Regional Telecommunications Review Submission
Regional Development Australia Mid North Coast has completed a submission to the Regional Telecommunications Review 2021 in collaboration with Councils throughout the region (Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Nambucca, Kempsey, Port Macquarie-Hastings and MidCoast).
The Review will examine the adequacy of telecommunications services in regional, rural and remote Australia. It will also consider particular issues identified in the Terms of Reference, including the impact of Government policies and programs, insights from COVID-19, emerging technologies, service reliability, regional development, and improving coordination between tiers of government.
Every three years the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee is appointed to conduct the review. Committee reports are important in setting the regional communications policy agenda in the following years.
The 2021 Committee was announced by the then Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government the Hon Mark Coulton MP on 2 June 2021. The Review will be held from June to December. The five members appointed to the Committee are the Hon Luke Hartsuyker (Chair), Ms Sue Middleton, Ms Kristy Sparrow, Professor Hugh Bradlow and Mr Michael Cosgrave.
Councils throughout the region showed particular concern regarding the ability of the Mid North Coast to compete in business on a global scale, and to attract new digital businesses to the area without significant improvements to the existing infrastructure across mobile and voice data, internet and fixed voice services.
Covid-19 has also placed additional strain on families as they live and work from home during lockdowns:
“The Covid-19 lockdowns have placed a reliance on home internet connections to a degree that hasn’t been experienced before. Not only are the household adults working from home (a trend that will continue in numerous workplaces), school children are learning from home and routine and crisis household appointments (such as counselling and support) are also being conducted using the home telecommunications connections.”
While this is expected to alleviate to some degree post lock down, some services (such as tele-health and education) are expected to continue to morph to more online delivery modes requiring households to have access to reliable connections.
There were also concerns expressed surrounding the network’s ability to cope effectively in times of disaster:
“Communities cannot reliably count on mobile phones, copper wire-based phone lines, and the newer forms of telecommunications to work during natural disasters and keep them connected. Mobile phone coverage is a BIG issue. Many regional spots have patchy, or no mobile coverage. It’s an issue at the best of times, but in emergency situations is an even bigger issue. If someone needs emergency assistance, but their mobile phone doesn’t work it could be disastrous. Families are impacted by telecommunication services and failure thereof by not being able to access the internet.”
The submission can be downloaded HERE