Switch to provide Wudinna with improved online connectivity

FUNDING: Wudinna's National Broadband Network service will soon be updated. Photo: Shutterstock
FUNDING: Wudinna's National Broadband Network service will soon be updated. Photo: Shutterstock

Wudinna District Council chief executive officer Alan McGuire says the announcement of upgraded National Broadband Network (NBN) services in Wudinna is a boost for the future of the community.

The federal government's Regional Connectivity Program will see more than $10 million in funding provided to boost internet connectivity across the state's Far North and Eyre Peninsula, including in Wudinna.

The state government is committing $1m towards the Wudinna Switch Up project in addition to the federal funding, and a council contribution.

Wudinna, which has been serviced only by satellite coverage on the NBN network, will be upgraded to a fixed wire service.

Mr McGuire said the council was "extremely pleased" to have received this funding, after what he said had been a long haul involving a number of people within the council and outside of it, and plenty of advocacy.

"We were fortunate to have a couple of standout individuals - the previous NBN SA/NT manager Tim Saul understood we had a strong case, and Senator Rex Patrick really gave the issue some significant profile, plus the local member [Rowan Ramsey] in supporting the application," he said.

"This is essentially an area switch change - we were allocated satellite coverage and applied for an upgrade, and assisted in the new Regional Connectivity Program, with $1.8m in federal government money towards an approximate $5m project by the time it is completed, that is jointly partnered by the federal and state governments, council and NBN."

Mr McGuire said arrangements were still to be finalised and signed off, but he was excited about the impact of this upgrade for the Wudinna community.

He said business, education and medical services would be enhanced by better connectivity.

"This has secured a communications system that generationally will augur well for the future of the community," he said.

"Communications has always been a critical infrastructure for all communities, particularly remote, and this means Wudinna can fulfil a service centre role for the district.

"If you want to be competitive as a community and have adequate service for residents, this is technology you can't do without."

Minister for Regional Development David Basham said providing greater connectivity to rural and remote communities was critical in growing the state's regions.

"Digital connectivity has been identified as a top priority infrastructure need in regional communities, equal to improved highways and roads," he said.

"Mobile phone coverage and connectivity is vital for people living in regional and remote areas, not only for safety, but to help grow our state's economy through improved business opportunities and access to technology."

Mr Basham also welcomed the announcement by Federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey of the federal government's support for the upgrade.

"The Wudinna community has been proactive in engaging with all levels of government and telecommunications providers," he said.

"The [state] government has long recognised the importance of effective telecommunications as critical infrastructure for our rural and regional communities."

Mr Ramsey said he had been concerned since the initial NBN rollout about Wudinna's service and was pleased to see a solution.

"In Wudinna a consortium partnership between the district council and NBN Co will bring fibre to the premises NBN to 377 brownfield premises and a one to two-kilometre distribution network extension," he said.

"Residents and businesses can expect significant improvements to connectivity, access to online education and health services, expand economic opportunities and increase connectedness and digital capabilities.

"Wudinna has been on my radar since the NBN rollout and previously the problem of back-haul capacity had proved to be the stopper."

NBN Co's regional and remote chief development officer Gavin Williams said this was a significant and exciting outcome that came about when it had never been more important for residents and businesses to be able to access benefits made available through improved connectivity.

"For the residents of Wudinna this funding means they will soon have the option to access fixed line NBN services, enhancing their ability to participate in the digital economy to access to the full range of online community, government and healthcare services, stream entertainment content on demand and stay connected to friends and family," he said.

"This has been a truly collaborative effort between NBN Co, Wudinna District Council, state government and the federal government.

"It is a testament to what can be achieved when we work together and demonstrates our commitment to continual improvement of broadband services for Australia's rural and regional communities."

The state government's contribution comes from the $10m South Australian Mobile Phone Black Spot Fund, which Mr Basham said was important to address the issue of mobile phone black spots across South Australia.