for message sticks is over.”
Courtesy of The Australian