The communications coalition championing better services for regional Australia will push for funding for the Mobile Blackspot program that was left out of the federal Budget.
The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition said “disappointing” was the best way to describe the funding miss for the program’s fourth stage.
The coalition’s members include the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), the Country Women’s Association of NSW and Cotton Australia.
It was formed last year to fight for better mobile phone and data connectivity.
The Budget disclosed there would be no new money for the Mobile Blackspot program past the next financial year.
NFF rural affairs manager Mark Harvey-Sutton said “disappointing” was the best way to describe the issue.
“We were hoping Round 4 would be included in the Budget,” he said.
He said the reason it was not was because construction of communications stations “is still being done from Round 1 and 2. Round 3 funding allocations are expected to open this year”.
Mr Harvey-Sutton said not only does better mobile coverage enable people to run their businesses effectively, but it also ensures better safety in rural and remote areas.
“Now we’ll be working to ensure it doesn’t fall off the radar,” he said.
“We’ll continue to look for ways to expand mobile coverage. I think in the short-term we’ll continue to push for the fourth Round.”
Cotton Australia general manager Michael Murray said: “We absolutely need the same if not the equivalent to metropolitan areas.”
He said not only do farmers have to be able to operate their farm business effectively, but they need better connection to have a modern family life.
Farmers don’t just need internet access at home or in the office, but they need it all over their farm.Mark Harvey-Sutton, National Farmers Federation rural affairs manager
“Farmers don’t just need internet access at home or in the office, but they need it all over their farm.”
Mr Murray said much farm machinery and equipment recorded data which can often take “hours and hours” to download.
“We have these tools and opportunities available but we can’t utilise them because of the limitation on data,” he said.
“It’s becoming more frustrating. Telecommunication access to data is now as high an issue as the water issues were.”