Thursday, 2 June 2016
Farming and regional Australia gripped by data drought
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has called on political candidates to commit to delivering affordable and effective data and voice connectivity to regional Australians and to put to an end the data drought gripping farming and rural communities.
As the Federal Election campaign moves towards the half-way mark, NFF President Brent Finlay said while the commitment of $60 million to the Mobile Blackspot Programme from the coalition had been welcomed, no party had yet clearly demonstrated a permanent solution to the nation’s below par regional connectivity.
“We’re still waiting to see policies from the parties that take a long-term approach to rectifying this crippling issue and to empowering farmers and regional communities with the technology they need to perform to the best of their ability,” Mr Finlay said.
“Mobile connectivity is important not only to ensuing the health and safety of people working in remote areas, but in underpinning the adoption and use of innovative agricultural technologies including spatially-enabled agriculture and big-data supported decision tools.
“It is important both sides of politics now take steps to ensure that connectivity in regional areas is addressed permanently and a level playing field is created to promote competition in the regional telecommunications market.”
Mr Finlay said the Productivity Commission’s review of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) and the continued roll out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) provided an excellent opportunity to consider the best way to deliver affordable and effective data and voice connectivity to regional Australians.
“For instance we know that the current USO arrangements see upwards of $44 million dollars being spent annually on payphones, which in many cases are in locations where they simply are not required anymore,” he said.
“The review must consider if a portion of this redundant funding could be better used, potentially by funding the Mobile Blackspot Programme where such access to telecommunication services is truly warranted.
“Further, it is important that telecommunication providers can fairly compete in regional areas, as this will help to improve service quality and affordability.
“It is important that Government and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission look at the possibility of ‘roaming’ requirements in the regions and ensure that where public money is spent building telecommunications infrastructure, operators can reasonably compete for wholesale access to the services the infrastructure provides.”
Thursday, 2 June 2016