The Queensland Government has backed farmers’ calls for the Federal Government to deliver on its funding commitment and improve mobile coverage in Queensland’s rural and remote communities.
Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy, Leeanne Enoch, said the looming 2017 Federal Budget, set to be handed down on 9 May, should address frustrated farmers’ calls to access the latest technology that will improve mobile phone efficiency.
“Like the National Farmers’ Federation, the [Queensland] Government believes the Commonwealth should deliver new funding to help regional communities, where poor or non-existent mobile reception is a major problem,” Enoch said.
“Poor mobile phone coverage is a serious safety issue and hurts local businesses. The Turnbull Government cannot afford to let down rural and remote Queenslanders frustrated with mobile phone black spots.”
Backing from the Queensland Government, under Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, follows the National Farmers’ Federation’s recent budget submission to the Turnbull Government, which called on at least $60 million per year for the mobile black spot program, or equivalent program, which prioritises community-identified areas and open-access facilities.
The Queensland Government has already committed about $24 million to deliver 144 new and improved mobile base stations to regional communities across 54 different councils under the Australian Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program.
In addition, the Queensland Government is working closely with local councils, Telstra, Optus and the Commonwealth to identify, expand and improve mobile phone coverage and promote digital connectivity.
“This commitment is about investing in telecommunications infrastructure that will improve mobile phone coverage to homes, businesses, schools and government offices,” she said.
“Mobile phone cells will provide new coverage to residents and local business owners where no coverage previously existed while in other areas, the small cells will be used to boost coverage in areas where existing coverage is poor.”
Agriculture Minister and Minister for Rural Economic Development, Bill Byrne, added that the “lack of reliable communications” is a crucial issue in rural areas.
“There is no doubt that lack of coverage is seriously hampering the ability of producers in some areas to use the latest technologies. Regional development agencies have raised their concerns that it is a major obstacle to investment,” he said.
The Victorian Government also recently revealed its investment of $45 million to improve digital technology and infrastructure across regional Victoria, which includes $11 million for the Mobile Black Spot program.
Many of Australia's telcos have also been ramping up their efforts across the country as part of the Mobile Black Spot Program, and to improve regional and rural broadband coverage.
This includes Optus building 22 new mobile sites across Western Queensland, in its $10 million mobile infrastructure upgrade investment and the Victorian Government fixing mobile black spots along Victoria’s five busiest regional rail corridors by partnering with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone in an $18 million project.