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1.1 - History of the program
1.1 History of the program
The Networking the Nation program was launched in December 1996 with the announcement of the establishment of the $250 million Regional Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund (RTIF) by the then Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston. It was initiated in order to honour the Coalition's policy document Revitalising Regional Australia , and funded from the initial one-third sale of Telstra. The Fund became known as the General Fund.
The initiative followed the publication of several reports highlighting the difficulties confronted by Australians in non-metropolitan areas in accessing communications facilities and services, particularly newer services gaining rapid hold in the city (see, for example, Information Policy Advisory Council (IPAC) 1997). It provided funding to not-for-profit organisations to support activities and projects designed to meet a range of telecommunications needs in regional, rural and remote Australia . The funding was to be allocated among the states in accordance with the proportion of each state's population found outside that state's capital city, with a separate allocation for the territories.
In 1999 the Australian Government announced an increase of $174 million in NTN funding from the Social Bonus following the further sale of Telstra. The additional funds were allocated to a range of programs targeting particular communications priorities in regional Australia (NTN Board 2004, Annex B):
- Building Additional Rural Networks ($70 million)
- Local Government Program ($45 million)
- Internet Access Program ($36 million)
- Remote and Isolated Island Program ($20 million)
- Extended Mobile Telephone Coverage in Western Australia , South Australia and Tasmania ($3 million).
In 2001–02, $21 million of these funds were reallocated to the National Communications Fund ($15 million) and to the Internet Assistance Program ($6 million). At the end of June 2003 $35 million of the BARN fund was uncommitted and subsequently redirected to the National Broadband Strategy as part of the Government's response to the Regional Telecommunications Inquiry (NTN Board 2004).
The remaining unspent funds were declared as savings in the 2002–03 Budget.
The General Fund, which was originally due to close on 30 June 2003, was extended by twelve months to 30 June 2004 in the course of the 2003–04 Budget. The Remote and Isolated Island Fund, Internet Access Program and the Extended Mobile Coverage Program closed on 30 June 2003. The Local Government Program was scheduled to complete funding by 30 June 2004 and the BARN Program by 30 June 2005 (NTN Board 2003 and 2004).
The funds were administered by an independent five-member Board chaired by the Rt Hon Doug Anthony. A secretariat located in DCITA supported the Board.