The Nationals WA recently used Parliament to highlight the progress made to improve regional communication networks and the work that government and industry faces to ensure reliable connectivity into the future.
The Member for the Agricultural Region, Martin Aldridge MLC moved the debate focusing on the impacts of natural disaster such as fires as well as extended power disruptions have on the reliability of this increasingly critical infrastructure.
“When The Nationals came to government in 2008, people standing in the main street of towns in my electorate with a mobile phone could not get a signal.” Mr Aldridge said.
“The Nationals invested in 344 mobile phone towers and small cell sites, spending $105 million to transform telecommunications access for the regions. That is a legacy which we’re proud of.”
Mr Aldridge emphasised that any future strategy needed to lay out a plan beyond mobile towers alone.
“Technology is evolving rapidly, and the returns of investment in mobile sites alone are diminishing. This is why Government working with industry need to implement multi-faceted plans to increase the resilience of existing networks as well as investing in new technology.”
The annual Communication Report of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) demonstrated the increasing uptake of mobile technologies in preference to fixed services.
“In 12 months to 30 June 2019 we have seen 380,000 fewer fixed land line services connected and 980,000 additional mobile devices connected to Australian networks.
“The report also sets out the significant growth in data with a 50% increase between June 2018 and June 2019.
“The data demonstrates the increasing mobility and data demanded which presents challenges for building and maintaining networks across such a vast land mass and centralised populations in our urban cities”, Mr Aldridge said.
The Nationals have called for a continuation of the bipartisan support that has been demonstrated and indeed led by Western Australia over the last decade.
“Digital connectivity is essential for commerce, education, healthcare, social inclusion and moreover a significant factor in ensuring our communities are liveable and attractive places.
“Government and industry should continue to focus on ‘last mile’ technologies, strategic fibre backhaul investment, publically accessible wireless networks and increased resilience of existing networks among others.
“The Federal Government has a role to play to ensure we have a modern and rigorous regulatory framework to mandate minimum service standards, public information on compliance with service standards and a greater response to the illegal use of repeaters which interfere with networks”, Mr Aldridge said.
The Nationals will continue to advocate for appropriate industry and government responses recognising that our digital infrastructure is as important today as the development of our water and power networks 100 years before.