National Farmers' Federation

$60 million to mobile black spots positive news but ongoing commitment needed

Today’s commitment of a further $60 million to the Mobile Black Spot Programme by the Coalition is positive news for areas of rural and regional Australian which have languished for years without adequate coverage. Mobile phone connectivity is a priority issue of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and additional investment in the Mobile Black Spot Programme is one of the organisation’s key election asks in 2016. NFF President, Brent Finlay, said while today’s announcement from Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and Minister for Regional Communications, Fiona Nash, was extremely positive the NFF would continue to campaign for a commitment from both sides of politics to fund the Programme on an ongoing basis. “A reliable mobile phone service is absolutely critical to business success, education and personal safety in our rural and regional communities and for far too long these areas have not had connectivity that is in any way acceptable,” Mr Finlay said. “We wholeheartedly welcome this $60 million commitment from the Coalition but must also reiterate that ongoing funding is required to provide telecommunications infrastructure co-investors with certainty. “This would also demonstrate to regional Australians the Coalition is serious about comprehensively addressing this important issue in the long-term. “Mobile access to internet and voice services is a basic expectation of most Australians, including those living in regional areas.” The first two rounds of the Mobile Black Spot Programme resulted in 499 new mobile base stations which have delivered 68,600 square kilometres of new coverage. Today’s announcement would bring total investment in eliminating black spots to $220 million if the Coalition is elected on 2 July. Mr Finlay said investment must continue to ensure agriculture and regional communities can thrive and fully capture the value of the opportunities being driven by unprecedented demand for Australian agricultural products. “Like any business owner, farmers need to be informed, accessible and responsive to effectively manage their business,” he said. “As they typically spend the majority of their time in the paddock, the ability to do business over the phone and web while on-the-go saves valuable time and contributes directly to improved production and their bottom line. “For Australia to continue to be the world leader in agricultural innovation, basic mobile coverage is not a luxury but a necessity.” For further detail on what agriculture needs to build connectivity and to see the NFF’s full list of 2016 election asks go to www.accelerateag.com

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