Federal Labor has unveiled a $650 million plan to improve regional telecommunications a week after the federal budget.
Announced on Tuesday, Labor’s Better Connectivity For Rural and Regional Australia plan includes support regional infrastructure as well as improved on-farm connectivity for farmers.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said that the investments would be an important development for regional Australia.
“This is a comprehensive, targeted plan that will ensure better mobile coverage on roads, on farms and across regional communities, and better broadband too. This is critical to modern agriculture and making sure Australian farms are as efficient and competitive as they can be,” Mr Albanese said.
Firstly, a $400 million fund will be created to improve multi-carrier mobile coverage along road, and in regional homes and businesses. In support of this, the plan also includes $20 million for an independent national audit of mobile coverage.
They will also launch competitive tender process equip mobile signal measuring devices on Australia Post vehicles to help collect information.
If elected, a further $200 million will committed to grants made through the Regional Connectivity Program to continue supporting place-based telecommunications infrastructure projects in regional and remote areas. This includes projects that improve mobile voice and data coverage, targeted fibre deployments, and improved microwave and fibre backhaul capacity.
On-farm connectivity and wireless extension solutions on the field will also get a $30 million boost to facilitate the use of connected-machinery technology.
Labor has also committed an additional $6 million to the government funded Regional Tech Hub, which provides advice to assist people living in regional areas understand their phone and internet options as well as deal with technical issues.
Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland added that this commitment would improve the wellbeing of regional communities.
“Improving regional connectivity is a top priority for Labor. This is why we have committed to a better plan for the NBN, and a smarter plan for expanding regional mobile coverage. We will grow the economy by investing in productivity enhancing digital infrastructure, as well as improving quality of life for regional communities and road commuters through better mobile coverage,” Ms Rowland said.
This builds on Labor’s commitments to upgrading regional NBN infrastructure made in November 2021, which is touted to provide full-fibre NBN access to an additional 660,000 regional homes and businesses. They would also increase NBN satellite data allowances to 90 gigabytes a month and unmeter data use between midnight and 4pm.
Labor voiced support for the $480 million upgrade for regional NBN infrastructure included in the federal budget last week. However, Ms Rowland said that a Labor government would go further and fix inefficiencies in the NBN’s satellite service.
The Regional Telco Review that was tabled in parliament in February 2022 included 12 recommendations for the improvement of regional telecommunications infrastructure and highlighted a need for greater investment.
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