NSW Labor has called out the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government for spending a tiny portion of funding promised for digital connectivity, leaving communities in the Electorate of Lismore in the digital dark ages.
The NSW Government barely spent $1 million on the Regional Digital Connectivity Program last financial year, despite committing $400 million to fix mobile phone blackspots and improve wireless internet.
Budget documents show the spend was a minute proportion of the $90 million allocated for the program in 2019-20.
The Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro promised the program would make regional NSW “more connected than ever” but subsequently slashed the total allocation by half to just over $200 million.
A further $50 million announced for the Connecting Country Communities Fund promised to improve internet connectivity in 11 areas – seven of which are in Mr Barilaro’s Electorate of Monaro.
State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin said there was a clear and present digital divide between the city and the country.
“People in the Electorate of Lismore often contact me about woefully low levels of mobile phone and internet coverage,” Ms Saffin said.
“When I drive around the electorate, my mobile phone drops out. Even on the Tweed Valley Way, where one would think there would be reliable mobile phone reception, there is not.”
Ms Saffin said the Deputy Premier has effectively backtracked on his pledge to make NSW mobile black spot-free and digitally connected across every corner of the state.
“The Deputy Premier boasted the fund would make regional NSW mobile black spot-free and digitally connected across every corner of the state,” she said. “Yet here we are two years later and they’ve hardly spent a cent, they’ve slashed the allocated funds by half, and there are still hundreds of blackspots across NSW.”
Thursday, 11 February 2021.