Driving internet connectivity in the bush
For rural and remote communities, the lack of a decent internet service is among the major frustrations for both businesses and the broader community.
In South-West Queensland – some 550 km from Brisbane - the Balonne Shire Council is tackling the problem head-on.
The Shire’s approach involves the construction of backbone infrastructure and technology to deliver internet connectivity to the shire by utilising existing grain silos and water towers together with new 45m towers.
Council has sourced $2 million in grant funding with the project to initially be constructed over three stages taking in the communities of St George, Dirranbandi, Hebel, Thallon and surrounding landholdings.
Funding is also being sought to extend the project to Bollon and to connect to the Moree Shire through the border town of Mungindi.
Once each stage is complete, the infrastructure will be owned and operated by the chosen network operator, Field Solutions Group, who will provide wholesale broadband to internet service provider retailers.
Council is seeking a connectivity solution to enable internet service providers to offer plans to 100/100 mbps, and potentially much higher, and with unlimited data plan options for residents, business and industry, inclusive of agricultural businesses.
Negotiations are continuing with landowners for the location of the towers, which are expected to be built by March 2021. There will be 12 towers/silos forming the network in the first three stages.
Stages 3 and 4 of this project were funded by the Australian Government’s Murray–Darling Basin Economic Development Program.
Further funding for other stages of the project has been provided by the Queensland Government’s Building our Regions Program.