MPs to influence black spot program

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MPs to influence black spot program

Will be able to nominate 'priority' areas.

Australians living in towns and regions with vocal political representation are more likely to benefit under the federal government’s mobile black spots program.

The guidelines for the $100 million program released today revealed that Australian federal parliamentarians will be able to exert some influence over the selection process that will determine which areas will be successful in securing funding through the program.

According to the guidelines, MPs representing electorates where less than 50 percent of the population is living in an area classed as a major urban centre “have been invited to nominate up to three priority locations within their electorates to be considered for funding under the program”.

Bids that take in such areas would be looked on more favourably.

“As part of the assessment process to determine which proposed base stations are recommended for funding under the program, the assessment criteria includes five points being awarded to each proposed base station delivering services to an MP priority location,” the guidelines instruct.

MPs will not be allowed to prioritise a location situated within a major urban centre.

The federal government’s release of the guidelines coincided with the start of the competitive tender process to select regional and remote locations under served for, or in special need of mobile in-fill service.

Paul Fletcher, parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Communications, said the process was “designed to maximise competition in two ways – between locations, and between bidders – to get as many new base stations as possible for the money”.

He said the program was expected to lead to the construction of between 200 and 300 new base stations by attracting co-investments in the order of $100 million from a mix of mobile network operators, local and state governments

“We aim to announce the locations of the base stations to be funded during the first half of 2015 – and we expect the first base stations under the programme will begin to roll out in the second half of 2015,” Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement.

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