The federal government has provided almost $1.66 million in grants that will help the Riverina's mobile and internet services keep running during disasters such as bushfires.
The grants will go towards new phone towers to reduce mobile blackspots and new wireless networks to boost internet speeds in the Riverina and South West Slopes.
A new Telstra 4GX base station and extended fixed wireless national broadband network service in Snowy Valleys will use a "disaster-resilient design suited to local conditions" and improve access to emergency communications.
Large parts of the Snowy Valleys Council area lost mobile service during and after the Dunns Road bushfire in January 2020 as the flames destroyed or cut off mobile towers.
Regional Communications Minister Mark Coulton announced the grants in Wagga on Friday and said that the new infrastructure would ease the strain on the mobile network during emergencies.
In other news
"If the telephone tower goes out and this network keeps going you can still communicate via voice with Wi-Fi calling," he said.
"We have also got a program where we have put aside $37 million to increase durability in those areas, and one of the things that let us down last time was the lifespan of the [mobile tower backup] batteries.
"A lot of those towers in bushfire prone areas will now have battery life of 12 to 15 hours rather than two or three, so we are recognising that quite often it is not the tower that goes out in a bushfire but the electricity connection to it."
Snowy Valleys and Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional councils joined together for a successful application for $201,000 to fund an extended fixed wireless network across their local government areas.
Snowy Valleys mayor James Hayes said he had "heard lots of stories" of people who lost their mobile service during the bushfire "even to the point where people weren't receiving the text messages to get out".
Cr Hayes said the WI-SKY rural network, based in the Riverina and South-West Slopes, would be part of the project as a "proven company" whose internet services continued to operate during the bushfire.
The Regional Connectivity Program grants included $458,080 for a new mobile base station at Tooma and $278,000 for an extended fixed wireless network in the Hilltops council area.
The Regional Australia Network received $720,823 for an extended fixed wireless network in the Murrumbidgee region, south-west of Leeton, for areas with limited coverage and to assist with new technologies in agriculture, business, irrigation, tourism, health and education.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: