Australia’s NBN Co has invited Expressions of Interest (EoI) from federal, state, territory and local government agencies for the co-funding of projects designed to improve digital access for communities in regional and rural Australia.
First announced in September 2020, the AUD300 million (USD226 million) Regional Co-investment Fund (RCIF) is reportedly designed to help fund local broadband infrastructure projects to deliver higher speed broadband services to homes and businesses, primarily in areas that are currently served by NBN Co’s fixed-wireless and satellite networks. With the company having now released detailed guidelines to support the application process, it confirmed that EoI can now be lodged to allow project costings prior to interested parties deciding to apply. Meanwhile, NBN Co also noted that, as this is a co-funding programme and not a grants programme, projects will be assessed progressively as they are received and progress if they meet NBN Co’s commercial investment benchmark.
A key design principle of the fund is to facilitate equitable access to the fund across states and territories, and by all levels of government. Given the primary focus of the fund is to expand NBN Co’s fixed-wireless and satellite footprints, however, initial maximum allocations for each state and territory will be based on the weighted proportion of premises classified as being Ready to Connect (RTC) to the operator’s fixed-wireless/satellite infrastructure within that state or territory.
A closing date of 1 October 2021 has been set for the receipt of build estimate requests, while the closing date for applications under the initial round of the programme is 18 February 2022.