For schools in regional Australia, accessing the kind of broadband capabilities they need to integrate 21st-century digital teaching and learning practices is a challenge that can seem impossible to overcome.
This was the case in the Southern Highlands region of New South Wales a few years ago. With bandwidth needs of schools rapidly increasing and Internet access limited by existing telecommunications services and the geography of the area, a grassroots collaborative community project emerged to find a solution.
The opportunity to improve connectivity for schools arose when the Garvan Institute of Medical Research built the Australian BioResources (ABR) facility in Moss Vale. The Garvan’s Sydney sites were connected to AARNet via its association with the University of New South Wales and access to high-speed broadband was critical to the operations of the Moss Vale research facility. With support from the NSW Department of State and Regional Development, the Garvan connected ABR to AARNet’s Sydney–Canberra fibre optic backbone. This meant that ABR had access to a 10Gbps network and the largest independent Internet connection in the region.
Wingecarribee Shire Council granted permission for a tower to be built on Oxley’s Hill in Bowral to replace an older tower that was to be decommissioned. In April 2010, with the new tower completed, high-speed radios were installed, connecting the ABR facilities to the tower and launching the Highland Health Education Research Network (HHERN).
The HHERN story exemplifies an AARNet community partnership delivering a scalable and sustainable broadband solution for schools in a regional area.
The HHERN is currently being upgraded to AARNet4, which will deliver more capacity to meet the future needs of a growing number schools and other organisations with a research or education mission located in the Southern Highlands.
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