Satellite phone subsidy to be extended in Australia

Monday, May 15, 2006

Senator Helen Coonan, Australian minister for communication, information technology and the arts, has announced the federal government will be extending its subsidy on satellite telephone handsets.

The scheme allows those living or working in parts of remote Australia without conventional mobile telephone services to claim a subsidy of up to AU$1,200 on the purchase of a satellite telephone.

The program was supposed to run for five years from 2002 until 2007. The program will continue until 2009.

In addition to the extension, the scheme’s eligibility criteria will be changed from July 1, 2006 to ensure that the scheme “continues to be well targeted,” according to Senator Coonan.

The changes will allow aboriginal corporations and educational institutions to claim the subsidy, which were previously ineligible. “These changes include increasing the level of support available to Indigenous corporations who may now be able to receive more than two subsidies in some circumstances, and introducing educational institutions as an eligible category,” Senator Coonan said.

The government will also change the way the subsidy is calculated. In the past, it had been calculated based upon the call plan chosen by the customer. The government will now calculate the subsidy based on the amount of time the customer spends in remote areas. Those operating a business in areas without ground-based mobile telephone services will be eligible for the full AU$1,200 subsidy, while those who spend some time in such areas will be eligible for AU$900.

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