Image: Asha Barbaschow/ZDNet

The Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Michael McCormack, alongside Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government Mark Coulton announced on Friday that 81 sites have been selected to carve up the AU$90 million available under the Regional Connectivity Program.

Thanks to co-funding arrangements with recipients of the grants, state and local-level governments, regional businesses, and community organisations, the total spent will be in excess of AU$180 million.

However, details on the successful projects are scant. Besides wireless networks for the Gundagai, Cootamundra, and Snowy Valleys areas in New South Wales, the rest are a mystery and will be announced in coming weeks.

“Grants have been allocated on a competitive basis, with the value of successful projects ranging from AU$80,500 for targeted mobile capacity upgrades in small towns to AU$8,750,000 for the deployment of large-scale fixed wireless broadband networks across entire regions,” the trio said.

The lack of detail left nothing but flowery hand waving for the ministers concerned.

“From Gippsland to the WA Grainbelt, the Regional Connectivity Program will provide targeted upgrades to connectivity in regional areas that need it the most, ensuring that more Australians can access high-speed, reliable broadband and mobile services,” Fletcher said.

The program, previously pinned at AU$60 million available, formed part of the government’s response to the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review.

Also on Friday, Fletcher announced in more concrete terms that the government has appointed Andrew Dix to the board of NBN for three years. Dix currently is the chair of the audit and risk committee for the Bureau of Meteorology as well as Services Australia, and is a board member of Swinburne University and the Victorian Farmers Federation.

“Dix is a chartered accountant and former Telstra executive with considerable expertise to complement the current NBN Co Board, including his financial management skills and his experience in the telecommunications sector,” Fletcher said.

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