21st September 2006
$600 million Broadband Connect program launched
The Australian Government will invest up to $600 million in rural, regional and remote Australia to encourage private sector rollouts of broadband infrastructure, Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile and the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, announced today.
Part of the $1.1 billion Connect Australia package, this is the second phase of the $878 million Broadband Connect program.
The first phase of Broadband Connect is a per-customer subsidy paid to Internet Service Providers who connect customers in areas where a broadband connection is hard to get. This subsidy model has already resulted in more than one million extra broadband connections in Australia.
This second phase will support a small number of large scale infrastructure projects and leverage additional funding from the private sector and State and Territory Governments to extend the reach of broadband across rural, regional and remote Australia.
“The Broadband Connect Infrastructure Program will build on the billion dollar investment the Australian Government has already made in rural, regional and remote communications by encouraging the roll-out of large scale, sustainable and scalable networks across Australia,” Senator Coonan said.
“By encouraging investment in infrastructure the Government’s vision is to see more homes and businesses gain access to high quality broadband services, with those services able to grow to support the full range of existing and emerging broadband applications,” Minister Vaile said.
The program guidelines were released today with applications for funding to close on 30 November 2006.
“Broadband infrastructure is the roads and railways of a modern 21st century economy. In regional Australia it can break down the tyranny of distance and help deliver essential health and education services through telemedicine and e-learning services,” Senator Coonan said.
“The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that this infrastructure is available to all Australians – regardless of where they live,” Minister Vaile said.
Proposals submitted under Broadband Connect can also seek funding under the $30 million Mobile Connect program to improve mobile phone coverage. The Government has also called for funding applications under the $113 million Clever Networks program to extend fast broadband networks for education and health initiatives.
The Broadband Connect guidelines were finalised after an Expressions of Interest process earlier this year.
“There was a strong and enthusiastic response. The overwhelming majority of the 69 responses strongly supported the Government’s proposed alternative infrastructure-based approach outlined in the EOI,” Senator Coonan said.
“Several respondents are interested in developing proposals for major national or regional infrastructure projects that would result in well developed, end-to-end solutions of significant scale.
“Some also proposed a consortium approach to bring together major transmission capacity projects (such as interstate links and local access solutions) that could be integrated into comprehensive national or regional projects.”
The existing incentive-based element of the Broadband Connect program will continue during this financial year while the infrastructure-based program is developed, and appropriate transitional arrangements will be put in place.
Broadband Connect is one of four programs being delivered under Connect Australia, the Government’s $1.1 billion regional telecommunications package. The Government intends to use the substantial funding it has allocated under the Connect Australia package to revitalise communities in rural, regional and remote Australia.
The Broadband Connect Infrastructure Program guidelines and associated documentation is available from www.dcita.gov.au/broadbandconnect