The Queensland government intends to spend a total of $8.6 million over two years on FibreCo Qld as part of its efforts to boost broadband infrastructure in regional parts of the state.
Today’s state budget revealed that the government has earmarked $3.87 million in 2019-20 for FibreCo, an initiative first detailed in December 2018.
“FibreCo Qld will use existing Government infrastructure by unlocking spare capacity in Government-owned fibre networks to improve regional Queenslanders' ability to access digital capability,” budget documents state.
“FibreCo is about providing better internet for regional Queensland and putting downward pressure on prices,” said Queensland’s innovation minister, Kate Jones, said in a statement. “This will create jobs in regional Queensland but also help small businesses to grow.
“We recognise that it’s impossible to run a successful small business in some parts of the state without a strong, reliable internet connection. That’s why we’re introducing this Australian first to give Queensland businesses a leg up.”
FibreCo is using around 6000-kilometres of government-owned fibre. The vast majority of the fibre is part of the existing Powerlink and Energy Queensland electricity networks, with the government last year indicating a small amount of construction work would be carried out to connect existing infrastructure. FibreCo will connect to six NBN Points of Interconnect in regional parts of Queensland.
In April 2018 the Queensland government said it had “committed to undertake a due diligence assessment of the viability of providing access to spare capacity in the Queensland Government's optical fibre network to improve digital connectivity for Queenslanders.”
The state government has estimated that up to 50 per cent of the capacity on the existing fibre is available.
In December Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that FibreCo would be able to offer an alternative source of backhaul to Telstra and Optus.
South Australia in 2017 launched its GigCity broadband network for Adelaide, based on the 200 kilometres of fibre that comprised the South Australian Broadband Research & Education Network (SABRENet),
The budget also reveals the government is setting aside $20.3 million over four years, and $1.3 million per annum in ongoing funding, for the Queensland Government Chief Information Office “to continue the Cyber Security Unit's operations”. The unit, which has a whole-of-government focus, was initially launched in 2016.
Other initiatives outlined in the budget include $4.7 million for mobile capability and the development of new applications for the Queensland Police Service’s QLiTE mobile device platform, $92.1 million for Queensland Health ICT, including the ongoing rollout of the state’s digital health record system and $6.4 million investment in Queensland Ambulance Service software development projects “to enhance patient care and service delivery”.