The Regional Connectivity Program (the RCP) is a grants program funding the delivery of 'place-based' telecommunications infrastructure projects to improve digital connectivity across regional, rural and remote Australia. Round 3 of the program also includes funding for the delivery of projects to address mobile black spots.
The Government has released the draft grant opportunity guidelines for Round 3 of the RCP for public consultation (see below for more detail). This is the opportunity to comment on the design of Round 3 before the guidelines are finalised and a call for applications is made. Submissions on the draft guidelines for Round 3 of the RCP close on 5pm Friday, 10 February 2023.
As part of the Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia, the Government has committed:
- $200 million (GST exclusive) to 2 new rounds of the RCP to improve the accessibility and reliability of mobile and broadband services in regional, rural and First Nations communities: and
- $400 million to expand regional mobile coverage and improve the resilience of communication systems.
The RCP improves digital inclusion, as well as social and economic opportunities for regional communities through investment in new or upgraded telecommunications infrastructure.
Funded projects could include new and upgraded mobile voice and data coverage, targeted fibre deployments, and improved microwave and fibre backhaul capacity in locations across rural and regional Australia.
An additional $50 million will be allocated to RCP Round 3 from the $400 million regional mobile coverage component of the Better Connectivity Plan for Mobile Black Spot projects that expand mobile coverage and competition across rural and regional Australia.
Round 3 of the Program has up to $150 million (GST exclusive) of funding available, across two streams:
- A $100 million Regional Connectivity Solutions stream for place-based solutions that deliver new or upgraded broadband services or upgraded mobile services; and
- A $50 million Mobile Black Spot Solutions stream that deliver New Handheld Coverage to regional, rural and remote Australia.
For Mobile Black Spot Solutions, the draft guidelines encourage applicants, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and other interested parties to work together during the application development period to develop multi-MNO solutions, including solutions that use active sharing technologies.
Submissions are encouraged from the telecommunications industry, all levels of government and other interested stakeholders.
If you would like to make a submission please visit the Department's 'Have Your Say' page. Submissions on the draft guidelines for Round 3 of the RCP close on 5pm Friday, 10 February 2023.
The Government has launched a Project Noticeboard for Round 3 of the RCP as part of the call for applications. The Noticeboard seeks to help communities form partnerships with the telecommunications sector to develop applications for Round 3 funding. Members of the community are invited to upload their project proposals to the Noticeboard throughout the application period.
Round 2 of the RCP is providing $137.2 million (GST inclusive) from 2022 to 2024 to improve telecommunications infrastructure in regional and remote Australia. This funding will leverage a total investment of $226 million for the delivery of projects across Australia.
This includes Australian Government funding of $69.6 million (GST inclusive) for projects through the Connecting Northern Australia initiative (CNA initiative) and funding of $67.6 million (GST inclusive) for projects in regions across other parts of Australia.
Round 2 of the RCP focuses on areas:
- of high economic and/or social value
- outside the NBN Fixed-line footprint, and
- where better connectivity and increased data have a clear benefit to a local region.
The Connecting Northern Australia initiative
The CNA initiative was announced in the 2021–22 Budget as part of the Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia (PDF). The CNA initiative will support projects which respond to the connectivity needs of rural and remote communities in the vital strategic growth area of Northern Australia. The CNA initiative is providing $69.6 million (GST inclusive) towards improving telecommunications infrastructure across Northern Australia through Round 2 of the RCP. This funding includes $27.6 million (GST inclusive) of dedicated investment towards new and upgraded mobile services in Northern Australia.
An indicative map of the areas that were eligible for funding under the CNA is available on the Office of Northern Australia website.
Information on the successful CNA projects is available in the RCP 2 funded projects link above.
The first round of the RCP is providing $115.97 million (GST inclusive) in Commonwealth funding for 130 place-based telecommunications infrastructure projects across Australia, providing regional communities with significant upgrades to voice and data services.
Funded projects include new and improved mobile voice and data coverage, fixed wireless and fibre broadband services, and improved microwave and fibre backhaul capacity to locations across regional, rural and remote Australia. Improved connectivity through the RCP will allow regional communities and businesses to access essential online services, utilise new business tools and connect with the digital economy.