Telecommunications the big issue this election


Telecommunications is proving to be a hot ticket item this Federal election, and it’s no wonder why.

Last year VFF surveyed members to find that the majority of Victorian farm businesses do not have reliable mobile phone reception or access to internet. For many, the prospect of using internet banking, cloud-based accounting software or completing online education is a distant reality. Even trying to find mobile signal to return a supplier or trader’s phone call can be an elaborate game of hide-and-seek. 

Access to the internet is now paramount for the successful operation of any business. As the rest of the world moves towards mechanisation, automation and big data, many of us in Victoria are still dialling up to the cable at midnight, just so we might get enough download speed to get the wages paid. Technological advancements hold the key to improving productivity and risk mitigation for many farm businesses. The extent of these gains will ultimately be determined by the ability to get access to appropriate network service.

Mobile phone coverage is another imperative for the modern farm business, particularly for safety. Although special capabilities of mobile phones allow an emergency call to be carried on another carrier’s mobile phone network, if you are in an area that has no mobile coverage, you will not be able to reach the Emergency Call Service. The reality is that farms are an accident prone environment and it is not acceptable that the people who live and work on them may be unable to call emergency services when in need.

 Poor telecommunications access has hamstrung rural communities in their ability to innovate. They do not have access to online tools and resources that allow them to learn, share, network and research. Additionally, without adequate mobile and internet services, these communities are limited in their ability to attract and retain the increasingly skilled labour force they demand. If Australian agriculture is to innovate and make headway on productivity growth, the industry needs an intelligent, capable workforce – with access to the resources that allow them to grow and flourish.

The VFF has been working hard to understand these significant issues and develop policy that will result in tangible benefits for members. Currently the VFF is calling on the Federal Government to review the current Universal Service Obligation (which provides a minimum entitlement of all Australians to a basic telecommunications service) funding arrangement, and divert funds towards an ongoing Mobile Black Spot initiative. The VFF is also exploring ways in which competition can be improved in rural areas, to ease pressures on price and capacity.

If you’re sick of having to stand on top of a silo to make a business call, waiting 13 minutes for an email to send, or just want to be able to check your twitter feed without hiking 3 kilometres up a hill, you can help by letting your local Federal MP know by tweeting and using #connectme and #ausvotes or shooting them an email. 

And, yes…we’re aware of the irony…hopefully you don’t have to travel too far to get signal.

Find your MP here

PS. We're super impressed by this Opinion piece from Federal Minister for Parkes, Mark Coulton, calling for national roaming.