Budget 2021: Regional Connectivity Program gets second round and extra AU$130m pot

Prior to the national Budget due on Tuesday, the Commonwealth has announced it will plough an extra AU$130 million into the Regional Connectivity Program.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Getty Images

The federal government has announced it is ploughing an additional AU$130 million into the "hugely popular" Regional Connectivity Program (RCP) ahead of handing down its budget on May 11.

The funding is broken down into AU$106 million for a second round of the RCP, of which AU$45.6 million has been "quarantined" for Northern Australia, and almost AU$25 million for additional "shovel-ready" projects in round 1.

"The pandemic has shown many Australians the value of the regions, both as economic powerhouses and as desirable destinations to live, work, and raise a family," Minister for Regional Communications Mark Coulton said.

"In order to ensure regional Australians can continue to do the heavy lifting the nation asks of them, the government recognises -- and is investing in -- the need for improved connectivity."

Last month, the government announced it had selected 81 sites to carve up the AU$90 million available under the first round.

Thanks to co-funding arrangements with recipients of the grants, state and local-level governments, regional businesses, and community organisations, the total spent will be in excess of AU$180 million.

Many details on the successful projects are not released, however since then, Telstra and Western Australia have opened up on some of the projects.

Telstra said earlier this week it is set to be involved in 30 projects at a cost of AU$16 million from the telco, AU$13 million from state and local governments, and AU$26 million from the Commonwealth.

One big ticket item is the AU$9.8 million project to provide a six-fold upgrade to King Island connectivity and set up a 110km radio link across Bass Strait back to Victoria.

At the same time, Telstra announced it was opening a AU$200 million co-investment fund for regional mobile coverage to run over the next four years. The telco said it will be looking to partner with governments, local councils, and businesses to make regional projects viable.

Meanwhile, Western Australia detailed the projects that will make up the AU$23 million of RCP improvements. The federal government is kicking in AU$17.1 million, while WA puts forward AU$5.88 million of funding.

Among the projects are eight mobile coverage improvements from Telstra, two mobile coverage upgrades from Pivotel, three projects upgrading fixed wireless coverage, two improving satellite broadband connectivity, and one project in excess of AU$3 million to shift from satellite coverage to fibre to the premise in Halls Creek.

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