$7 million has been made available in the third round of the WA’s Government’s Digital Farms program, which aims to boost broadband in priority rural areas.
The new round of funding is available for specific areas across the central, south-east and Esperance parts of Western Australia’s region grainbelt region. As well as providing fast, reliable, affordable and scalable broadband services that are necessary to support digital farming practices, the initiative will also expand mobile coverage.
WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the failings of NBN Co’s Sky Muster service have been holding back the target regions, where much faster and more robust alternatives such as fixed wireless are currently unavailable.
“Areas targeted under this third funding round face highly variable bandwidth, download limits and service quality.”
The Sky Muster satellite service delivers the NBN broadband access network to homes and businesses in regional and remote Australia via two geostationary communications satellites. SkyMuster is designed to only deliver speeds of up to 25Mbps download and up to 5Mbps upload – and end users’ mileage varies greatly.
“Access to high-speed broadband is essential for today’s farmers and growers to access smart farming technologies and compete globally,” said Minister MacTiernan.
The Minister stated the Digital Farms Grants program has been hugely successful, providing regional Western Australians with services comparable to cities – and sometimes better. The first round of the program was in 2018 and across the two rounds already completed, $7 million was granted to six recipients. Under the program, fast broadband services have been rolled out to more than 1,400 farm businesses across 65,000 square kilometres to date – an area around a quarter of the size of Victoria.
Proponents are required to match state funding dollar-for-dollar, unless they submit a clearly-documented case to justify not being able to dollar-match. Network projects proposed should be capable of providing baseline download capability of 80Mbps and upload speeds of 40Mbps for end users – at a minimum. So, it’s quite an improvement on what Sky Muster offers.
Applications close Friday November 20, 2020. Further details on the Digital Farms Grants can be found here.