Speak up on ‘data drought’, urges VFF

The VFF has urged farmers to have their say on the 'data drought'


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The Federal Government is carrying out another telecommunications review

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Brett Hosking, Victorian Farmers Federation vice president, has urged primary producers to tell their story about the 'data drought', to the latest Federal Government committee looking at rural telecommunications.

Brett Hosking, Victorian Farmers Federation vice president, has urged primary producers to tell their story about the 'data drought', to the latest Federal Government committee looking at rural telecommunications.

Farmers affected by the continuing “data drought” have been urged to put in submissions to the latest review into rural telecommunications services, which occurs once every three years.

An independent committee, formed for each review, has the task of providing the Federal Government with recommendations on how to improve regional telecommunications services.

Victorian Farmers Federation vice-president Brett Hosking said farmers should put in submissions, or seek to appear at committee hearings, in Hamilton and Bairnsdale.

“Get out and tell them your story,” Mr Hosking said.

“Tell them about your frustrations with the NBN, mobile phones, whatever else – whether it be on coverage, speed or cost.

“The more stories we get on the table the better outcomes we can get.”

Tell them about your frustrations with the NBN, mobile phones, whatever else – whether it be on coverage, speed or cost – the more stories we get on the table, the better outcomes we can get, from reviews like this. - Brett Hosking, Victorian Farmers Federation vice president

Mr Hosking said many people in rural Victoria already knew the problems caused by poor communications.

“What I hope this inquiry will achieve is that it will tell the rest of society, what we already know.

“We need to remind them we exist and we matter.”

He said while the NBN was promised as a great leveller between the bush and metropolitan Australia, it had missed the mark.

Committee composition

The committee is chaired by Sean Edwards, with members Wendy Duncan, Johanna Plante, Robbie Sefton, Kylie Stretton and Paul Weller.

This year it will paying particular attention to:

·        The government’s policy for the rollout of, and investment in, the National Broadband Network;

·        The government’s commitments to a consumer safeguards review and the Universal Service Guarantee; and

·        The government’s policy for the rollout of, and investment in, the Mobile Black Spot Program.

Bookkeeper Krystal Merrett, Telopea Downs, said she had put in a booster, to enhance mobile coverage.

“But we are still frustrated – we have heard talk of 5G being rolled out, when we don’t even have 3G,” Ms Merrett said.

“If that happens, rural Australia is going to get left behind, because everyone in the city will have access to 5G and we won’t.”

She said she received the Skymuster internet service, but it was grossly oversubscribed and would only get worse.

“I can do my work remotely, as long as I have decent internet,” she said.

Steven Hobbs, who has a Kaniva cropping enterprise, said more options, for data plans and allowances, were required.

“The NBN is not going to live up to the hype we were sold,” Mr Hobbs said.

“Both sides of politics had a fantastic opportunity to put in some nation building infrastructure, it wasn’t just about watching Netflix.

“It was for webinars, information, statistics and data collection.”

Both sides of politics had a fantastic opportunity to put in some nation building infrastructure, it wasn’t just about watching Netflix. - Steven Hobbs, Kaniva

With increasing climactic variability, Mr Hobbs said proper connectivity was vital, when it came to recording and sharing information such as soil temperature and moisture.

“We really have been sold short around the argy bargy and politics of the whole NBN.”

He said with an increasing amount of information now provided on line, by departments such as Agriculture Victoria, it made sense to have “top-rate” infrastructure, to deliver such services.

Mr Hobbs said while he was only 10kilometres north of Kaniva, he went onto a satellite serice to get better data options.

“The problem is we can get a higher data allowance, but it tends to drop out quite frequently,” Mr Hobbs said.

‘It gets quite frustrating when you are on a webinar and you have to reconnect several times, every half an hour.”

He said he would probably put in a submission, having previously written, and talked, to local State and Federal politicians about the problems the area faced.

Comprehensive review

Mr Edwards said the committee would look at telecommunications services in regional, rural and remote areas.

“This is the most comprehensive review in the history of the regional telecommunications review and I strong encourage everyone to have their say,” Mr Edwards said.

“We want to hear a broad range of views about telecommunications, particularly about digital technology.”

This is the most comprehensive review in the history of the regional telecommunications review and I strong encourage everyone to have their say. - Sean Edwards, committee chair

The review provided regional communities with the opportunity to tell us what’s working well and what needs improving.

“We want to understand how residents have adopted new and emerging technologies for business, farming, education and community activities and any challenges they face.”

The Committee will report to Regional Communications minister Senator Bridget McKenzie, by September 30, to inform future investment in regional telecommunications.

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