The fires, floods and pandemic have revealed the need to recognize telecommunications as an essential service in legislation and to improve funding for regional investment and digital inclusion programs, according to an organization defense of telecommunications.
Australian Communications Consumer Action Network deputy general manager Andrew Williams said the need for better telecommunications services has grown. extremely evident since the last regional telecom review in 2018 ..
The submission of ACCAN in the 2021 review found that only Queensland specifies currentot telecommunications as an essential service at the state level and he argues that improving the reliability and accessibility of telecommunications is vital to better serve and protect Australians in the region.
Proof of The Australian Media and Communications Authority Bushfire Report 2019-2020 found that nearly 1,400 telecommunications facilities were directly or indirectly affected during the black bushfires of summer 2019-2020, during which the average blackout was three and a half days and the longest 23 days.
“Since the last review in 2018, regional Australia has withstood fires, floods and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Williams said.
" If we had a recognitionnce a national telecommunications service as an essential service, this would mean telecom operators could better maintain telephone towers and, for example, gain priority access to fuel for generators during outages to keep Australians connected in the event of a breakdown. 'emergency. "
Stuart McConnell, managing director of fire recovery on the East Gippsland council, said that during the bushfires , many remote communities were without normal telecommunication service for several weeks.
McConnell said that since the fires "between the state, the Commonwealth and providers like Telstra and NBN, there have been significant investments, but there is still some way to go "an essential service and the infrastructure and services reflect that".
The ACCAN submission hassaid that while investments in programs like the Mobile Black Spot program and the Regional Connectivity Program have had some success in connecting regional Australians better, they have remained concerned about the accessibility and quality of phone and internet services.
Suppliers have up to 14 working days to connect consumers in rural areas, and up to 19 working days in remote areas under the current draft rules for statutory infrastructure providers, such as NBN Co.
ACCAN has stated that "these delays do not reflect the essential nature of the service and may leave themrural and remote consumers without service for an undue amount of time. "
The Consumer Action Network also noted that consumers in the regions, rural areas and remote areas of Australia spend more on communications than their city counterparts.
The cutting edge body said they would further like the Mobile program Black Spot be expanded to fund open access mobile towers so consumers can access coverage regardless of the phone service provider.
The Consumer action also proposed the creation of a targeted concessional NBN broadband service to support low-income households, backed by a federal government spread payment to keep the retail price at $ 30 per month. months.
ACCAN has stated that it supports the developmentt the indigenous digital inclusion plan, which would allow communities to increase access to the Internet. The public consultation for an Indigenous digital inclusion plan was launched on September 22.
Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Australians, said that "Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, especially those in remote communities, miss out on opportunities to start new businesses and expand due to access to technology. "
Williams said that" while work is progressing in this area, the delay in getting there has been frustrating for consumers and Indigenous advocates. It is time for policymakers to act to bridge the digital inclusion divide for Indigenous Australians. "
Luke Hartsuyker, Chairman of the Regional Committee for 'independent telecommunications review, saidthat they had received a great response to the regional document on telecommunications review issues and "ACCAN 's submission is reviewed on its merits with many others.
The committee will report to the government at the end of the year.