Data caps decried as distant disadvantage
A forum in Darwin has heard of an idea that could greatly boost education outcomes for kids in the bush.
The Broadband for the Bush forum brought together telecommunication experts from companies around Australia and overseas.
The summit saw a challenge laid for internet service providers to exempt essential education services from data cap allowances.
The proposal is a response to the lack of affordable access to online education services in remote Australia.
Nicholas Long from Queensland's Department of Education called on Telstra, Optus Satellite, and NBN Co to provide free unlimited access for essential programs.
“I challenge you to take educational services out of data caps,” he said.
Mr Long is concerned that remote communities have to pay higher costs to access education, widening the educational advantage gap between bush kids and those living in cities.
But Optus Satellite sales director Peter Williams said it would not happen, because it would lose money.
“I don't think you can get away from the fact that it costs money,” Mr Williams said.
“If there's no government subsidy I don't know how companies could provide that,” he said.
“This isn't policy led, it's commercially led.”
But online schooling is the only option for people living in many remote communities across Australia.
Other participants in the forum argued that the affordability and accessibility issues could not be ignored.
NBN Co manager Gavin Williams said the company was discussing such needs with education departments.
“We're engaged in discussions with education departments to facilitate specific solutions,” Mr Williams said.
“However in terms of priority we haven't considered [removing educational programs from data caps].”