News of a $43.5 million federal government investment in mobile coverage and broadband services has been welcomed by people in rural Queensland.
Under a letterhead of '2022 campaign', Regional Communications Minister Bridget McKenzie announced the funding, saying the projects formed part of the Coalition government's continuing roll-out of the $257m Regional Connectivity Program.
The funding will be invested across Capricornia, Flynn, Kennedy, Leichhardt, Maranoa, and Wide Bay electorates to deploy a combined eight new mobile sites, five fixed wireless networks, upgrades to three existing mobile base stations, and upgrading the nbn service technology in several locations, from nbn Sky Muster satellite to nbn Fibre to the Premises technology.
The 21 budgeted projects have been approved under round two of the program, benefiting communities from Burketown to Boulia and as far south as Bollon.
Local Government Association of Queensland CEO Alison Smith said growth and investment in rural and regional communities had been stifled for too long by the digital divide.
"This is very welcome news. From education and healthcare to accessing banking and media services, unreliable connectivity is the bane of - and a potential hazard to - all who live in or visit our great regional centres," she said.
Telecommunications forms one of the planks in the Western Queensland Alliance of Councils' election wishlist it has been putting to federal candidates, showing the importance rural local government leaders place on it in attracting and retaining people to their communities.
Largest project in north west
The largest project announced will see the installation of 226 kilometres of fibre optic cable between Burketown and Normanton in the north west of the state.
Coupled with supporting infrastructure for a fibre loop that encircles the region, the $7.4 million plan will create additional network redundancy for 66 per cent of Queensland and network resiliency for 780,000 people across 15 local government areas.
Special Envoy for Northern Australia and LNP Senator for Queensland, Susan McDonald said she was pleased to see action being taken to address a pressing issue.
"Having access to fast reliable mobile service and internet is a matter of life and death in remote areas and it's something I am constantly bringing up in Canberra," she said.
"Telecommunications access is required to run a business and stay in touch with family and friends. In urban areas it has become a necessity of life and that needs to be extended to regional areas.
"We want to grow the population of northern Australia, and providing high-speed telecommunications is key to improving business and making our region more attractive as a place to live, work and raise a family."
Southern Qld nbn upgrades
In southern Queensland, Maranoa MP David Littleproud said Cunnamulla would receive $3,735,411 and Quilpie $4,755,957 to upgrade the nbn service in the towns from nbn Sky Muster Satellite to nbn Fibre to the Premises technology.
The Bollon project will receive $615,000 to upgrade the Telstra macro cell mobile site, providing improved handheld coverage to the area.
Those built upon the government's round one investments through the Regional Connectivity Program and the Mobile Black Spot program, Mr Littleproud said.
"Our government has continued to take a collaborative approach with the telecommunications industry and regional and remote communities to make sure that the funded projects are tailored to the needs of each region and are supported by the community," he said.
"This approach has resulted in an opportunity to create real change in the regions."
Taking a dig at the opposition, Mr Littleproud said the ALP had recently announced that an Albanese-led government would cut $155 million from the budget for regional communications.
KAP claims credit
Kennedy MP Bob Katter has claimed credit for the money flowing to the north west, pointing to last year's Forrest Beach rally where KAP MPs demanded the coastal town's telecommunications issues be fixed.
"It shows if you join together as a community and fight you can achieve great breakthrough," Mr Katter said.
They had also been campaigning for improved telecommunications service in the gold mining town of Ravenswood following the increase of mining activity, which has been allocated $904,700 for a new macro mobile site.
"Although this is welcome news, it is disappointing that we are still needing to fight for similar upgrades for other areas in the electorate such as Upper Stone, which struggle with the same telecommunication issues," Mr Katter said.
The Kennedy electorate continuing to get the lion's share of new phone and internet funding was deserved, according to Mr Katter, because of the vast western areas and high mountains on the coast that limited service delivery.
Round two Regional Connectivity funding allocations:
Doomadgee ($957,200) - The project will deploy a new Telstra macro cell base station to provide new coverage to the Aboriginal township of Doomadgee.
Richmond-Croydon Road ($459,600) and Gulf Development Road ($1,000,800) - to deploy high-speed fixed wireless broadband networks, backhaul, public Wi-Fi and free LoRaWAN network to 80,000km2 of far north western Queensland.
Burketown and Normanton ($7,404,450) - to deploy 226 km of fibre optic cable between Burketown and Normanton, and supporting infrastructure to complete a fibre loop encircling north west Queensland.
Ravenswood ($904,700) and Forrest Beach ($785,350) - to deploy new Telstra macro cell mobile sites, providing new and improved handheld coverage to Ravenswood, Forrest Beach, the township of Allingham, and the surrounding area.
Julia Creek ($4,183,082) and Boulia ($2,959,562) - to upgrade the nbn service technology in the towns from nbn Sky Muster Satellite to nbn Fibre to the Premises.
Mareeba ($1,846,393) - an extension of a round one project will deploy a fixed wireless network across the Mareeba local government area.