The Western Australian Government has named a backhaul telecommunications link between Perth and Geraldton as its top priority in negotiations with the Federal Government on the $43 billion National Broadband Network.
Western Australian Treasurer and Science and Innovation Minister Troy Buswell said in a statement today that the state needed an "urgent" upgrade to the link. "Improving carrier competition and providing higher quality service along the Perth to Geraldton fibre-optic link would be a good start to addressing some of the communications challenges faced by people in the regions," he said.
Buswell also believed that improving the link would bolster WA's bid to host the $2.5 billion square kilometre array (SKA) radio-astronomy project. Murchison in WA is one of two sites short-listed worldwide to host the project, the other being in South Africa.
The SKA will be a radio telescope 50-100 times more sensitive than current instruments. It involves thousands of receivers spread over a million square metres.
The Commonwealth and the State Government have together spent around $150 million on leading edge R&D and radio astronomy activities to demonstrate Australia's capabilities. Buswell has described it as imperative that Australia try and win the right to host the project.
"The potential benefits, in terms of investment, jobs and science capability, are huge," he said at the end of last year. "This government will do everything it possibly can to make WA home to this exciting international facility."
The money for the backhaul link would come from the $250 million made available within the NBN plan to address black spots in regional Australia.
Buswell said the State Government was also continuing talks with the Federal Government on further details of the National Broadband Network. "There are issues with broadband coverage in WA, especially in the regions. We must ensure our state isn't last on the list," he said.