A digital game changer for the Sunshine Coast
  • Tuesday 21 July 2015
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Sunshine Coast Council plans to link the region directly to global communications systems in Asia, the Pacific and the United States.

Mayor Mark Jamieson today announced that Council has lodged a submission with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to start the process to declare an offshore cable protection zone.

The zone would encourage the private sector to deliver an international undersea broadband cable.

If the cable protection zone was granted and the cable delivered, the Sunshine Coast would be the only regional centre in Australia able to offer direct international broadband connectivity to global markets.

“The granting of a cable protection zone would facilitate private investment in Australia’s next off-shore broadband connection to the rest of the world – landing right here on the Sunshine Coast,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“The Sunshine Coast would then be the closest digital connection point in Australia to the leading markets of Asia and the United States.

“This off-shore cable will connect directly with global networks and link to Australia’s terrestrial networks like the National Broadband Network (NBN).

“There are only five international cable connections into Australia now – four within a short stretch of coastline in Sydney and one into Perth.

“The Sunshine Coast is in the best possible location to provide a new cable landing point on the eastern seaboard, taking into account the topography of the coast line and marine environment and the existence of a significant population centre sufficiently distant from Sydney.

“If this protection zone is achieved and the cable delivered, the shape of the region’s economy and our attractiveness to new businesses will change profoundly – and forever.

“It will provide milli-seconds of advantage and significantly improved speed and bandwidth from Queensland – all from the Sunshine Coast.

“Milli-seconds are integral to banking and finance, digital solutions developers and those businesses and industries that are heavily dependent on online transactions.”

Mayor Jamieson said businesses and industries locating near the cable landing point would achieve a significant commercial advantage.

“The greater speed and bandwidth will also transform the capacity of our university hospital to undertake remote diagnostics and clinical treatments, with direct access also available to some of the world’s leading health and medical research institutes,” he said.

“And this benefit is not confined exclusively to the Sunshine Coast.

“All of south east Queensland – in fact the whole State - will be advantaged by an international connection from the Sunshine Coast.”

The opportunity to market the Sunshine Coast as a place in which to invest and operate a business will also be exceptional.

“Council has had the impact of the proposal independently modelled by the AEC group.

“The modelling forecasts that delivering a broadband submarine cable connection to the Sunshine Coast will generate an additional $700 million to the Sunshine Coast economy every year and $1.1 billion annually to the State’s economy.

“Queensland would also no longer need to rely on a terrestrial connection to Sydney for its data needs.

“This is a connection that has been damaged on occasions in the past, causing significant disruptions to business productivity and the community throughout the State.

“And at a national level, the Sunshine Coast will be playing its part in addressing a materially significant risk.

“At present, the entire eastern seaboard’s data connectivity with the rest of the world occurs through the four cables that land in Sydney.

“Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has himself identified this as a vulnerable single-point-of-failure for Australia – with too many cables located in the same pathway and going to the same access points.

“While a new submarine cable brought ashore on the Sunshine Coast will provide faster, more reliable and affordable broadband connectivity for Queensland, it will also provide redundancy for the eastern seaboard’s access to the internet and the broader telecommunications market, in the event the cables connecting Sydney were damaged or disrupted.”

Sunshine Coast Economic Futures Board member Andrew Pitcher said securing an international telecommunications cable would fundamentally change the nature of high-tech industry on the Sunshine Coast and South East Queensland for generations.

“Sunshine Coast wants to be a technology hub and centre for innovation,” Mr Pitcher said.

“This proposal fits perfectly into that strategy.”

The Queensland Government has also confirmed its in-principle support for Council’s submission to ACMA.

If ACMA accepts the submission, it is required to undertake a full regulatory assessment process as part of considering whether to declare a cable protection zone.

This process includes extensive public consultation and all stakeholders will have the opportunity to have input.

The proposed cable route in Council’s submission has been defined to minimise impacts for the shipping, commercial and recreational fishing and dive industries.

“At this point, we have lodged our submission with ACMA for their assessment,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“The reality is that this milestone really is only the end of the beginning.

“First and foremost, ACMA needs to start the declaration process and Council is encouraging as many people as possible to send a message to the Prime Minister, the Federal Communications Minister and ACMA that this needs to happen.

“This is too important an opportunity for our region – it means jobs for the future, investment in facilities and a wider range of services and experiences potentially available to our residents.”