The Opposition has welcomed Commonwealth funding of $1.3 billion to enhance regional telecommunications in last week’s Federal Budget.

Shadow Minister for Regional Communications Martin Aldridge MLC said improving regional connectivity was vital to ensure families, business and communities had access to reliable and high-speed communications.

“The 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review emphasised the importance of reliable, modern, high-quality communications to regional communities, particularly in light of COVID-19 and the increased demands of working and studying from home,” Mr Aldridge said.

“Regional communications are key to keeping families connected, enabling access to telehealth and education, and keeping small business and agribusiness remain competitive and on the frontlines of new technologies.”

The $1.3 billion communications package will include $811 million through the Connecting Regional Australia Initiative to expand mobile coverage and improve connectivity, resilience, and affordability in regional locations.

“This initiative will allow up to 8,000 kilometres of additional mobile coverage across Australia, and will also include funding to boost Indigenous connectivity, and to improve resiliency during natural disasters,” Mr Aldridge said.

“Recent fire events across the State again highlighted the vulnerability of our mobile communications infrastructure, and this funding will help address these challenges and ensure regional families and communities remain connected in times of need.”

Mr Aldridge said an additional $480 million would allow for upgrades to NBN fixed wireless and satellite networks for up to one million regional households.

“These upgrades will extend the NBN fixed wireless footprint by up to 50 per cent, allowing 120,000 households the ability to switch from Sky Muster to fixed wireless,” he said.

“Every fixed wireless NBN tower in WA will receive upgrades, which will greatly benefit businesses and communities including Dongara, Esperance, Geraldton and Northam with faster speeds, increased data allowances and more fixed wireless connections.”

“Those remaining on Sky Muster will also benefit from increased data allowances and extended off-peak periods.

“NBN access and performance is a constant challenge for many regional residents, and initiatives to improve internet services in regional WA are much needed and greatly welcomed,” Mr Aldridge said.