Deniliquin Pastoral Times
Council unheard in telecomms review
Requests from Edward River Council to meet with the state’s 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review committee have been ignored.
This is despite the committee providing district-by-district hearings, including one online consultation involving Southeast NSW and the ACT on August 9.
Council general manager Phil Stone said council had asked for a meeting and to be represented at a hearing, but ‘‘were only informed of the hearings after the hearing for southern New South Wales had already occurred’’.
‘‘We have reiterated our request for a meeting and the request is under consideration,’’ Mr Stone said.
He said the government is ‘‘not doing enough’’ to invest in regional telecommunications.
‘‘Government intervention is required, especially as Telstra has a plan to decommission 3G soon. Doing this will make things significantly worse.’’
While 3G data coverage is expected to be replaced with 4G, Edward River Councillor Mac Wallace has said coverage would not be as strong in the rural areas.
Council speculated in its written submission to the review that the regional market for private telecommunications companies was not large enough to incentivise investment, and so the onus should fall on the government to ensure the infrastructure and opportunity of satisfactory telecommunications is publicly available.
‘‘Without investment in this critical infrastructure, it is likely that the New South Wales agriculture sector could become inefficient and uncompetitive against other states and countries which enjoy access to improved mobile networks,’’ council’s submission said.
Telecommunications is one of the areas ERC has dedicated its advocacy efforts to, and with 46 per cent of respondents to council’s 2021 community strategy survey considering telecommunications infrastructure a top three concern, it’s clear it is a major theme of frustration for residents.
Deniliquin resident John Conallin recently threw his support behind ERC’s advocacy, and said his internet service could not even stand up to those enjoyed by his colleagues in ‘‘COVID and coup ravaged Myanmar’’.
‘‘Most people in the city wouldn’t know what a ‘H’ is on their mobile, but I don’t know what a 4G signal looks like in my office 5km from town,’’ Mr Conallin said.
‘‘This puts us at a disadvantage in two major facets — economic incentive and safety.
‘‘Who in a modern world would want to have their business hub or hubs in an area where there isn’t reliable phone and internet services, or a farmer upgrade their irrigation infrastructure if it isn’t reliable?
‘‘From a safety point of view, it puts us at a disadvantage for communicating during bush fires, accidents, or other health issues in our ageing farmers.’’
Mr Conallins sentiments have been corroborated by many respondents to council’s community strategy survey.
‘‘Council has not put a figure on the investment required, however there are major concerns from the community about the mobile connectivity and broadband coverage once residents are outside the Deni city limits,’’ Mr Stone said.
‘‘This gap needs to be filled now and the Federal Government should develop policies that focus on filling these gaps as the highest priority. These services are critical to the safety, growth and prosperity of rural and remote communities.’’
Council also put forward suggestions, such as combining infrastructure investment with telecommunications renewal to make the boost more economically viable.
Between July and September, the committee held ‘‘24 virtual public consultations targeting regions across Australia, and received over 650 written submissions from members of the public, community organisations, businesses, and local, state and territory governments’’.
Public consultation ended on September 30. The review’s findings will be presented to the Federal Government prior to December 31.