Thursday, 23 April 2009 11:39

$250 million up for grabs for regional backbone upgrade

The Federal government has announced a fast-track program to improve the nation's backbone fibre optic network in regional areas. $250 million has been earmarked.

While the last leg of the communications network out to customers' premises is a barrier to greater broadband uptake in regional areas of Australia, the inadequacies of the backbone network also affect the speeds users actually get.

Regional cities such as Geraldton (Western Australia), Mt Gambier (South Australia), Broken Hill (New South Wales), Mildura (Victoria), Mt Isa (Queensland) and Darwin (Northern Territory) are among those where only one company (presumably Telstra) provides backhaul services.

The government's plans for the National Broadband Network require improvements to the entire network, not just the final connection to individual premises.

Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, today released a "stakeholder consultation paper" to assist the process of identifying and prioritising locations.

The government is also seeing input on on technical parameters associated with the rollout and arrangements for funding, the delivery of services and the ownership of the infrastructure.

Tenders will be called "shortly after" after the consultation process closes in mid-May.

The government has allocated $250 million to improving regional broadband links.

"This $250 million investment demonstrates how serious we are about immediate improvement for services in regional and rural Australia and will contribute to the immediate stimulus impact of the National Broadband Network," said Conroy.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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