The federal government today put AU$600
million on the table to fund bush broadband projects as it
launched the next phase of its Broadband Connect program.
Telcos and others can apply for the money under guidelines
released today, with Communications Minister Helen Coonan having
previously stated her preference for a consortium-based approach
to large infrastructure investment.
The allocation is part of the larger AU$1.1 billion Connect
Australia package which also includes, for example, funding to
improve indigenous communications and rural mobile phone
A statement issued today by Coonan and Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile did not make clear what the remaining AU$278 million of the Broadband Connect funds would be used for.
Today's announcement is a significant one for the Australian
telecommunications sector as it represents a shift in the way the
government allocates funding for bush broadband.
Previously money had been allocated to telcos based on the
needs of individual customers. However under this second phase of
Broadband Connect, it will be handed out in bulk for network investments.
That opportunity has already attracted significant interest
from telcos over the last few months since Coonan broached the
idea, with several consortiums of players forming to apply for
In the statement, Coonan said an earlier
expressions of interest (EOI) process for the funding had been
"There was a strong and enthusiastic response. The
overwhelming majority of the 69 responses strongly supported the
government's proposed alternative infrastructure-based approach
outlined in the EOI," the senator said.
"Several respondents are interested in developing proposals
for major national or regional infrastructure projects that would
result in well-developed, end-to-end solutions of significant
The existing per-customer allocation of the funds will
continue during this financial year while the second phase of
Broadband Connect was developed, the statement said.
"Appropriate transitional arrangements will be put in
Applications for the funding will close on 30 November.