THE 2018 budget left a black-hole where the mobile black spot program funding should have been.
National Farmers Federation (NFF), president, Fiona Simson said mobile cellular coverage across farms and regions was needed to help agriculture to remain competitive and continue to adopt new technologies.
“From our perspective, it is incredibly disappointing we have had another round of budgets without funding for black spots,” she said.
“We are still seeing towers constructed from the initial rounds, which was some years ago.”
“People in the bush will be losing hope, that they are ever going to get connectivity.”
Ms Simson said enabling digital technologies on farms was critical to their future.
“We know the mobile cellular network is going to play a part in that,” she said.
“Ensuring data can be fed to or from machinery and devices.”
“At the moment there are a number people and properties in rural and regional Australia that don’t have connectivity.
“We are looking to the mobile black spot tower program as a way to alleviate this.”
Ms Simson said connectivity was critical and uncertainty diminished growth and investment in agriculture.
“So it is important we have a strategic path forward for government if they are withdrawing support from the black spot funding programs,” she said.
Ms Simson said a lack of cellular coverage was also a huge risk to travellers on Australian regional and rural highways and roads.
“It’s a huge risk and hazard,” she said.
“It’s all well to say 94 per cent of the population are covered.
“But when you are talking about rural and regional Australia, there are huge swathes of it that are not covered by mobile connectivity.
“We need to see what the government is thinking in terms of connectivity.”
Ms Simson said while she acknowledged technology is changing quickly, that did not mean stalling on connectivity solutions.
“It’s all well to say things are changing,” she said.
“But we also need to make sure, while we are looking at the future we are also able to harness what we have now.
“We need a solution to make a difference right now.
“The black spot program was what people were looking to to make that difference.”
Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia (BIRRR), spokesperson, Kristy Sparrow said the BIRRR team were also disappointed the government made no commitment to future rounds of the mobile black spot program.
“We understand the Federal Government is waiting for the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee (RTIRC) report,” she said.
“Also for the first three rounds of black spot funded towers to be built, before committing to additional rounds.”
Ms Sparrow said BIRRR would continue it’s advocacy work toward improving customer service and issues with regional telecommunications.
“It is essential that the government realises the importance of regional connectivity and ensures that regional users have access to reliable, affordable broadband and voice services that meet their business, education and personal needs,” she said.
For more information on BIRRR click here.