No extra levy for Elliston network

NO LEVY: Former Elliston Council chief executive officer Phil Cameron, Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey and Telstra state regional general manager Mark Bolton showing their new phone speeds when the upgrades were switched on in October 2018.
NO LEVY: Former Elliston Council chief executive officer Phil Cameron, Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey and Telstra state regional general manager Mark Bolton showing their new phone speeds when the upgrades were switched on in October 2018.

The Elliston District Council has decided not to charge an extra levy to ratepayers to recoup the costs of council's contribution to the Elliston Communications Improvement Project.

The project, which began in late 2017, made major upgrades to the district's phone and internet lines and services by installing optic fibre, transmission equipment and upgrading towers.

Telstra committed $2.5 million to the project, the federal government granted $1.3 million from the Building Better Regions Fund, the state government provided $100,000 and the Elliston council gave $80,000 to the massive infrastructure overhaul.

The joint $4 million project, switched on in October 2018, allowed Elliston residents to connect to the 4G network.

Since the upgrade began, council has investigated possible levy increases to ratepayers accessing the new network after a question from a councillor was put forward.

In February 2017, council decided to investigate whether it could levy a separate charge through a user pay mechanism to cover the council's contribution.

Elliston council chief executive officer Geoff Sheridan said the council never wanted to raise a levy but investigated whether parts of the community benefiting from the upgrades could be identified.

"Council borrowed money to upgrade the internet and complete other upgrades," he said.

"A councillor raised the question...but you can't levy a certain sector of a group."

"The benefit to the whole area is so great...nobody wants to raise the levy, it's just a bit of local politics."

At its meeting last week the council received the final requested telecommunications report from Telstra area manager Mark Bolton.

Mr Bolton said in his report that data speeds were no longer a limitation to productivity in Elliston.

"Every person that comes or lives/conducts business in Elliston would benefit from the improvement in data speeds on their mobile device or broadband service," he said.

"The hospital and schools also now have access to the communication products and services that are available in any major capital in the world."

Mr Bolton said Elliston could now look at how the new products and services available, like WiFi or smart city technologies, could benefit the town by bringing in more people.