A second tranche of funding has been announced by Western Australia’s McGowan Government that will deliver high speed broadband to more than 100 farms and agricultural enterprises.
The Digital Farm Grants program is a $5 million State Government initiative designed to deliver services to residents and businesses in parts of the South-West, Wheatbelt and Peel regions of the state not adequately covered by National Broadband Network (NBN) fixed wireless and fixed line areas, or planned to be serviced by 2020.
“A fast, reliable broadband service is essential for modern farm businesses to operate in an increasingly sophisticated, competitive global environment,” said WA’s Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan. “The program has to date successfully attracted commercial investment to extend broadband services to areas caught in the ‘digital divide’, to more than 1,200 businesses and regional residents across more than 40,000 square kilometres.”
A standard internet connection just doesn’t cut it for farmers these days – coverage is required across an entire farm, which may consist of thousands of hectares. While satellite services may be available, this form of connectivity can be problematic in terms of portability, cost, speed, latency, reliability and data allowances.
As well as fast, reliable broadband, the Digital Farms Grants program seeks to enable farmers to take advantage of cloud-based data sharing and other productivity enhancing online technologies, plus expand mobile coverage.
Under the program, the State provides matching funding to commercial providers for qualifying projects. The funding is to assist towards capital costs that may include infrastructure, site acquisition, power connection, construction, equipment and regulatory approval costs.
After completion of projects, providers will be required to provide details such as the number of connections, speed and average contention rates at the 6, 12, 18 and 24-month mark to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to assist it in evaluating the program.
The second tranche of funding is associated with the first round of Digital Farm Grants. In the first round, a total of $3.8 million has now been allocated and all services are expected to be rolled out in the next 12-18 months
The program is funded under the Royalties for Regions initiative. Established in 2008, it involves funneling Western Australian state government spending to rural areas, using the state’s mining and petroleum royalty revenue.
Further information on the Digital Grants Program can be found here.