Council resourcing on regional telco review’s radar

Many local governments and communities lack the resources to identify appropriate solutions to local telecommunications problems, a new issues paper says.

Published as a prelude to the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review, the paper canvasses issues around adequacy, opportunity, and awareness of telco services in both rural, regional and remote areas of Australia.

Public consultations for the inquiry have been initially scheduled for Central Queensland and the Gulf of Carpentaria, with more to follow in due course.

With the rapidly changing cross-border travel restrictions, these consultations will be held online.

Review chairman Luke Hartsuyker said that as well as providing a report card as to the state of play in regional telecommunications, the committee will be providing recommendations to the government as to ways in which services in regional areas can be improved, including the use of new and emerging technologies.

“We’re also focussing on the impact of government policies and programs, insights from Covid-19, emerging technologies, service reliability, regional development, coordination between tiers of government and the quality of consumer information.”

Mr Hartsuyker and several committee members attended last month’s Regional Cooperation and Development convened by ALGA, where they urged councils to raise any issues with them.

They also committed to engaging as broadly as possible.

ALGA’s position over many years is that equitably delivered and affordably priced telecommunications facilities should be available to all Australians, no matter where they live – while acknowledging the challenges of geography and population distribution.

The provision of information technology to all Australians is vital to innovation, economic growth and social equity.

However, it is even more important to regional Australia, where the tyranny of distance increases the inequity of services available – including education, health, economic and social.

The issues paper, consultation dates, and details on how to make a submission can be found here. Written submissions should be lodged by Thursday, 30 September 2021.