National Farmers' Federation

NFF applauds more investment to help fix bush communications inequity

The National Farmers Federation welcomes Round 2 of the Regional Connectivity Program (RCP) as another step towards fixing the communications inequity facing Australians outside city bounds.

“Currently, the ability for farmers and other regional Australians to do business, to access the same entertainment and lifestyle options and in some cases, even the same emergency services, is curtailed by sub-standard communications infrastructure,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar said. 

“Enhanced telecommunications and connectivity in the bush is essential to agriculture achieving its goal to be a $100 billion by industry 2030.”

The RCP is a competitive grants program that encourages local communities to work together with telecommunication providers to submit applications for funding to strengthen digital connectivity. There is $112 million available for Round 2.

“I encourage rural communities not to miss this opportunity: consider what telecommunications and connectivity projects would best improve their internet and mobile access and apply for a grant through Round 2 of the RCP,” Mr Mahar said.

Round 1 of RCP provided vital improvements to mobile voice and data coverage, fixed wireless and fibre broadband services, across northern Australia.

“We acknowledge the dedication of $45 million in further funds from the Connecting Northern Australia initiative to address the unique connectivity needs of northern rural and remote communities. Getting the north connected is key to the region realising its business and economic potential.” 

Mr Mahar said the NFF recently outlined its comprehensive telecommunications and connectivity priorities in a submission to the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee.

Included in the NFF’s recommendations was a call for more government support for innovative place-based connectivity solutions. 

“We’re pleased that Round 2 of the RCP goes some way to addressing NFF’s call for the Government to support community connectivity projects.”

To inform the submission, the NFF carried out a survey of more than 500 regional Australians, which found a significant number of respondents reported the reliability of mobile network coverage (50%), internet coverage (40%), and landline service (20%) had declined in the past 12 months, with the overall satisfaction of services reducing since NFF’s last survey in 2018.

The NFF is a founding member of the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition. The group recently spent two days meeting with Federal parliamentarians outlining the Group’s goals, including:

  • Guaranteed access to voice and data services.
  • Equitable voice and data services that meet minimum standards and reliability.
  • Continued Program to expand mobile coverage.
  • Digital capacity building for regional, rural, and remote Australia.
  • Affordable communications services for regional, rural, and remote Australia.

“There is a whole lot more work to do and investment needed to fix rural, regional and remote Australia’s communications injustice, but projects like the RCP are a positive step in the right direction. 

“Today’s announcement demonstrates the Government, through Ministers McKenzie and Littleproud understand the challenges for the bush when it comes to internet and mobile services,” Mr Mahar said.

To apply for the RCP and for more information visit www.grants.gov.au
An online project noticeboard to facilitate linkages between infrastructure providers, telecommunications carriers and communities is available here. Applications close 27 January 2022, 5pm AEDT.

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