National Farmers' Federation

Communications Coalition presses Canberra for action ahead of a 'definitive year' for telecomms & connectivity

The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) has converged on Canberra this week to deliver one simple message – 2018 must be a year of action on bush telecommunications.
The RRRCC is meeting with MPs, the Department of Communications and the Arts and attending a forum focussed on regional mobile coverage convened by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
“The Coalition marked 12 months in November last year,” Isolated Children’s Parent’s Association President Wendy Hick said.
“After almost 80 meetings with members of Parliament, as well as rigorously engaging with nbn and telecommunications companies, we stepped back and took stock about whether to go around again.
“When we looked at what we had achieved in 2017, as well what was on the table in 2018, the answer was clear – we simply must continue our work during what is going to be a definitive year for the future of telecommunications in Australia.”
The issues the RRRCC will be addressing in 2018 include:
• The Telecommunications Reform Package, which is currently before Federal Parliament encapsulates the right for all Australians to access high speed broadband, sets a minimum speed and establishes sustainable funding for regional broadband infrastructure. This should be passed by parliament as a priority.
• In December 2017, the Australian Government committed to provide universal access to voice and broadband services through a new Universal Service Guarantee (USG) once the NBN rollout was complete in 2020. This process will consider whether alternative technologies can be adopted to deliver universal voice services as well as long-term funding solutions. We need assurances that a new Universal Service Guarantee will deliver broadband and that voice services will not deteriorate under a new scheme. The Government currently commits $100 million per annum to the current Universal Service Obligation (USO) agreement, with an additional $221 million per annum contributed via an industry levy. We are also seeking a commitment for a regional telecommunications fund under a new Universal Service Guarantee.
• At this point, the Australian Government remains uncommitted to further rounds of the mobile blackspots program.
• The Australian Government will this year undertake its Regional Telecommunications Review.
National Farmers’ Federation Rural Affairs Manager Mark Harvey-Sutton said the Coalition was pleased with the level of engagement it had received from Parliamentarians.
“We’re not here to complain – we’re here to help uncover the latent economic potential of rural regional and remote Australia. This is something the current Government has committed to do.
However, Mr Harvey-Sutton said given the vital importance of telecommunications services the Coalition’s patience for politics on the issue was low.
“Anything other than a bipartisan approach to regional, rural and remote telecommunications and connectivity is inappropriate and makes light of the circumstances our members face.
“We are calling for 2018 to be a year of action,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.

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