A group of organisations that have come together to better champion communication in the bush are disappointed the Federal Government have failed to commit funding subsequent rounds of the Mobile Black Spot Program in last week’s Budget.
The Rural Regional and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) includes the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), the Country Women’s Association of NSW, the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association and AgForce Queensland.
Improved mobile coverage is essential for Australia’s agriculture sector to become a $100 billion industry by 2030 and is critical for the health and economic well-being of regional communities.
NSW Farmers President Derek Schoen said mobile coverage is a major problem for a lot of the Association’s members.
"The Government’s failure to commit additional funding to the Mobile Black Spot Program is a let-down for regional communities,” Mr Schoen said.
The RRRCC recognises that some mobile black spot towers, funded under previous rounds of the Program, are yet to be built, and urges the Government and industry partners to expedite the roll-out of this vital infrastructure.
"We are huge supporters of the Program. It is delivering for regional communities and businesses, and will continue to do so with current funding," Australian Communications Consumer Action Network CEO Teresa Corbin said.
"However, a lack of commitment to further funding will leave many areas without mobile phone coverage. It is fair to say we are disappointed.
Ms Corbin said what is needed is a long term commitment from the Federal Government that this, or similar programs, will continue.
"We will be raising this as a priority in the upcoming Federal Regional Telecommunications Review, due to kick off in the coming months," she said.
The RRRCC welcomes the Government’s $260 million commitment to improve GPS and satellite imagery. This will assist farmers investing in technology to improve data gathering capabilities.
"However, without mobile coverage farmers will be unable to leverage the benefits," Ms Corbin said.
Further, the $2.4 billion investment in science and technology to improve agricultural output and innovation in production will greatly benefit the sector. Connectivity will be key to achieving the productivity gains on offer from new technologies.
"The importance of high quality voice and data access by the agricultural sector should not be underestimated as we strive to improve economic output, access international markets, and enhance productivity," Ms Corbin said.