The National Broadband Network (NBN) builder, NBN Co, established with a mandate to ensure all Australians have access to fast broadband as soon as possible, at affordable prices and at least cost, has opened the door for governments at all levels to help it further develop its infrastructure.
Specifically, NBN Co is calling for expressions of interest from federal, state, territory and local government agencies for the co-funding of projects to lift the digital capabilities of communities in regional and rural Australia.
The move is part of the $300 million Regional Co-investment Fund (RCIF) initiative, first announced in September 2020, which is designed to help fund local broadband infrastructure projects to deliver higher speed broadband services, primarily in areas that are currently served by its fixed wireless and satellite footprint.
According to NBN Co, a key design principle of the fund is to facilitate equitable access to the fund across states and territories, and by all levels of government.
Given that the primary focus of the fund is to upgrade the NBN fixed wireless and satellite footprint, the initial maximum allocations for each state and territory will be based on the weighted proportion of fixed wireless and satellite premises which are ready to connect (RTC) within that state or territory.
Being a co-funding program, not a grants program, projects will be assessed progressively as they are received and will move ahead if they meet NBN Co’s commercial investment benchmark.
“We are driven by a simple purpose: to lift the digital capability of Australia,” said Gavin Williams, chief development officer, regional development and engagement at NBN Co.
“In addition to the significant investments we are making to upgrade our fixed wireless and satellite networks, by co-investing with federal, state and territory government agencies and local councils we will further improve access to broadband services in rural and regional Australia.
“Together, we can continue to enhance the digital capabilities of these important communities, boosting job prospects and helping our regions to thrive,” he added.
Expressions of interest can now be lodged to allow project costings prior to interested parties deciding to submit an application. The closing date for applications under the initial round is 5pm (AEDT) on 18 February 2022.
In June, NBN Co outlined three potential future pricing structures for retail service providers (RSPs), two of which would involve the removal of the connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) charge, which has been the target of recurrent industry criticism since its inception.
Detailed in its Special Access Undertaking Variation 2021 Discussion Paper, released on 7 June, NBN Co proposed three long-term Traffic Class 4 (TC-4) pricing options for consideration by resellers.
Two of the options involve Access Virtual Circuit (AVC)-only wholesale pricing on some or all fixed-line and fixed wireless speed tiers. One of these options involves flat rate AVC-only pricing on all speed tiers, while the other proposes the removal of the CVC charges for wholesale speed tiers of 100 Mbps and above.
The third option, meanwhile, involves a 25 per cent reduction in the CVC overage rate from $8 to $6 per Mbps.