The Federal Government has called for tenders to build backhaul links in six blackspot priority locations throughout the nation.
The first to receive money from the $250 million project are Emerald and Longreach in Queensland, Geraldton in Western Australia, Broken Hill in NSW, Victor Harbour in South Australia, South West Gippsland in Victoria and Darwin.
"Submissions from a wide range of stakeholders have helped the Government identify the first six priority locations for these initial backbone infrastructure investments," said Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.
"However, it should be clear that National Broadband Network backbone infrastructure investment will not be limited to these individual locations and routes.
"Subject to the outcome of the first round tender, more locations will be identified later in the year."
ISP iiNet was quick to welcome the announcement. Managing director Michael Malone said iiNet had more than 3500 customers in those areas who could access its faster, cheaper broadband and phone services with the introduction of competitive backhaul.
"The lack of competitive backhaul has prevented us from being able to offer these services to all the regional customers we would like to," he said.
"Given the right cost and service inputs, iiNet is very keen to extend the reach of the services delivered over its iiNetwork to regional areas like those identified in today's announcement."
Macquarie Telecom is also keen to use the new links.
"The rates Telstra charges are exorbitant. It's Macquarie Telecom's experience that wherever we have a choice of supplier aside from Telstra, the rates are generally 50 per cent cheaper than where there is a Telstra monopoly," said Macquarie's national executive for regulatory and government, Matt Healy.
"Each of the regional towns identified are currently uncompetitive in that operators wanting to sell retail services in those areas have no choice but to use Telstra to get traffic in and out of the town."
Shadow communications minister Nick Minchin said he "wouldn't argue" with the Government's investment in the six areas.
But he called on Senator Conroy to reveal how they were selected over other areas earmarked in the consultation process.
He also asked for "clarity" on proposed access, ownership and pricing arrangements.
Senator Conroy said he expected building to start in September and "kickstart the first of 25,000 local jobs that will be directly supported by the eight-year National Broadband Network rollout".