Victorian farmers will continue to suffer from poor telecommunications access after the ACCC ruled not to declare wholesale domestic mobile roaming.
The Victorian Farmers Federation rejected the report as disappointing and questioned the role of the competition watchdog in maintaining Telstra’s dominance in the rural market.
“We recognise the ACCC is an independent regulator, but we all know that competition leads to better outcomes for consumers and this decision has been a big let-down for rural communities that still struggle to get a decent service,” VFF Vice President Brett Hosking said.
“The fact that there is currently no real competition is a huge problem for rural users, because without any challenge to Telstra’s market dominance, we can expect to continue paying higher prices for a poor service.”
While rejecting calls from rural groups to recommend mobile roaming, the ACCC acknowledged in a statement that “many regional consumers do not have a choice of provider either because they only have one network offering coverage in their region or because they need continuous coverage”.
Australia ranks alongside Nepal and Fiji in terms of mobile providers, with three, lagging behind New Zealand with seven providers and well-behind the United States with 89.
Mr Hosking said rural communities are suffering as a result.
“The VFF conducted a survey of 533 members and found 91 per cent used Telstra as their mobile carrier and 85 per cent used Telstra Bigpond as their internet provider, mainly because they had little choice,” he said.
“We need competition, which will help break Telstra’s dominance, and end the duplication of the rural mobile network.”
The competition watchdog said it did not believe mobile roaming was the answer and that it would seek comment for other solutions.
Mr Hosking said the ACCC must act quickly to find a solution that will give rural consumers the level of service they need.
“We believe the answer to the problem is to allow mobile roaming and bring competition into the market,” he said.
“If that’s not the answer, then the ACCC needs to tell us what is.”