National Farmers' Federation

USO Inquiry a key step in addressing data drought

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has commended today’s announcement of a Productivity Commission inquiry into the Universal Service Obligation (USO).
The USO has been a critical safeguard to ensure rural communities have access to basic telephone services. However, the framework is looking dated in the context of the NBN, and a business environment where data and wireless services are now a necessity.
NFF President, Brent Finlay, said USO reform was an opportunity to turn around connectivity in the bush.
“Currently the government is paying $253 million each year to maintain copper phone lines and payphones. In the context of the NBN rollout we need to ask ourselves whether that’s the best use of those funds,” Mr Finlay said.
“What we know is that hundreds of communities are still without mobile phone coverage and this stifles agricultural productivity and improvements to farm safety.
“We also know that, over time, expansion of the NBN Fixed Wireless footprint will be needed to maintain capacity on the NBN Satellites.
“The NFF will be arguing for a fresh approach that delivers increased funding for mobile blackspots and continued investment in rural broadband. These changes are vital to ensure we break the data drought and keep pace with demand.
“The Productivity Commission Inquiry is an important next step in the reform process and we look forward to communicating the needs of rural Australia over coming months.
“We also hope that given the urgency of these measures the Productivity Commission might see fit to deliver its findings well inside the 12 months allowed for by the Government.”

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