The Victorian government has announced it will put $73 million into the company behind the National Broadband Network to take fibre deeper into selected communities, providing better internet connections and faster speeds.
Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the funds provided to NBN Co would be used for partnerships to upgrade business connectivity and regional connectivity for communities served by fixed-wireless and satellite services. It will also go to areas undergoing a transition from fibre-to-the-node to fibre-to-the-premises-enabled technology.
In return, NBN Co has made funding available through its $300 million Regional Co-Investment Fund and $700 million Business Fibre Zone program to partner with the Victorian Government. Funds will be spent only on projects that are agreed between the parties, the federal government said.
“Improving internet connections around the state will allow businesses to expand, do things differently and employ more people,” said Victoria’s Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Jaala Pulford.
“This will give regional businesses the opportunity to connect to high-speed and high-capacity Enterprise Ethernet at no upfront cost – on par with what’s on offer in Melbourne’s CBD.”
Currently, if a business wants a fibre connection they need to pay for the building of the fibre as well as a contract. The Victorian Government is subsiding the infrastructure to minimise costs for businesses, leaving them to only pay for their internet plan.
The first project will extend fibre deeper into selected communities, and create eleven new Business Fibre Zones in Benalla, Colac, Cranbourne East, Cranbourne South, Dromana, Hamilton, Lara, Packenham North, Packenham South, Warragul and Wonthaggi-Inverloch. In these areas, about 10,000 Victorian businesses will become eligible to acquire Enterprise Ethernet business-grade fibre connections, delivering symmetrical speeds of up to 1 gigabits per second, the minister’s office said.
Businesses in the first towns and sites will be able to contact their internet provider to order the new connections from September 1.
“Network investment in digital infrastructure in Victoria will create jobs both in the medium term, during the design and construction process, and over the long-term, by stimulating new businesses and greater productivity,” Mr Fletcher said.
Since NBN completed the initial build of its network, chief executive officer Stephen Rue said it has focused on directing further investment to network upgrades that will continue to enhance the capabilities of the network across Australia.
“We are delighted to work with the Victorian Government to identify opportunities to co-invest in the development and delivery of new nbn network infrastructure to support the Connecting Victoria Program,” Mr Rue said.
“Small and medium businesses are the backbone of our great nation. And ongoing network investment to enhance digital infrastructure in Victoria will create jobs both in the medium term during the design and construction process, and over the long-term by stimulating greater productivity and the proliferation of a stronger, more vibrant digital economy in Victoria. ”
Mr Rue noted that Victoria had been the first to make use of its co-investment program announced last year.
“The Victorian Government has been the first to seize this opportunity, and the program we have announced today fits perfectly with the Victorian Government’s overall $550 million Connecting Victoria Program,” he said.
The NBN presently connects over 11.9 million premises and there are $4.5 billion in network upgrades underway.
As part of the Connecting Victoria program, the state government is calling for community feedback on places where better broadband and mobile connectivity is most needed.
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