The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) welcome the Government’s response to the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review, tabled by Minister for Regional Communications Bridget McKenzie.
“The NFF and the RRRCC provided substantial feedback into the review and welcomed the report’s recommendations when it was tabled in February. The Government’s response is receptive to the concerns and opportunities raised in the report,” NFF Telecommunications Committee Chair and RRRCC spokesperson Peter Thompson said.
The review made clear the step change in demand for telecommunications and data in the bush, and the need for large scale, multi-year connectivity investments to address this.
The Government response includes a significant six-year, $1.3 billion funding commitment – the Connecting Regional Australia (CRA) package – to fund upgraded to data and telecommunications services.
“The recent announcement of $480 million to fund the expansion of the nbn fixed wireless footprint, and the announcement of $812 million in Tuesday’s budget to expand mobile coverage, are certainly very welcome commitments,” Mr Thompson said.
“The identification of CRA funding streams for major transport routes, infrastructure resilience, placed based solutions and emerging technologies also reflects the report findings, and seek to build on the mobile Blackspots Program and Regional Connectivity Programs.”
The report also highlighted the need to improve connectivity literacy and consumer awareness of regional, rural and remote customers.
“The announcement of additional funding for the Regional Tech Hub to continue and improve its work helping customers overcome connectivity challenges and make the most of available technologies is very positive.”
The Government response includes support for the further development of retail and wholesale service standards. As noted in both the report and the Government’s response, key to this work will be the collection and analysis of performance data.
“Additional actions around mobile coverage mapping and reviews into shared network and infrastructure access are also welcome, and it is hoped these will assist in supporting people during times of emergency, help underpin the viability of future investments and improve consumer competition,” Mr Thompson said.
“The NFF and RRRCC will work through the full suite of responses and look forward to working with the Government and relevant stakeholders to implement the initiatives and reviews in the response. Given the importance of bush communications, the implementation of the report outcomes must enjoy bi-partisan support.”