Wimmera broadband begins to roll out

WIMMERA leaders have welcomed the expansion of the National Broadband Network roll-out in the region.

On Wednesday, NBN Co announced fixed wireless networks were being built in Horsham, Pimpinio, Apsley, Minyip, Wycheproof, Birchip and Donald.

The infrastructure would also benefit nearby communities including Longerenong, Dooen, Kalkee, Karyrie and Laen East.

Wimmera Development Association executive director Jo Bourke said it was just the start of fixed wireless roll-out across the region.

"More sites have been identified, some of which are co-located with existing infrastructure," she said.

"Others will be new sites.

"It is great news, because our region will have the advantage of accessing the NBN relatively early."

Wimmera Development Association and the region's councils have been negotiating access to the NBN since the initiative was announced.

But all discussions were put on hold following the change of government.

"It will be an advantage for our regional businesses, but also in attracting interest from people to relocate to the area," Mrs Bourke said.

Optic fibre connections went live at Horsham's Sunnybrae and Waterlink estates on December 20.

But Horsham Telstra store manager Chris Dunmore said houses were still being built, so the service had yet to be used.

"We envisage the first activation will be within the next fortnight," he said.

He said the store had received more than 100 expressions of interest in NBN services from Wimmera residents since December.

Horsham Rural City Council chief executive Peter Brown also welcomed the construction.

"Surprisingly, we've had no information from NBN Co about what is going on, but we assume that will be following very soon," he said.

Mr Brown said last week's fires had demonstrated the importance of fast and reliable internet and mobile phone access.

"People are increasingly gaining information through social media, which is why it is important to have access to the NBN," he said.

"It has also been clearly demonstrated that one of the great difficulties in the Wartook, Laharum, Roses Gap and Brimpaen areas was a lack of good mobile coverage.

"We're certainly going to be arguing strongly for a service, which we have taken up with politicians at a state and federal level."

Buloke Shire Mayor Reid Mather said the imminent availability of the NBN to towns in the municipality could be especially beneficial to health services, the education sector and small businesses.

But he said it was equally important that it was financially accessible to individuals.

"It is important in rural communities that the cost of connection to the system is competitive so that everyone is able to access the service and we call on the government to ensure universal access to the system," he said.

NBN Co spokeswoman Corrie Withers said she expected more than 1800 Wimmera homes and businesses would benefit from the infrastructure once it was completed.

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