The National Farmers Federation has fired a salvo at the Federal Government over its broadband plans for the bush, putting it on notice to explain how and when affordable and reliable services will be delivered to rural Australians.
In its pre-budget submission, delivered to the Government this week, the NFF has slammed the Government's failure to articulate its plan for providing quality telecommunications services following the removal of the $2 billion perpetual communications fund in the final sitting week last year.
The NFF submission says rural Australians were very now "extremely concerned" about their telecommunications fate following the abolition of the communications fund, the failure of the OPEL initiative and Telstra's exclusion from the national broadband network tender process.
NFF said it is eagerly awaiting the Government's response to the regional telecommunications review, delivered to Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy in October last year.
It says it is also expecting the promised $400 million initial commitment to rural telecommunication services, central to that review, to be fully funded in the 2009 budget.
The Government is expected to respond to the report by March 9.
NFF chief executive, Ben Fargher, said the Government needs to "clearly articulate" how its proposed National Broadband Network (NBN) will "revolutionise" the availability and quality of telecommunications services in rural Australia.
"The Government must address the uncertainty over how future upgrades will be funded, on a guaranteed basis, given its removal of the $2 billion Communications Fund," Mr Fargher said.
"Whether for work or everyday life, rural people need – and are entitled to – quality and affordable telecommunications services now and into the future.
"Existing services available are simply not good enough.
"And the plan to make them good enough – not only now but into the future – is by no means clear enough.
"The NFF, on behalf of farmers, their families and all rural Australians, expects the Australian Government to have a clear plan – and clearly articulate that plan – to finally address and rectify this long-outstanding issue."
Mr Fargher said given its assurances of service quality and affordability during the 2007 Federal Election, the Government was now "on notice".
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