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Liberal and Nationals Government responds to 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review with $1.3 billion investment

The Liberal and Nationals Government firmly believe that all Australians deserve access to fast and reliable telecommunications services, regardless of where they live.

The Liberal and Nationals Government this week tabled its response to the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review, with $1.3 billion committed toward telecommunications upgrades and range of policy and regulatory initiatives set to benefit regional, rural, remote and peri urban communities across Australia – including in Capricornia.

Minister for Regionalisation, Regional Communications and Regional Education, Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, said the Review found regional Australia is facing a step change in its reliance on digital connectivity and data and the Liberal and Nationals Government is providing a step change in funding and policy in response to address the recommendations in the report.

“This week in his Budget speech the Treasurer announced the centrepiece of our response, a new $811.8 million initiative, Connecting Regional Australia,” Minister McKenzie said.

“Connecting Regional Australia (CRA) is a large scale, flexible, multi-year fund that enables strategic investment in digital infrastructure and skills, aligned with the Review’s recommendations and our country’s needs. It builds on but greatly expands on our highly successful Mobile Black Spot and the Regional Connectivity Programs.

“The CRA initiative will expand open access mobile coverage, target specific and localised needs, enhance resilience, trial emerging technologies, boost Indigenous connectivity and foster affordability, as well as improve community digital awareness, including in Northern Australia and peri-urban areas.

“A key objective is an estimated 8,000 km of new open mobile coverage access on transport routes, adjacent homes, businesses and tourist hotspots. Investment in mobile services will be further backed up by a new ACCC inquiry into tower costs and fees.”

Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said the second key part of the response is a grant of $480 million to NBN Co’s $750 million upgrade of its entire fixed wireless network, which will also benefit NBN Sky Muster users, helping to future proof regional Australia.

“The upgrade will extend the footprint of each NBN fixed wireless tower so that 120,000 additional premises are able to access fixed wireless services instead of Sky Muster satellite services,” Minister Fletcher said.

“This means more people can be served by NBN fixed wireless; it means higher speed services on the NBN fixed wireless network; and it means higher amounts of data can be used by households and business customers. The upgrade will see NBN offer new higher speed services to the fixed wireless network: 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) to all 750,000 premises able to access the new, expanded coverage footprint, and a 250 Mbps service will be available to 85 per cent of premises.

“With consumers moving off the NBN Sky Muster service onto fixed wireless, this will also allow NBN Co to provide additional data allowances and extended off-peak periods for Sky Muster services. This includes an almost immediate uplift to data allowances for standard Sky Muster plans from 50 Gigabytes (GB) to 55GB, increasing to 90GB once the upgrades are complete.”

An investment of this scale from the Government is needed to better position the regions for the future, particularly following the impacts of COVID-19, growing populations, changes in working patterns and demands on telecommunications networks.

With co-investment from industry and other tiers of government, the Liberal and Nationals Government expects its $1.3 billion in funding to leverage over well over $2 billion in regional telecommunications investment.

Minister McKenzie said the Liberal and Nationals Government’s investment is also on top of significant investments already being made by industry in a range of infrastructure from 4G and 5G mobile coverage to new fibre transmission to new satellite systems.

“It is clear from the review that more communities can benefit from investment in telecommunications infrastructure, including in Capricornia and this response will achieve this. We have made significant investments and reforms in recent years which have made a difference. Our response enables us to build on the gains we have made to support more jobs, a better quality of life, and stronger regional Australia,” she said.

“Policy and regulatory initiatives will examine a range of matters, including better coordination between all tiers of government and industry, standards, rules and benchmarks for infrastructure providers like NBN Co, and how to better deliver services under the Universal Services Guarantee. The Government will ensure telecommunications backs in other strategic priorities like regionalisation, the digital economy, agriculture, education, health, North Australia, public safety, resilience and disaster management and recovery.”

$5 million under the CRA will be used to expand and continue the Regional Tech Hub to improve consumer connectivity literacy. Consumers will also benefit from better mobile coverage and performance information.

Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry, said the investment and reform package was a huge boost for regional telecommunications and clear recognition of its importance to those living, working, and travelling in regional, rural, remote and peri-urban communities across the country. It would help unite Australia as a leading digital economy.

“This region supports industries such as resources, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and a large number of families, both of which rely on good quality reliable telecommunications, which is why it will reap the benefits from this comprehensive responsive,” Ms Landry said.

“The Connecting Regional Australia initiative will be a great opportunity for this region when it opens for applications. I look forward to the range of tangible improvements this package will deliver for this region.

“Clearly the Liberal and Nationals Government is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to a real plan for better telecommunications for regional Australians and their future.”

For the report of the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review and the Government’s full response, visit www.rtirc.gov.au

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