The Victorian government has ditched the Australian federal government’s Mobile Black Spot Program for its own system that it says will provide voice and mobile internet connectivity where it’s needed most.
The $11 million earmarked for the national scheme will now be rerouted to investing in the construction of mobile towers throughout black spots in regional Victoria.
In justifying its actions, the Andrews Labor government has accused the Turnbull government of a lack of transparency and consulting when sites are being selected for the Federal program.
“Malcolm Turnbull continues to choose sites that are in his political interests, not the interests of regional Victoria,” said Minister for Innovation and the Digital Economy Philip Dalidakis.
Minister for Regional Development Jaala Pulford said the Andrews Government is working with Emergency Management Victoria, local councils and Regional Partnerships on the state program.
“We know how frustrating the digital divide is for rural Victorians and we’ll continue to bridge the gap for rural industries, motorists, train travellers and residents while the Federal Government try to fix their botched NBN roll out,” Minister Pulford stated.
With regard to train travellers, Ms. Pulford said the Victorian government was partnering with major mobile carriers to construct 35 new towers that will keep passengers connected during regional rail trips.
“With more people using V-Line than ever before, we’re making sure they’re connected to their loved ones and work while they travel.”
Victoria’s mobile black spot program is part of the Connecting Regional Communities Program, announced in the 2017/18 Victorian Budget.
The $45 million CRCP promises to provide better broadband, mobile coverage and free Wi-Fi hubs in regional communities, to enable them to better participate in the digital economy.
An Australian government compiled database lists more than 10,000 reported mobile black spots throughout the country.
In November last year, Federal Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield’s office announced the commencement of a tender for the latest round of its program, which will cover 106 locations across Australia. $60 million funding was allocated for this round, in addition to the $160 million previously committed under the first two rounds. By November 2017, more 312 new or improved mobile base stations had already been delivered under previous rounds said the government.