Cellphone coverage along the Napier-Gisborne highway - and in other northern Hawke's Bay mobile "black spots" - will be improved if a Wairoa District Council pitch for government funding is successful.
The government is planning to create a $50 million "mobile black spot fund" aimed at extending cellular coverage to sections of state highway and key tourism sites currently off the grid.
The Wairoa council hopes a share of the fund will be used to boost coverage on SH2 between Napier and Gisborne, along SH38 north-west of Wairoa, at Lake Waikaremoana and in the Mahia/Mahanga area.
In a report to be discussed at a Wairoa District Council meeting today, the council's transformation manager Roger Matthews recommends the local authority register its interest in support of money from the funding being used in the district.
Mr Matthews says large parts of the district, including almost all of SH2 between Wairoa and Napier, have little or no cellphone reception.
His report recommends the council also put its hand up to have the district included in two other telecommunications infrastructure expansion initiatives: planned extensions of the nationwide Ultra-Fast Broadband fibre network build and the Rural Broadband initiative.
"There is nothing to loose and quite a lot to potentially gain from lodging submissions or registrations of interest on the three programmes in support," he says. "Access to improved broadband and mobile infrastructure can encourage business productivity across a range of local sectors and industries, improve health and education outcomes, enhance service delivery, and increase social connectivity and inclusion."
The government has said the aim of the mobile black spot fund was to "increase mobile connectivity to rural and remote areas in order to improve the safety of people and property on state highways, increase social inclusion, boost economic development and enhance the tourist experience at important tourist destinations".
The $50 million funding for the programme will come from the Telecommunications Development Levy which is collected from telco companies to enable infrastructure development in areas where the private sector do not see investment as profitable.
Councils have until July 3 to register their interest in funding from the scheme, with a decision expected by November.