There Is a growing need for improved telecommunications in regional Australia, and industry bodies will be lobbying for better mobile phone coverage standards, as well as improved broadband and landline coverage in rural areas, according to a panel of speakers at the ACCAN 2012 national conference in Sydney.
They also said this underscored the need to educate consumers in those areas.
Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee chair, Rosemary Sinclair, said there were four key issues that were derived from a recent review.
- Mobile communications needs
- Access to the NBN rollout and the Australian digital economy
- Better consumer experiences
- Telecommunications for the indigenous Australians
However, Sinclair mentioned the rollout of the NBN presents both opportunities and challenges for regional Australia.
“There continues to be a risk that people in regional and remote areas are left further behind unless we really stay on the case,” she said.
She also claimed there is a lack of consumer awareness on rights and responsibilities.
“The role of regional bodies is to educate people in regional areas on the NBN as indigenous communities face low digital literacy and limited access to good telco services.
“In response to this issue, the Government will be funding approximately $6.3 million over the next three years to maintain and monitor public Internet facilities,” she added.
Indigenous Remote Communications Association interim manager, Daniel Featherstone, questioned if the NBN and its future direction will increase or decrease the digital divide that exists between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia.
He said the telecommunications gaps in regional Australia are:
- Increasing unmet demand for basic telephony services
- Existing remote fibre networks not linked to the NBN
- Limited home Internet access and IT equipment
- Break down of NBN market model in remote Australia
- Restricted key applications with latency and asymmetry issues of NBN satellite solutions
“We need to raise strategies that are required for digital inclusion,” he said.
Regional and SMB IT telco service provider Anittel's managing director and executive chairman, Peter Kazacos, spoke from a business perspective.
He said the rollout of the NBN in regional areas will create more employment opportunities across the country.
“People need access to more skilled resources to be able to take advantage of that. But there aren’t much skilled resources in these places and I think that is one area that will change as the business opportunities start to be created,” he said.
In rolling out the NBN, Kazacos said the government should assess which businesses require the rollout for growth and prioritise them to receiving it first. “If we don’t connect our businesses in regional Australia to the broadband quicker, we may not have employment for a lot of these businesses in these locations,” he added.
Kiama City Council mayor, Sandra McCarthy, said the Federal Government will be running workshops through the council with regards to digital literacy.