Ratepay­ers to fund dig­i­tal

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - SAM SMALLBONE

CAIRNS Re­gional Coun­cil has stepped in to help res­i­dents of South Moss­man, Dain­tree Vil­lage and Cow Bay ac­cess dig­i­tal chan­nels when ana­logue is switched to dig­i­tal on De­cem­ber 6, with ratepay­ers bear­ing the cost of tower up­grades.

Re­gional Broad­cast­ing Australia – the en­tity that rep­re­sents the ma­jor re­gional broad­cast­ing net­works – will not be dig­i­tally up­grad­ing tow­ers in these com­mu­ni­ties be­cause they are lowly pop­u­lated ar­eas and some of them al­ready have satel­lite dishes in­stalled to ac­cess dig­i­tal tele­vi­sion.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has of­fered to sub­sidise house­holds in these ar­eas through the Satel­lite Sub­sidy Scheme, en­abling satel­lite dishes to be in­stalled for $700 per house­hold with a house­holder con­tri­bu­tion of $200 to $350, so every­one can ac­cess dig­i­tal TV.

How­ever, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s Dig­i­tal Switchover Task Force has ad­vised the com­mu­nity and coun­cil that if res­i­dents have poor re­cep­tion with the ana­logue ser­vice, they will con­tinue to have poor re­cep­tion after the switch.

In an at­tempt to solve the prob­lem, Cairns Re­gional Coun­cil will spend up to $430,000 over two years to dig­i­tally up­grade the tow­ers for those who re­ceive ana­logue sig­nals.

But if Coun­cil’s plan goes ahead, it will mean res­i­dents are in­el­i­gi­ble for the Satel­lite Sub­sidy Scheme.

Cairns Re­gional Coun­cil Mayor Val Schier said the ar­eas have low pop­u­la­tion den­si­ties and RBA doesn’t feel there is a com­mer­cial ben­e­fit to fund­ing trans­mis­sion tower up­grades.

“A satel­lite op­tion has been made avail­able, but is con­sid­ered to be un­suit­able due to the moun­tain­ous land­scape and heavy fo­liage in those ar­eas,” she said.

“There would also be a cost bur­den on house­holds, with no guar­an­tee of good pic­ture re­cep­tion.

“So coun­cil will step in and fund the tower up­grades, over sev­eral stages, to al­low res­i­dents to ac­cess the dig­i­tal chan­nels.

“Coun­cil has agreed to a $75,000 al­lo­ca­tion in the 2011-12 Bud­get for up­grades at South Moss­man, with fur­ther funds to be iden­ti­fied for Dain­tree Vil­lage and Alexan­dra Range.

“Ana­logue trans­mis­sion will cease in the Cairns and Moss­man area in De­cem­ber 2011 and in the Dain­tree area at a date yet to be de­ter­mined, but be­fore the end of 2013.”

Fed­eral Min­is­ter for Broad­band, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and the Dig­i­tal Econ­omy Sen­a­tor Stephen Con­roy said if coun­cils choose to up­grade their trans­mis­sion tow­ers to dig­i­tal then house­hold­ers would still need to buy and – where nec­es­sary – pay for the in­stal­la­tion of a dig­i­tal tele­vi­sion or a set-top box to re­ceive the ser­vice.

“Ratepay­ers will bear the on­go­ing costs of op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance of the ter­res­trial trans­mit­ters and tower,” Sen­a­tor Con­roy said.

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