The NSW Telco Authority has unveiled its plan to bring a “coordinated and collaborative, whole-of-government" strategy to the state’s telecommunications.
The strategy is focused on critical communications in public services, government agencies and digital government for broader social and commercial purposes.
Coinciding with the strategy launch, the NSW government has opened up $60 million of the $100 million Gig State grant program, which was first announced in February 2020, for improving digital connectivity in regional areas.
“The focus of the grant is to deliver internet connectivity that is metropolitan equivalent to residents who currently rely on satellite internet services,” the state government claimed.
NSW Telco Authority managing director Kylie De Courteney said that the Regional Digital Connectivity program “ensures families and businesses across regional NSW have better access to mobile, internet and digital services”.
“The program includes the Gig State project which is working to improve internet connectivity, service, speed and quality for the most underserved rural and regional communities in the state,” she said.
“Digital connectivity creates more benefits the more people are connected. By uplifting connectivity to a regional town for instance, it can attract new businesses, accelerate the adoption of government digital services and propel higher standards of living.”
According to the connectivity strategy, NSW “still has numerous areas with poor or no connectivity”. The report stated that around 15 per cent of major roads do not have mobile coverage and around 30 per cent of the rail network has poor or no coverage.
There are 4,000 reported mobile black spots in NSW that impact around 10,000 premises.
The report noted a quarter of children under the age of 15 in remote areas of NSW did not have the internet at home in 2021. It also said 23 per cent of people living in outer regional, remote or very remote areas accessed telehealth services, compared to 30.4 per cent of those living in inner regional areas and cities.
In addition, 38 per cent of NSW's Aboriginal households did not have an internet connection as of 2016.
“It is vital, as NSW improves our digital infrastructure, that our efforts are coordinated with an overarching strategy,” the report said.