The NSW government has begun gauging the interest of telcos prepared to offer under-served regions of the state better connectivity.
The Department of Finance, Services and Innovation is finally moving forward with the $50 million fund for the creation or expansion of small telcos in regional and rural areas.
Deputy premier and minister for regional NSW John Barilaro announced the scheme to much fanfare last October to improve telecommunications infrastructure in under-served regions of the state.
The regional digital connectivity program will fund local governments, regional organisations, industry and community organisations from 93 regional councils areas to invest in small, niche telcos to serve local communities.
The funding is budgeted over four years, with $9 million budgeted for the scheme during this financial year.
It builds on the $39 million funding provided by the NSW government to the Commonwealth’s mobile blackspots scheme which distributes funding between the three main mobile telcos: Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.
DFSI has now begun calling for expressions of interest for the telco market to inform its thinking on improving regional digital connectivity.
It wants to ascertain “the current and future capacity” of telcos to provide a minimum 25/5Mbps “open access wholesale broadband service offering” to regional areas.
The agency is also keen to know whether any “alternative and innovative service delivery models” exist that are cost effective and maximise the use of government assets.