Albanese Government opens consultation on key investments to improve regional connectivity and mobile coverage
Public consultation has today opened on the Albanese Government’s commitment to improve communications in rural and regional Australia through Round 3 of the Regional Connectivity Program (RCP), which includes a new stream to address mobile Black Spots.
The October Budget committed $1.1 billion to fund the Government’s Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia. The Plan includes $200 million for two additional rounds of the RCP and $400 million to fund improvements in regional mobile coverage and communications resilience.
The draft guidelines release today draw from that funding to deliver two streams of work to improve digital connectivity in regional, rural and First Nations communities. Parallel consultation on these two streams delivers more certainty for interested parties as they will be able to consider the full range of connectivity solutions simultaneously rather than being required to “retro-fit” the community’s needs into one or the other. The two streams are:
- A $100 million Regional Connectivity Solutions stream drawn from the $200 million commitment for place-based solutions deliver new or upgraded broadband services or upgraded mobile services; and
- A $50 million Mobile Black Spot Solutions stream drawn from the $400 million commitment to deliver New Handheld Coverage to regional, rural and remote Australia through public consultation.
Since the structure of these programs require co-investment from carriers and others, this will deliver connectivity improvements well in excess of the $150 million of Commonwealth funding.
The updated draft guidelines also reflect the Government’s commitment to provide dedicated funding towards projects in First Nations communities, taking another step towards achieving Target 17 of the Closing the Gap initiative, which aims to ensure First Nations people have equal levels of digital inclusion by 2026.
These investments form part of the Albanese Government’s $2.2 billion commitment to improve regional telecommunications – the most significant investment in regional communications since the creation of the National Broadband Network.
The consultation process will canvass feedback from local communities, businesses, state and local governments, and industry to ensure the final design and rollout of these programs can deliver the mobile and broadband solutions regional communities deserve.
For Mobile Black Spot Solutions, applicants and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs)/other interested parties are encouraged to work together during the application development period to develop multi-carrier solutions which deliver broader public benefits to communities than single MNO solutions.
Consultation on the Round 3 guidelines is open until Friday, 10 February 2023.
To view the draft guidelines or to make a submission, please visit: https://www.infrastructure.gov.au/media-communications-arts/internet/regional-connectivity-program
Quotes attributable to Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP:
“The Albanese Government is committed to narrowing the digital divide and ensuring regional, rural and First Nations communities have the connectivity they right deserve.
That’s why the October Budget delivered $2.2 billion to improve communications in regional and rural parts of the country who more acutely experience Australia’s tyranny of distance.
“I encourage individuals, industry, local government and communities to have their say to ensure the Regional Connectivity Program meets the needs of communities outside our major cities, including by delivering the investment needed to address problem mobile black spots".