Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, has urged mobile carriers to heed the pleas of constituents in his electorate and provide greater coverage in identified black spot areas.
The call for additional mobile services follows the announcement of 182 new base stations through Round 5 of the Federal Government’s $380 million Mobile Black Spot Program.
Under the program, government provides the funding to enable mobile network operators like Telstra, Optus and Vodafone to choose which pre-identified black spot areas across Australia to install their infrastructure.
Ongoing advocacy from Mr Joyce has already secured 45 new and upgraded mobile base stations in the New England but he knew there was opportunity to deliver more in key locations throughout the electorate.
“As I have before, I will again be seeking discussions with the major telecommunication providers about the importance of delivering better mobile communications for people in the New England,” Mr Joyce said.
“Areas like Upper Horton near Bingara, Merriwa in the Upper Hunter and Yarrowitch near Walcha have demonstrated community need for more coverage and deservedly so.
“Yarrowitch, like many communities in New England, was severely impacted by bushfires and the lack of phone service made communication difficult, especially in the recovery phase for volunteer organisations such as BlazeAid.
“At the time I made representations for the community requesting the area be nominated under Round 5 but on this occasion, it was not successful in securing more coverage.
“People in the bush feel that the major service providers are taking the New England for granted and I don’t blame them.
“Having access to reliable mobile coverage in rural areas is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it is essential.
“The government funding is there, the desire from communities for more reliable coverage is there, all we need is for the mobile network providers to take up the offer and get these base stations built.”
In April 2020 the Government released a discussion paper seeking feedback from industry and the community on options for the design of a Round 5A of the Program. This round will use the uncommitted Round 5 funds to continue to expand and improve mobile coverage for regional and remote Australia. The Government has committed $80 million in funding to a Round 6 of the Program, which will start following Round 5A.
“To strengthen our chances in upcoming rounds, I strongly call on the community to provide feedback about the importance of mobile coverage in the New England,” he said.
Visit communications.gov.au/have-your-say to lodge your submission.