Farmers hopeful Government will answer call on rural phone service

The Victorian Farmers Federation is pushing the Federal Government to act on recommendations from the Productivity Commission to improve mobile service in rural and regional areas.

The Government tabled to Parliament the Commission’s report into the Universal Service Obligation, a 20 year Government arrangement to provide all Australians with a basic level of service at an annual cost to taxpayers of $297 million.

VFF Vice President Brett Hosking said the report, which recommended the USO be wound up by 2020, confirmed the standard telephone service would be replaced by a competitive tendering arrangement for the delivery of baseline voice services where possible.

“The current USO is seriously outdated and ignores the dependence on our daily lives of mobile phones and the internet,” Mr Hosking said.

“Rural and regional communities account for seven per cent of Australia’s population and agriculture’s contribution to the national economy is around $155 billion, so we need to make sure farm communities receive the same quality phone service as their metropolitan counterparts.”

Mr Hosking said improving rural telecommunications should be a political priority and urged the Federal Government to acknowledge the Commission’s recommendation that regional and remote communities should receive a wireless telecommunications service.

“The VFF hears all the time from farmers frustrated with their current level of service, so we’re hoping we’ve turned a corner and Canberra has finally heard our call,” he said.

“The Government’s focus needs to be on growing the mobile footprint, but it’s also important that landline phones are maintained to ensure all customers are covered.

“Better data and mobile coverage in rural areas is going to lead to an even more efficient and productive state and country, and service providers need to be responsive to farmers or become a drag on national productivity.”

Source: VFF