A number of regional councils have been asked to chip in to feasibility funds to get their towns ready for the roll-out of the National Broadband Network, according to a letter sighted by ZDNet Australia.
Regional Development Australia Darling Downs and South West, a federal government funded organisation, has approached the 10 councils in its jurisdiction to develop an "NBN Master Plan" to show NBN Co and the Federal Government why their councils are best prepared to receive the network roll-out as soon as possible.
"The key success factor in attracting NBN investment within the Darling Downs and South West Queensland region, earlier rather than later, will be making it easy for the NBN Company (NBN Co) to do business in the region," Regional Development Australia CEO Brian Hewitt said in the letter. "RDA DD&SW is seeking the support of the region's councils to facilitate this approach."
The organisation is planning a 12-month project to assess current ADSL coverage, blackspots and backhaul availability, as well as where NBN fibre will be rolled out versus where fibre will be supplemented with wireless. As part of the "NBN Master plan", the organisation plans to conduct an analysis of existing and proposed infrastructure, what processes the council has in place to facilitate the NBN, 3G wireless testing and the digital economy initiatives undertaken by each council.
According to Hewitt, if the councils map 3G coverage in their municipalities, it could also lead to further investment from the major mobile carriers to upgrade 3G networks in their areas.
Hewitt said that Regional Australia has funding available for the feasibility studies, but he has also called for councils to chip in.
"RDA DD&SW is also seeking an indication from councils on whether they would consider contributing fund towards the project proposals. At this stage we envisage amounts of between $5000 and $10,000 from each council to partner with the Federal Government," he said.
Shadow Regional Communications Minister Luke Hartsuyker said that the call for contributions was just cost-shifting from NBN Co to local councils.
"Trying to penny-pinch funding from local councils just shows how the management of the NBN has become a debacle," he said. "This is work which clearly should have been completed before the project was approved. However, instead of completing the research themselves, the government now expects council ratepayers to contribute financially towards the cost of identifying telecommunication blackspots in regional areas."
The news comes as this week the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy awarded funding to eight councils located in NBN first release sites. Each council is eligible for up to $375,000 in funding for creating or upgrading online local government services.