Home Telecoms & NBN No more talk, action now, bush coalition tells politicians

No more talk, action now, bush coalition tells politicians

A coalition of 17 organisations that confronted politicians with demands for a big improvement in communications services in regional Australia is pushing for immediate action to bring reliable and affordable services to the bush.

And, the coalition has vowed to continue the fight to bring improved telecommunications to regional, rural and remote Australia and to a standard comparable to that enjoyed by urban consumers.

The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition left Canberra after two days of fronting politicians from all parties,  to be told that “we hear you and we want to help” – but now the coalition says it’s time for action not talk.

National Farmers' Federation president Fiona Simson said it was heartening that politicians understood the perils of an inability to access affordable and reliable telecommunications. However, action was what was needed now.

"Actions speak louder than words. Consensus by all politicians that this is a vital issue is yet another."

Members of the Coalition provided the 50 or so politicians with their personal experiences of living and doing business without reliable communications.

Annette Turner, president of the Country Women's Association of NSW, who lives west of Broken Hill, told of a dangerous situation when communication networks failed last summer.

"We had a major bushfire during which landline and mobile services went down. As a result, we had no idea where people fighting the fire were or if they were ok."

And, a grain farmer from Quambatook in Victoria's Mallee, Brett Hosking, said the inability to connect was threatening to curtail agricultural productivity.

"Digital technology is the next frontier of productivity gains for farmers but without adequate access to reliable and affordable Internet we stand to miss out on these new opportunities and the economic gains they offer."

During the two days the Coalition called on Government to commit to five actions:

1.    A universal service obligation for both voice and data.

2.    Customer service guarantees to deliver more accountability from providers and NBN Co.

3.    Long-term public funding for open access mobile network expansion (blackspots).

4.    Fair and equitable access to Sky Muster satellite for those with a genuine need for the service.

5.    Fully resourced capacity-building programmes that build digital ability

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network chief executive Teresa Corbin said the coalition would continue to fight to see telecommunications in regional, rural and remote Australia improved to a standard comparable to that enjoyed by urban consumers.

"We are committed to 2017 being the year better communications are delivered to the bush. There were lots of encouraging and positive words from the politicians we visited this week.

"Going forward from here, we'll follow up on these meetings to work with politicians to ensure we get #betterbushcomms and put an end to the #datadrought."


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).