The Federal Government today marked the start of construction on a fibre-optic communications backbone that will link Perth and Geraldton as part of its $250 million Regional Backbone Blackspots Program.
The link (Credit: Conroy's office)
In addition to Geraldton, the new backbone will deliver services to regional areas such as South Geraldton, Port Denison, Bluff Point, and Dongara. Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin said civil engineering on the Perth to Geraldton route would be undertaken by Visionstream and Ngarda Alliance.
"The new 426-kilometre backbone link will connect Perth to Geraldton and will directly benefit around 35,000 people in regional Western Australia," Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said in a joint statement with Innovation Minister Kim Carr.
The link will also "boost" the joint Australia-New Zealand bid to host the SKA radio-telescope, which will be based in WA's mid-west if the bid is successful, according to the statement.
"This infrastructure comes on top of the fibre-optic link between the Murchison Radio-Astronomy Observatory and Geraldton being built by the CSIRO," Carr said.
The contest to host the SKA — to be 50 times larger than any existing radio-telescope — is between Australia-New Zealand and Southern Africa. The decision on where it will be hosted is expected by 2012, according to the statement.
Conroy also pledged $5 million for rural National Broadband Network coordinators in the region.
The blackspots program will deliver almost 6000 kilometres of fibre-optic cable across mainland Australia, which Conroy said would benefit "up to 400,000 people" in over 100 regional locations.
"Already, over 600 kilometres of fibre has been laid," he said.