The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has today called on the Government to ensure that all rural and regional Australians have equal access to reliable and affordable telecommunications in its submission to the 2011-12 Regional Telecommunications Review. NFF President Jock Laurie acknowledged that the national broadband network (NBN) had the potential to generate significant improvements in telecommunications in country areas. However, he also reinforced that a lot of work still needed to be done to give confidence to those not covered by the new optical fibre network that they will attain adequate services through the existing copper landline network and proposed next generation wireless and satellite mobile services. “Telecommunications is moving ahead in leaps and bounds, as anyone with a smartphone would agree,” Mr Laurie said. “But it’s critical that as the technology improves, so too does access for those in country areas. There’s no point having all of these incredible applications to help farmers, like weed control apps, chemical label readers and GPS devices, if farmers can’t get reliable access to the telecommunications network. “It is essential that farming families, rural businesses and country communities have equal accessibility, reliability, quality and affordability in the broadband services they access as those in urban areas do,” Mr Laurie said. “The NFF has always been supportive of technology to improve telecommunications in regional communities. The NFF is committed to ensuring that the NBN will provide opportunities for farmers and agricultural industries that do not exist under the current broadband service. “It is vital that the Government retains their commitment to the delivery of improved technologies that ensure that even those who live on properties outside the cities and towns have improved broadband access. Farmers and regional communities fall within the seven percent of Australians who will not have access to the fibre network, and the NBN must ensure these people are not disadvantaged. “Ultimately, there are enormous opportunities for farmers via telecommunications technology – everything from on-farm virtual fencing and pasture management to water quality monitoring and agricultural robotics. “The current focus on improving telecommunications generated by the development of the NBN has provided a great opportunity to escalate the importance of broadband to improving the livelihoods of Australian communities and bringing new scope to businesses. But if the technology isn’t up to speed in all parts of the country, farmers and rural communities will be left behind – and this is simply unacceptable,” Mr Laurie said. The NFF submission to the 2011-12 Regional Telecommunications Review is available http://www.nff.org.au/policy/submissions.html[here].