IN THIS SECTION:
Farmers say message getting through on bush telecommunications
20 March 2019
The National Farmers' Federation says years of calling for a better deal for bush telecommunications had contributed to today's significant investment announcement by Regional Services Minister, Senator Bridget McKenzie.
In a National Press Club address in Wodonga, Minister McKenzie said the Government would invest $160 million in fixing mobile blackspots, $60 million towards enhancing bush internet and establish a program to assist with 'digital literacy'. The commitments are the Government's response to recommendations from the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review.
NFF CEO Tony Mahar said as agriculture's peak body and a founding member of the influential Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC), the NFF had called on the Government to adopt in full the recommendations of the Telecommunications Review.
"An inequity in access to reliable, affordable telecommunications has constrained the growth and prosperity of agriculture and regional Australia for too long," NFF CEO Tony Mahar said.
"For more than a decade the NFF has taken up the fight with the government of the day to demand action on fixing mobile phone and internet access outside the city's confines.
"I'm pleased to say that today, the Government has taken real action. The announcement represents significant inroads into improving communications for regional Australians."
Mr Mahar said an extension of the Mobile Black Spots Program would be transformational for many communities.
"It is incomprehensible to many I'm sure, to think that some Australians don't have mobile phone service where they live and do business.
"The Minister's pledge to direct $160 million for a fifth and sixth round of the Mobile Black Spot Program will no doubt 'switch on' many areas still void of service and be welcomed by those currently unable to make a mobile call or send a text message."
Mr Mahar said $60 million for improving internet infrastructure for people connecting via the NBN's Sky Muster satellite would maximise social and economic opportunities and deliver wide-spread benefits for the bush.
He also welcomed the initiative to help users better understand the intricacies of telecommunications technology.
"Particularly when it comes to satellite internet, the technology is complex, but having a better understanding of how it all works can go a long way to improving consumers connectivity experience.
"The Government's commitment to developing a tech hub to improve digital literacy in regional and rural areas will be valuable for these communities."
The NFF has a bold vision for Australian farmgate output to be $100 billion by 2030, up from $60 billion in 2017-2018. The Australian Farm Institute predicts that the application of digital technology alone could yield an extra $20 billion by 2050.
"To realise the potential of new technologies, farmers must first have access to reliable, fast, affordable connectivity," Mr Mahar said.
"Today's announcement is another important step forward to bridging the connectivity gap between the bush and urban Australia. The NFF won't rest until this gap is closed."
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