Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Mobile coverage boost welcomed

A peak body for telecommunications consumers has welcomed the Federal Government’s $100 million program to boost mobile coverage in regional and rural Australia, although it warns not all coverage problems in the bush will be solved.

April 8, 2014 2:10pm

In recent weeks, State Member for Murray Valley Tim McCurdy has also addressed parliament about the growing reliance of mobile phone and internet technologies that were not being met in Victoria.

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network chief executive Teresa Corbin said the $80million to build new mobile towers in areas with poor coverage and $20million to fix blackspots in areas prone to natural disasters or subject to seasonal demand, was a welcome step.

She said although consultation on the program design closed in February, the Department of Communications still wanted to hear from communities to help identify areas in need.

‘‘It is important to remember that infrastructure will need to be commercially sustainable in order to get the green light — so the most remote areas probably don’t have the best chance,’’ Ms Corbin said.

Parliamentary Secretary for Communications Paul Fletcher said 800 locations had already been reported and with such a large demand, not everyone was going to have their wish met.

Ms Corbin said Optus, Telstra and Vodafone welcomed greater involvement from communities. Their tips for rural communities to prepare good cases for any future funding opportunities are:

Communities need to show the value of investment in their area;

Local government is best placed to co-ordinate the effort and make the case;

Consult widely in the community and get everyone on board so that the providers feel confident that the position of a new tower, for example, is going to be accepted and welcomed by locals; and

Investigate in-kind contributions, such as a local government giving access to services and land and provide a plan for suggested sites, streamlined planning permission and land access.

Member for Benalla Bill Sykes said the north-east had a number of challenges in improving mobile phone coverage including in the Upper Goulburn, Tatong, Strathbogie, Tawonga areas and the Ovens and King valleys.

‘‘There have been a number of improvements including the installation of mobile phone towers at Myrrhee and in the Strathbogie Ranges as a result of local communities banding together to lobby commercial mobile providers for improved infrastructure.’’

Dr Sykes said despite these improvements, more needed to be done and the Victorian Government had been urging the Commonwealth Government to provide funds for improved mobile coverage in blackspot areas.

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