The NSW government will bankroll the creation of data centres in regional areas to improve internet connectivity, under a new $100 million 'gig state' initiative.
Deputy premier and minister for regional NSW John Barilaro made the announcement in the lead up to the March 23 state election.
The funding is part of a $400 million ‘regional digital connectivity package’ that will also fund the creation of more mobile blackspot towers throughout the state.
“Residents and businesses are crying out for better mobile coverage and data connectivity in regional and rural NSW and this investment will not only deliver that but it will make our regional towns stronger,” he said over the weekend.
“Connectivity is at the heart of everything we do from running a business, getting produce from paddock to port, staying in touch with family or having a lifeline to emergency services.”
The “regional data hubs” or data centres would be used to increase internet speeds and reliability, the government said.
It has allocated $100 million to the initiative over four years, with the remainder earmarked for continuing the government's regional blackspot eradication efforts.
The funding would be provided out of the government’s ‘Snowy Hydro legacy fund’ over the next four years.
Barilaro said that while internet and mobile connectivity was historically a responsibility for the federal government, the NSW government had stepped to address the "urgent need".
“We know that in order to keep up with today’s society you have to be connected and that is why we are making the largest investment by any State government into regional connectivity,” he said.
The government has previously allocated $50 million to improve telco infrastructure in under-served regions of the state through its $1.3 billion regional growth fund announced in the 2017 state budget.
The regional digital connectivity program aims to fund local governments, regional organisations, industry and community organisations from 93 regional councils areas to invest in small, niche telcos to serve local communities.
It builds on $39 million funding provided by the NSW government to the federal government's mobile blackspots scheme which distributes funding between the three main mobile telcos: Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.
Last July it went looking for telcos interested in offering under-served regions of the state better connectivity.