Interview with Edwina Bartholomew, Sunrise
EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW, HOST: Applications have today opened for funding to improve phone and broadband coverage in rural and remote areas. The Regional Connectivity and Mobile Black Spot Program will target regions outside major urban centres where mobile and internet services are patchy. A combined $150 million is on offer to deliver new or updated services. For more, I'm joined by Communications Minister Michelle Rowland. Morning to you, Michelle. What areas will benefit from these grants because there are so many communities that are underserviced?
MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: The Albanese Government believes that no matter where you live – including in regional, rural and remote Australia – all Australians deserve equitable access to the highest quality communication services. And what we've done under this program that is being opened today is call for expressions of interest for people living in those areas. We're also calling out to the telecommunications carriers as well, as well as local councils who understand that this is a real issue in those areas outside of our great metropolitan cities. What they can do, if people are interested, is go to the notice board at the Department of Communications and you can see that there's a portal there to put in an expression of interest. We want to connect these various parties so that we can get these applications processed in accordance with the guidelines and start rolling out these new and improved coverage areas for regional, rural and remote Australia.
BARTHOLOMEW: Michelle, what assurances have you had from the likes of Telstra and Optus that they can take up the call here too? Because $150 million isn't going to go very far in these communities, is it?
ROWLAND: This is a co-contribution model and what we've done since late last year is have consultation with the carriers about the transparent guidelines that we have issued. And what we have also done is increase the amount of funding that can be provided by the Federal Government, because the carriers in some of these areas will say that these are very marginal and that there might not be a business case. The whole point of this funding round is to give the incentives for the carriers to cooperate with those councils, with those local communities and deliver results.
BARTHOLOMEW: Hopefully we can get a lot more Australians connected. Thank you so much for your time, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland there.