News and Views

Investment needed for regional telecommunications services

The need for reliable telecommunications in a state as vast as Western Australia cannot be overstated, and WAFarmers said WA State Government commitment was needed to safeguard these services.

Speaking on the last of the Wish List items for the WAFarmers State Election Policy Platform, WAFarmers President Tony York said there was no reason why people living in rural and regional areas should still be struggling to connect to mobile and internet services, given the rate of technological advances.

“We need a commitment from the WA State Government that they will continue to invest in rural and regional telecommunication infrastructure through the continued expansion of the Mobile Black Spot Programme,” he said.

“Telecommunications underpin not only the basic communications such as emergency calls; they facilitate everyday business activities seen through online banking, weather information, commodity prices, education and social interaction with friends and families,” he said.

“These facilities have become enshrined in modern living, and rural residents have come to expect the same level of service as those living in the metropolitan areas.

“For primary producers, connectivity is critical to the smooth running of their operation. Farmers have embraced technology with machinery all talking to each other to increase productivity and efficiency, and any lapse in data or telecommunication can have severe impacts for any business.”

Mr York said the WA State Government had overseen the implementation of the Regional Mobile Communications Project (RMCP) and was now close to the end of the Regional Telecommunications Project.

“On the back of the success of the RMCP first project which was completed in 2014 in partnership between the State Government and Telstra, a second was announced in 2015 which is scheduled to be completed in 2018,” he said.

“This Regional Telecommunications Project is a $45 million investment which will deliver 85 towers and further bolster mobile and internet coverage across regional and rural areas.

“The projects run by the state and Telstra have been looked to as examples as to what can be replicated in other jurisdictions, so we urge the parties to make a commitment to continue this critical work.

Mr York said the benefit of the initiative not only expanded the network for mobile communications, but also improved coverage for emergency services personnel.

“For any new tower that is constructed, WA Police, St John Ambulance, fire and emergency services, DFES and SES all have the ability to attach their radio and communications infrastructure to the tower, so this further improves the response times of our emergency services teams and increased safety for our rural communities.”