Communications issues in rural Australia in the spotlight

Tony Mahar

Tony Mahar

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) welcomes round two of the Regional Connectivity Program (RCP) as another step towards fixing the communications inequity facing Australians outside city bounds.

"Currently, the ability for farmers and other regional Australians to do business, to access the same entertainment and lifestyle options and in some cases, even the same emergency services, is curtailed by sub-standard communications infrastructure," NFF chief executive officer Tony Mahar said.

"Enhanced telecommunications and connectivity in the bush is essential to agriculture achieving its goal to be a $100 billion by industry 2030."

The RCP is a competitive grants program that encourages local communities to work together with telecommunication providers to submit applications for funding to strengthen digital connectivity. There is $112 million available for Round 2.

"I encourage rural communities not to miss this opportunity: consider what telecommunications and connectivity projects would best improve their internet and mobile access and apply for a grant through Round 2 of the RCP," Mr Mahar said.

Round 1 of RCP provided vital improvements to mobile voice and data coverage, fixed wireless and fibre broadband services, across northern Australia.

"We acknowledge the dedication of $45 million in further funds from the Connecting Northern Australia initiative to address the unique connectivity needs of northern rural and remote communities. Getting the north connected is key to the region realising its business and economic potential."

Mr Mahar said the NFF recently outlined its comprehensive telecommunications and connectivity priorities in a submission to the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee.

Included in the NFF's recommendations was a call for more government support for innovative place-based connectivity solutions.

"We're pleased that Round 2 of the RCP goes some way to addressing NFF's call for the Government to support community connectivity projects."

To inform the submission, the NFF carried out a survey of more than 500 regional Australians, which found a significant number of respondents reported the reliability of mobile network coverage (50%), internet coverage (40%), and landline service (20%) had declined in the past 12 months.