NSW gov reworks $100m gig state regional internet upgrade project

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NSW gov reworks $100m gig state regional internet upgrade project

The NSW government has “reprioritised” its $100 million gig state initiative after industry feedback, announcing new plans to invest in internet upgrades in the most underserved regional and rural areas.

Deputy premier Paul Toole revealed the decision on Monday afternoon as representatives from the Department of Customer Service faced questions on the same topic at budget estimates.

Gig state was established in the lead up to the 2019 state election to improve internet services in regional areas, including through the use of “regional data hubs” or data centres.

The initiative, which formed part of a broader $400 million ‘regional digital connectivity package’, would have seen telecommunications providers deliver upgrades in a series of target locations.

Locations included Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Parkes and a corridor west to Cobar, with residents in Sutton, Bywong and Wamboin also expected to benefit from other fibre solutions.

In April 2020, the government issued an expression of interest (EOI) to find providers to deliver “innovative digital solutions that will improve the price, quality of service, and choice”.

But following industry feedback, the government said it will now “redirect investment in locations with no planned service upgrades, which haven’t already received significant federal and private sector investment”.

The decision to focus on “priority areas” follows upgrades in “some of gig state’s original locations” over the past three years by the Commonwealth government and private providers.

Despite the investment by other sectors, Toole said the “job is not done yet”, with all regional communities deserving of the “same fast and reliable internet service as those in the city”.

“We will continue to take a leadership role, pivoting our investment to where it’s needed most,” he said.

Toole said the initiative will continue to deliver solutions for Wamboin, Bywong and Sutton, while the Cobar corridor will receive upgraded internet connectivity, as initially proposed.

There was no mention of  Dubbo, Wagga Wagga and Parkes, however.

The government is planning to release a request for information for the reprioritised project in the “coming weeks” before inviting providers to submit options through a future procurement.

It also revealed plans to trial low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites and other emerging technologies as part of the project for hard to service areas.

Data centres component slips from view

As part of gig state, the government had planned to use regional data centres to increase internet speeds and reliability.

At budget estimates on Monday, NSW chief information and digital officer Greg Wells could only say that Regional NSW had been investigating the use of edge data centres.

“That’s something that was certainly being investigated, as to whether edge data centres were going to be useful,” he said on Monday, referring questions to Regional NSW.

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