A discussion paper on the Australian Government’s Regional Connectivity Program was published early this week and feedback is invited from those it seeks to benefit.
While more essential services are operating on a digital-first model, these can be difficult to access by Australians in regional and remote areas due to a lack of connectivity, poor connectivity or the level of digital literacy required to work within an online environment. Regarding connectivity quality in regional and remote areas, the NBN has been found lacking in some places due to overloading of NBN Co’s fixed wireless and satellite networks.
For the man and woman on the land, while they may have connectivity in the home, it’s also needed across what can be very large properties.
Telehealth services are gaining popularity and have the potential to save patients a great deal of travel time, but these require fast broadband connections; meaning those who could benefit the most often can’t utilise telehealth services. The same goes for digital distance education, which often relies heavily on video.
As well as speed issues, data limits can heavily impact on access to such services.
Regional Connectivity Program Aims
The Regional Connectivity Program aims to provide location specific solutions through a variety of mobile and/or broadband services to complement the NBN, Mobile Black Spot program and commercial investment plans of the telecommunications industry. It will include a competitive grants process where different technologies can be proposed to improve telecommunications services.
Funding will also be issued for “digital hubs”, which help support and provide advice to regional Australians on getting (and staying) connected, as well as provide digital literacy skills in communities.
Each funded solution will need to demonstrate:
- Economic benefits for a region.
- Social benefits for a region.
- Capacity, capability and resources to deliver the project.
Up to $60 million will be spent on the Program, the funding for which was announced in Budget 2019/20. It’s an element of the Stronger Regional Digital Connectivity Package announced as part of the Government’s response to the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review that received more than 380 submissions.
Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher stated it was important the views of regional and remote communities were taken into consideration during the design phase of the initiative.
The feedback period is open until 5pm on 9 September 2019 and submissions can be made through the Department of Communications and the Arts’ website. The Discussion Paper and other related information can be viewed here.