The inequalities faced by regional Australians with mobile signal and internet connection need to be fixed.
The National Farmers Federation telecommunications committee member and farmer Peter Thompson said far from being a luxury, mobile phone coverage and internet connectivity were essentials in the bush, much like power and water.
The NFF is buoyed by the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee’s response to submissions received through the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review.
“The onus now rests on the Federal Government to work collaboratively with network operators to fix the connectivity drought. In this year’s Federal Budget, the NFF is calling for no less than a multibillion-dollar funding commitment to rectify sub-standard regional telecommunications and connectivity,”” Mr Thompson said.
“For agriculture alone, it is estimated the unlocking of the application of digital agriculture could boost the value of agriculture by about 25% ($20.3 billion) with a cumulative lift to the Australian economy of $24.6 Billion by 2030.”
It’s a tale of missed opportunity, as people in the bush continue to suffer from a far inferior level of connectivity compared to their city counterparts, he said.
“Most Australians wouldn’t know what it’s like to search for mobile phone signal, often by scaling a silo or driving up the closest hill, or the need to wait for next month’s data to refresh before downloading a document. But this is the daily reality for many country Australians.”
The NFF is calling for a dedicated fund to resource network expansion.
The Black Summer bushfires and recent flood events have highlighted the vulnerabilities of regional telecommunications systems, Mr Thompson said.
“The committee has made a recommendation for a Regional Telecommunications Resilience Fund to build the resilience of communication networks during emergency situations and natural disasters.”