AN INDEPENDENT report into regional telecommunications has put forward ten key recommendations aimed at improving access and protecting consumers in regional, rural and remote Australia.
Conducted every three years, the authors of the Regional Telecommunications Review called for increased quality of access to both broadband internet services and mobile telephony in regional, rural and remote areas to drive economic and social improvements.
The report identified tourism and agricultural, major drivers for regional economic prosperity, were currently suffering from a lack of transparency regarding future access to services and the quality they could expect.
“NBN Co can be part of providing these alternate solutions but there needs to be some important changes in approach,” the report said.
“There is currently little information available about the company’s intended approach to future network upgrades in regional areas.”
The report also recommended the Government commit to a large scale, multi-year investment aimed at improving broadband and mobile services in areas served predominantly by the Sky Muster satellite service.
“The committee is strongly of the view that there are compelling factors for significant additional capital investment in telecommunications infrastructure to maximise the economic opportunities and economy-wide benefits that are available for the people in regional, rural and remote Australia,” the report said.
The authors strongly recommended the continuation of the universal service guarantee, protecting fixed line services along with further investment mobile phone service infrastructure, increased data availability through the Sky Muster satellite service and support to drive digital literacy across regional, rural and remote communities.
Minister for Regional Services, Senator Bridget McKenzie, welcomed the findings and said the Liberal National Government would the recommendations very seriously.
“This Liberal and Nationals Government has a proven track-record of investing in and delivering regional telecommunications,” she said.
“Our highly successful $220 million Mobile Black Spot Program is expanding mobile coverage across Australia and is already making a real difference.
“The regional rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) is almost complete and NBN Co recently announced plans to boost data for rural and regional Australians on the Sky Muster satellite service.”
Labor spokesperson for regional communications, Stephen Jones MP also welcomed the report, however said the report signalled more work was required to ensure regional telecommunications were fit for purpose.
Mr Jones said Labour specifically welcomed the recommendation to take a stronger place-based approach to regional upgrades, as well as the recommendation to target indigenous digital inclusion.
“At the moment, the poorest people in Australia are paying the most for their data and phone services,” he said.
“This is an issue of social equity and economic participation that should be addressed as a priority.”
Minister McKenzie said the review was the most consultative of its type ever held, with 22 public sessions across the country and more than 380 submissions received from a range of individuals and organisations.
“I thank the Committee for their comprehensive report and for everyone who participated in the review.”
Minister McKenzie said the Government will respond to the Committee’s recommendations in early 2019.
The final report is available at: www.communications.gov.au/regional-telecommunications-review