THE Victorian government recently announced it has walked away from the Commonwealth Mobile Black Spot Programme, in favour of its own system.
The $11 million planned for the third round of the Commonwealth program will instead be redirected to a state program.
Victorian Farmers Federation vice president Brett Hosking said the new program is simply moving existing money around, with no new funding commitments for regional Victorians.
“Minister for Innovation Philip Dalidakis has previously claimed that ‘there will always be towns that will not get coverage’,” Mr Hosking said.
“These comments show an unacceptable attitude towards telecommunications outside metropolitan areas.
“We shouldn’t be shooting for mediocrity. We must lift our ambitions.
“Telecommunications are essential services. Beyond personal use, mobile phone voice and data are key resources for farm businesses.”
The VFF Telecommunications survey found many farm businesses are particularly concerned about the occupational health and safety implications of poor or non-existent coverage, with some respondents unable to contact emergency services in case of an accident.
“Communications technology is also vital to developing new and innovative farming practices,” Mr Hosking said.
“Poor coverage is hampering farmers and preventing them from improving sustainability and pursuing productivity gains from improved analytics.
“We need more investment in regional mobile coverage for voice and data.
As of last week, Australia dropped behind Kazakhstan for average broadband speeds.
“For a highly developed country like Australia to be in this position would be laughable if it didn’t have such serious repercussions.”
Minister for Regional Development Jaala Pulford said the government would not compromise when it comes to community needs and safety.
“We’re working with Emergency Management Victoria, local councils and regional partnerships to get this right,” she said.
“We know how frustrating the digital divide is for rural Victorians and we’ll continue to bridge the gap for rural industries, motorists, train travellers and residents.”