Six remote towns in Queensland’s western shires are set to get a fibre broadband link after a decade-long campaign secured $16.5 million in federal, state and local funding.
The project will see 600 kilometres of fibre optic cable rolled out in March to connect the Barcoo and Diamantina Shire towns of Stonehenge, Jundah, Windorah, Birdsville and Bedourie, allowing for metro-equivalent fixed broadband and 4G services.
The towns had previously relied on Telstra high capacity radio concentrator (HCRC) microwave and radio links, which had been installed in the 1980s, for voice services.
Aside from being unable to give residents access to the internet, the unreliable and outdated system left them unable to make calls on a number of occasions.
In December, local federal MP Bruce Scott announced the project would receive $5.95 million in funding as part of the government’s national stronger regions program.
It will receive an additional $6.25 million in funding from the Queensland government, with the Barcoo and Diamantina Shire Councils contributing over $2 million.
The region has a population of around 700 people.
The funding is a culmination of 10 years' lobbying from the communities, having written to the likes of former communications ministers Helen Coonan, Stephen Conroy and Malcolm Turnbull; former prime ministers John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott; along with countless other state and federal ministers.
In a meeting with shire representative,s Conroy had offered in-principle support for the project but did not commit to funding it, while Abbott reneged on a promise to provide the project with funding.
“This project is the first step towards improving educational outcomes for students in rural and remote communities. It will also revolutionise the delivery of many services across the bush including tourism, health and agricultural productivity,” Scott said in a statement.
Queensland Premier Annastasia Palaszczuk claimed credit for the federal government’s decision.
“I wrote to the former Prime Minister last year when he reneged on his commitment, and I wrote again to new Prime Minister Turnbull to urge that he reconsider,” Palaszczuk said in a statement.
“I’m very pleased to say that after my advocacy, the federal government has recommitted almost $6 million in funding.”
In 2011 the Barcoo Shire mayor told iTnews local residents feared they would receive sub-standard telecommunications services under NBN’s universal service obligations.