Farmers demand telecommunications improvement

Farmers demand telecommunications improvement

VFF has converged on Canberra in a campaign to end the data drought damaging rural communities.

Victorian Farmers Federation Vice President Brett Hosking will join representatives from sixteen other groups in a Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition to lobby federal politicians in bridging the digital divide separating city-dwellers from their country cousins.

“The aim of our mission isn’t to complain about the level of telecommunications service we aren’t getting, but we need to give the decision makers in the bush capital know our ideas for improvements,” Mr Hosking said.

“The VFF fields heaps of calls from farmers frustrated with their current level of service, so we’re taking action by bringing the issues all the way to Canberra.”

The Coalition has scheduled appointments with 50 parliamentarians to discuss issues ranging from mobile black spots and the Sky Muster satellite service to the Federal Government’s Universal Service Obligation, which ensures all Australians receive a basic level of service from their telecommunications providers.

The Canberra lobbying effort comes on the back of a Productivity Commission report into improving the USO, which recommended the National Broadband Network as the main method for delivering a baseline level of service.

“Serious questions have been raised about the relevance of the USO because right now it only extends to landline services and ignores the dependence on our daily lives of mobile phones and the internet,” he said.

“We’ve previously raised concerns that the NBN has been slow to roll out and there’s real concern most farmers and rural families won’t get the quality reception and download speeds they need.”

“The Coalition wants to ensure that the telecommunications services enhance, not limit, the potential benefit that internet services can deliver to these areas.”

Mr Hosking said improved telecommunications was vital to ensure continued growth in the Australian agriculture industry following an Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) forecast that agriculture production was set to increase by 8.3 per cent to a record $63.8 billion in 2016-17.

“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,” he said.