Interview with ABC Northern Tasmania, Drive with Andre Leslie

ANDRE LESLIE, HOST: Residents and visitors across King island will experience a major connectivity boost with the recent completion of a nearly $10 million communications network upgrade. It's all part of the Commonwealth Government's Regional Connectivity Program involving Telstra, the Tasmanian Government and the local council.
To talk more about it, I'm joined by the Federal Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, and Michael Patterson, Telstra's Regional General Manager for Tasmania. First of all, Michelle Rowland, can you explain broadly what upgrades have been done here?
MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: What it will actually be is an upgrade connecting with a new microwave link that will stretch from King Island to Victoria, and what it will end up doing is bringing up to ten times more bandwidth and capacity onto King Island. In conjunction with that, there are also upgrades and new towers that are being built around King Island - some of them (existing towers) have been upgraded as well - and what we expect to see here is better mobile coverage and more quality in terms of coverage.
It's very pleasing to see that this will benefit consumers overall, through this investment, and it's been made possible by the cooperation from all levels of Government.
LESLIE: And what's been the investment specifically, how much has the Commonwealth contributed here?
ROWLAND: We've got just over $5 million in Commonwealth investment for a project that's just under $10 million. But this is certainly one that is very worthwhile and welcome. I've been very pleased to spend some time on King Island today with local businesses. These are people who are passionate about what they do in everything from hospitality, tourism, distilling, and they need connectivity in order to do their jobs and to service their clientele. We know that it doesn't matter what part of Australia you live in, access to fast and reliable connectivity is absolutely essential today and we look forward to seeing this having a really positive impact on residents, but also businesses on King Island.
Of course, we know there's still a really big job to do in bridging that digital divide, but more continues to be done and needs to be done in future. But we look forward to a significant uplift in the transmission capacity here and what that should mean is a better overall experience on the ground.
LESLIE: Will there be other upgrades to regional Tasmania soon as part of the Regional Connectivity Program?
ROWLAND: We've got $656 million in this to improve mobile and broadband connectivity, but also resilience in rural, regional and remote communities. These are contestable - we need industry to come on board. But also having those partnerships between State and Local Governments is really important too.
I did spend some time in Burnie over the last few days as well, and I understand that Councils, in particular, have limitations on what they're able to do in terms of financing, but it was really useful to discuss how there could be other options for Council to participate, including through making sure there's access to land and existing facilities for some of these structures.
I think the beauty of the Regional Connectivity Program is that it's capable of being very bespoke. Where there is a need for a community to have a specific solution, it's open for industry to work with local communities to find out what that might be, and that's exactly what's happened here on King Island.
Again, really looking forward to more investments in Tasmania, and it's been a really worthwhile exercise over the past few days to be out and about in Tasmania and here on King Island to listen to their connectivity needs.
LESLIE: Michelle Rowland, thanks very much for your time. Really appreciate it.