Murrumbidgee Council seeking faster internet and better mobile phone coverage for the area

26 November 2020

Businesses and residents in Murrumbidgee Council’s area will benefit from high speed internet and better mobile phone coverage if an application for funding through the Australian Government’s Regional Connectivity Program comes to fruition.

Murrumbidgee Council has joined with four other Councils in the area to submit the joint $1.25 million application through the Field Service Group (FSG) under the umbrella of the Riverina and Murray Joint Organisation (RAMJO).

Murrumbidgee Council Mayor Ruth McRae said both slow internet speeds and shocking mobile phone coverage have hindered our community for too long.

Cr McRae said nothing has emphasized the problem more than during COVID when so many people have been at home, trying to work, run a business, undertake school or higher education, or just wanting to use the internet during extra leisure time.

“Likewise, the mobile phone coverage in our area is atrocious. There are large areas of black spots and this presents incredible challenges for business people, residents and visitors,” Cr McRae said.

“Our residents and business houses deserve better and we are extremely hopeful that this application will be successful”.

“It is envisaged that about 80% of the Murrumbidgee Local Government Area will achieve better coverage through the project,” she said.

Supporting the application is Altina Wildlife Park Managing Director Gloria Altin, who said as a wildlife park, safety is a priority and we have been struggling with this issue for years.

“Having better coverage will alleviate these concerns and allow us to enjoy what most of the populated areas in our country have access to,” she said.

FSG Chief Executive Officer Andrew Roberts said FSG is proud to be partnering with Murrumbidgee Council to deploy true broadband across the Council area.

Mr Roberts said this proposed project will see FSG leverage existing council infrastructure as well as construct a new carrier grade tower and new telecommunication equipment which will provide true symmetric broadband, IoT and mobile communications services extending coverage by as much as 6,400 sq km. 

“Once complete, the network will cover from Jerilderie to Darlington Point, providing services for residents, businesses and agri-businesses. We build the network where the businesses and residents are located; working with Murrumbidgee Council we have been able to re-use a number of key assets and, if successful, FSG will also co-fund a significant portion of the project,” added Mr Roberts.

Murrumbidgee Council will provide $100,000 towards the project, with a further in-kind annual contribution of $60,000, which includes towers the Council already owns, the microwave network and buildings to house equipment.

RAMJO Chair Kevin Mack praised Murrumbidgee Council and said RAMJO’s work on Digital Connectivity has been led by the Council, with both the General Manager and Mayor being enthusiastic advocates for improved digital connectivity options for their communities.

“Through this advocacy, Murrumbidgee Council has been working with several telecommunications providers to encourage investment in their region.  The co-contribution from Murrumbidgee Council is a serious commitment towards improving connectivity standards in their Council region,” Mr Mack said.

“A key factor for all communities in RAMJO is the financial benefits to businesses including access to better data speeds, which adds to the regional investment appeal and increases access to new opportunities for innovation, productivity and growth.

“As the Chair of RAMJO, I commend the Mayor and General Manager for their persistent efforts in this space, and recognise any investment in this area aligns with the long-term objectives of RAMJO regarding improved Digital Connectivity,” he said.

Also involved in the project are Murray River Council, along with Narrandera, Leeton, Carrathool Shire Councils.