A $53 million program to improve connectivity in the regions has been welcomed by the NSW Nationals in the federal government.
The Regional Connectivity Program will provide targeted investment in local telecommunications infrastructure projects to maximise economic and social opportunities in regional, rural, and remote communities across the country.
Telecommunications providers, regional communities, regional development organisations, as well as state, territory and local governments are encouraged to collaborate and apply for funding through the program.
The NSW Nationals in the federal government are taking a ‘place based’ approach to investment through the program because we recognise our regions make an enormous contribution to our economy nationally but have distinct digital needs and in some cases require custom solutions. The program complements the National Broadband Network rollout which is delivering fast, affordable broadband to all Australians, and the Mobile Black Spot Program, which is switching on reliable mobile coverage in rural and remote areas.
Examples of projects that could be funded under the program include upgrades to mobile infrastructure to improve community access to telehealth, remote education and retail internet and phone services, or the development of enterprise-grade broadband networks to support local agricultural, manufacturing and tourism businesses to engage more competitively online.
NSW Nationals federal Minister for Regional Communications Mark Coulton said potential applicants should work together to develop projects for funding to maximise the benefits for communities.
“Collaboration is an excellent method to give an application real ‘bite’. We are looking for projects that will provide the most profound benefit to local communities and by joining forces, I’m confident we will see many great solutions come from the bush to improve services in the bush,” Mr Coulton said.
“I encourage all interested parties to use the program noticeboard to share resources and expertise on projects and work together to improve connectivity for regional communities.”
Deputy Prime Minister and NSW Nationals Member for Riverina Michael McCormack encouraged communities to apply.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown again businesses can operate in the regions just as well as they can in the cities given good connectivity and I want our regions to have the best connectivity possible to maximise their potential,” Mr McCormack said.
The online program noticeboard provides a portal for collaboration where applicants can find and register potential projects, linking regional communities and industry providers.
Applications are open until October 20. The guidelines and application process is available on the government’s central grants website: www.grants.gov.au.