As more regional and remote employees make the transition to working from home both out of choice and necessity, the strain on regional telecommunications networks has become more apparent.
And now with a continual rise in COVID-19 cases in Greater Sydney, public health orders have been amended to allow people to work from home where reasonably practicable, subsequently placing increased demand on telecommunications networks.
NSW Riverina's Griffith City Council mayor John Dal Broi said reliable, consistent telecommunications infrastructure was of 'vital importance' to regional areas.
"Having these facilities is critical if we want to grow our regions," Councillor Dal Broi said.
"This is more important than ever as people are starting to realise the benefits of the regional lifestyle in cities like Griffith.
"Adequate telecommunications is a necessity for our regional communities as more and more residents transition to working from home both out of choice or out of what is required of them."
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Regional Cities NSW Alliance chairman and Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council mayor Tim Overall said that the current work from home order was 'shedding new light on old problems' for regional workers who worked remotely.
"Telecommunications infrastructure in regional NSW needs to keep pace with our demand so our regions are equipped to deal with the new way of doing business in a COVID-world, that looks to be with us for some time yet," Councillor Overall said.
"There are basic issues of adequacy, accessibility and reliability that need to be addressed."
In light of this, RCNSW is calling for regional residents to make their voices heard about the telecommunications issues they face while working from home in the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review.
As a result of the 2018 review, the National Broadband Network was completed, 5G mobile services rolled out, a Universal Services Guarantee was created and new government grants programs and public awareness initiatives were implemented.
According to the 2021 issues paper, the independent committee is interested in understanding the extent to which the industry's COVID-19 response reflected increasing demand for connectivity in regional Australia and what this indicates for the future delivery of telecommunications services in the regions.
"We know our regional telecommunication networks were a critical problem during last year's bushfires and the recent mouse plague has only created further outages," Cr Overall said.
"It's really important that the people of regional NSW make a submission so that we can get the right telecommunications infrastructure in place."
Individuals, businesses and organisations are urged to make a submission to the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review by September 30 2021 by emailing their views to secretariat.rtirc.gov.au or attending one of the online forums listed on their website.