Local, Independant and Effective
June 14, 2016

Telecommunications infrastructure key to increasing farm productivity

Independent Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan AO, is calling for a serious commitment from Government to fix the telecommunications infrastructure shortfall in regional Australia.

“Rural businesses are particularly disadvantaged from poor mobile and phone coverage and internet access,” Ms McGowan said. “This was confirmed in the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry the Smart Farming report.”

Ms McGowan said the report included 17 recommendations in four key areas, including telecommunications and data services.

“The Committee recommends that the Government commit to the continuation of the Mobile Black Spot Programme (MBSP) beyond the second round, and that the Department of Communications and the Arts consider changes or additions to the selection criteria to capture the telecommunications requirements of agricultural activity.” Ms McGowan said. “While the additional $60 million announced by the Federal Government is welcome for the MBSP, there needs to be a commitment to fund further Rounds to solve this problem.”

Last week Ms McGowan called for Government to continue working with NBN and Telstra and local government to ensure co-location occurs where possible. “I provided NBN Co with a list of 24 locations which could be serviced by fixed wireless rather than the Satellite service,” Ms McGowan said. “I’m calling on NBN to investigate the numerous opportunities to expand fixed wireless in these key areas to maximise the efficiency of this telecommunications rollout.”

The Productivity Commission last week released an Issues Paper on the Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (USO). Ms McGowan said a USO must be to be expanded to include mobile phone coverage and internet access. The current USO only applies to landlines.

“This is an urgent. We need a strong USO and customer service guarantees to ensure people and businesses in rural and regional Australia have equitable telecommunications services,” Ms McGowan said. “Government must support universal access for telecommunications. Regardless of where you live in Australia, you should be able to use your mobile phone.

“I encourage farmers and stakeholders to provide feedback to this Issues Paper. This Paper will report on what Government policies are needed to deliver a minimum level of telecommunications services in this expanded market. It’s important the voice of rural and regional Australia is in this report.”

Productivity Commission Issues Paper can be found online.

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