Federal government's 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review highlights key areas of concern

A report into regional telecommunications has highlighted several areas of concern. Photo: File
A report into regional telecommunications has highlighted several areas of concern. Photo: File

INFRASTRUCTURE downfalls and increased demand on mobile and internet services are among several key findings included in a recent federal government review into regional telecommunications.

Held every three years, the Regional Telecommunications Review's latest edition was handed to federal Parliament recently and highlighted several key areas of concern.

Atop the review committee's 12 recommendations was for the government to focus on "the development of a long-term investment and planning framework for digital infrastructure and regional digital capability".

As well as government investment, the report also urged NBN Co to commit to providing upgrades of its regional fixed wireless network to allow for faster network speeds and limit network congestion by "strengthening the network to make more bandwidth available to users; and [by] extending the reach of the network into areas currently serviced by Sky Muster satellite."

In the report's cover letter, review chairman Luke Hartsuyker said there had been "a step change in the demand for telecommunications, and that "the needs of regional communities are met [and] must reflect this change".

"There is a new paradigm in the way we use telecommunications and Australia will be relying even more on digital connectivity as it strives to become a leading digital economy," Mr Hartsuyker said.

"Reliable telecommunications are essential for everyday life in regional, rural and remote Australia and have assumed a role much more on par with electricity.

"Australia is now at a crossroads where it can either risk the digital divide expanding, or see the regions flourish.

"The decisions that are made now will determine whether the regions live up to their extraordinary potential as a great place to live, work, invest and do business."

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NSW Farmers vice president Xavier Martin said while the recommendations were not groundbreaking, if implemented, they could herald a new era for the bush.

"COVID-19 accelerated the need to be able to be connected from anywhere, and there's a real opportunity to bring regional, rural and remote Australia up to the same standard as urban centres," Mr Martin said.

"The benefits of a reliable connection are varied in the bush - from making farms safer and health services more effective, to building efficiencies and opening the door to regional online businesses."

The report comes as the industry watchdog reported internet and phone complaints were down for the fifth-consecutive reporting period.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman's quarter two complaints report showed residential consumers and small businesses made 18,386 complaints, a decrease of 14.2 per cent compared to the previous quarter, and 39.7pc compared to the same period last year.

"In my six years as the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, we have worked closely with our members to reduce phone and internet problems for residential consumers and small businesses," Ombudsman Judi Jones said.

"After a spike in complaints in 2018, it's very pleasing to see continual decreases in complaints. Working together has made a real difference to consumers.

"I encourage telcos to continue to work with consumers to resolve their problems. And as always, if the conversation breaks down, contact my office. We're free and here to help."

This story Review highlights regional telecommunications shortfalls first appeared on The Land.