NEW FIELD: A cut of a new $30.3 million Regional Connectivity Program could see Southern Downs producers better connected than ever. Photo: Zoran Zeremski
NEW FIELD: A cut of a new $30.3 million Regional Connectivity Program could see Southern Downs producers better connected than ever. Photo: Zoran Zeremski

NEED FOR SPEED: Slice of $30M to boost region’s internet

A POTENTIAL windfall of funding from the latest Federal Budget could put Southern Downs residents and producers on the fast-track to high-speed internet and mobile coverage.

Almost every town across the region is listed as a reported mobile blackspot in the Australian Government’s database, though a cut of the new $30.3 million Regional Connectivity Program could soon change that.

For Echo Valley Farms owner Randal Breen, below-average internet speeds and unreliable connections are quickly running up both business expenses and personal finances.

“We probably run a lot of our business activities now via our mobiles, rather than our home internet service, which is a big cost and becomes pretty expensive on a monthly basis,” Mr Breen said.

“Our business is a direct market, so we take our produce right through to retail, which means communicating with stockists is a critical part and faster service would be more cost-effective.

“We’ve had to pay the highest level for our mobile phones so we can utilise it for our business, and I suspect it’s far higher than cities, but we had to to keep our business running.”

Southern Downs Regional Council will submit locations for consideration when the funding becomes available, though the grant itself will be given to a mobile carriage service.

The cash injection to digital connectivity was one of many budget allocations advocated for by Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi, who said it would be a big win for the region.

“There’s nothing worse than driving along with a mobile phone and it drops out, or for a grower having to climb a mountain and just about hang off it to get a signal,” Cr Pennisi said.

“We have a list of black spots reported to us, and as we go along and those grants materialise, we will be applying for those.

“We have nearly $1 billion in assets, and any of those funds that align with replacing ageing infrastructure, like some of these programs, are the ones that help us the most.”

At this stage, SDRC has not been given a timeline for funding applications.

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