Access, affordability and reliability key issues for telecommunications inquiry
Wednesday, 8 Feb 2017

Queenslanders living in regional, rural and remote areas desperately need more accessible, affordable and reliable phone and internet services, AgForce said today.

AgForce telecommunications working group chair Georgie Somerset made the comments while giving evidence at a Productivity Commission inquiry on the effectiveness of the Universal Service Obligation.

“The Universal Service Obligation (USO) has helped provide access to standard telephone services and payphones for many years, but it is outdated now we are using a range of technologies,” she said.

“We believe that the telecommunications USO should be technologically neutral and provide access to affordable, reliable and equitable voice and broadband data services for all Queenslanders, irrespective of their technology installations and location.

“We also would like to see a baseline broadband guarantee, with regular review periods, included as part of a revised USO, while the telephone Customer Service Guarantee must also be retained and expanded.

“It’s vital that a revised USO help bridge the digital divide between city and country areas because effective and affordable landline, mobile phone and internet services are an essential part of everyday life – vital for community safety, for business, for children’s education and for social connections.”

Mrs Somerset said AgForce had concerns about the Productivity Commission’s interim report recommendation that a baseline voice service should be extended through the nbn to include data as well as voice services.

“We don’t believe a transition to voice services utilising digital telecommunications such as satellite and fixed wireless in regional, rural and remote areas can occur until reliable access and quality of service can be assured,” she said.

“Further, mobile connectivity must not be considered as a replacement for the USO landline for regional users until this connectivity at least meets the same guarantees as existing arrangements.”

Mrs Somerset said more funding was urgently needed to improve telecommunications infrastructure and build the digital capacity of regional, rural and remote telecommunications users.

“We all need to work together – government, industry and the community - to ensure that 2017 is the year we fix telecommunications and access to affordable data in the bush,” she said.

AgForce is a part of the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition that was formed last year to champion the need for better telecommunications services for all Australians. More information about the RRRCC’s campaign is available at www.farmers.org.au/datadrought

Media Contacts: Scott Whitby 0418 733 102, Sarah Henderson 0427 626 853
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