COMMUNICATIONS advocacy group Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote (BIRRR) Australia have welcomed the release of two comprehensive reports by the Federal Government, aimed at improving telecommunications in the bush.
The two reports, which cover the development of the Universal Service Guarantee (USG) and the report by the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee.
BIRRR Co-Founder Kristy Sparrow said she welcomed the release of the two reports and the practical recommendations, but cautioned the government that BIRRR would continue to “nip at their heels” to ensure the recommendations are put into practice.
“While these reports are a good start to acknowledging problems and putting solutions on paper, the real proof of the pudding will be in seeing practical steps undertaken to improve telecommunications outcomes,” she said,
“We are particularly pleased to see the RTIRC committee recommend a digital hub for regional communities to help support and advise regional Australians on how to get and stay connected, as well as provide much needed digital literacy skills to regional communities.
“For the past 4 years BIRRR has performed this role in a voluntary capacity, not only advocating for regional communications, but also educating and troubleshooting for BIRRRmembers.
“This volunteer role has become unsustainable due to large volumes of requests for assistance.
“BIRRR will continue to work to hold the Government to account, and fight for better telecommunications outcomes for regional, rural and remote Australia.”
Mrs Sparrow said the Universal Service Obligation (USO) was a longstanding consumer protection that ensures all Australians have reasonable access to fixed voice services and BIRRR were delighted to see that this would continue under the new USG and be extended to include broadband services.
“Both nbn satellite and fixed wireless mapped customers will continue to be able to access existing fixed line voice services with consumer guarantees under the new USG,” she said.
“This is important because every Australian, irrespective of where they live or work, should be confident they can access quality, reliable, accessible and affordable voice and broadband services with customer support guarantees and repair timeframes.”
Mrs Sparrow said BIRRR was very appreciative of the consultative work and research undertaken by both RTIRC and the Department of Communications and the Arts into bush telecommunications issues and concerns. She said it was very important for groups such as BIRRR to be involved in the submission process, to highlight issues on the ground with telecommunications in regional areas.
“We look forward to continuing to work to bring better telecommunications to the bush,” she said.