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Credit: Australian Government

Credit: Australian Government

Australian Government call for submissions on regional telecommunications development

Australia’s 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review has recently released an issues paper and is currently seeking public submissions from individuals, businesses and community groups based in regional and remote parts of the country. 

The consultative process is part of the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee’s (RTIRC) efforts to ensure that Australians living in regional and remote regions have access to socio-economic benefits that modern communications technology can provide.

According to the RTIRC’s official website, the committee “ must conduct a review of the adequacy of telecommunications services in regional, rural and remote parts of Australia”, and that “in conducting the review, the “(RTIRC) must make provision for public consultation and consultation with people in regional, rural and remote parts of Australia”. Public consultation is a critical step in ensuring that the RTIRC gains a comprehensive understanding of any issues faced by communities in remote and regional parts of the country.

"The (2018 Regional Telecommunications Review) will examine regional telecommunications issues closely and examine how rural Australians can maximise the economic and social benefits that next-generation telecommunication services can provide," said Minister for Regional Communications Bridget McKenzie. 

"The Coalition government recognises the benefits that improved connectivity can bring to the families, communities, and businesses in our regions."

Until 5 August, Australians living in remote and regional regions of Australia can lodge a formal submission or fill in an online form available on the Australia Department of Communication and the Arts’ official webpage to voice their opinions to the committee

Submissions can either be made public or kept confidential according to individual discretion.

To further the consultative process, the RTIRC will also schedule public consultations in designated regional areas across the country over the course of eight weeks.

"We want to hear from individuals, businesses and community groups based in regional Australia about the standard and availability of phone and internet services for personal and business use," said Mr Sean Edwards, the Chair for the 2018 RTIRC. 

"The Committee wants you to have your say on what’s working well for you and if there are gaps in the services you regularly access."

An independent body established every three years to undertake an independent review of telecommunications services in regional, rural and remote Australia, the 2018 RTIRC is chaired by Mr Sean Edwards, and consists of 5 other members who possess relevant industry knowledge and technical expertise. 

In conducting the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review, the committee seeks to investigate ways to maximise the economic benefits of digital technologies, and analyse coverage outcomes as well as existing gaps in mobile coverage provided by the Mobile Black Spot Program in regional Australia.

The previous round of the Regional Telecommunications Review in 2015 stressed the importance of mobile coverage, the potential to maximise benefits from the rollout of the Australian government’s National Broadband Network (NBN) and the need for more comprehensive consumer safeguards in regional Australia.

In the issues paper released by the 2018 RTIRC, key areas of interest included how regional Australians are utilising telecommunications services in areas such as business, health and education, government investment in regional and remote telecommunications services, alternative and emerging technologies as well as rethinking consumer policies and protections; the 2018 issues paper reveals similar insights to the 2015 version, and reports positive progress with regards to the rollout of the NBN.

Following the closure of public consultations by 5 August, the RTIRC will prepare a report of the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review and submit it to the Minister for Regional Communications Bridget Mckenzie. The report is expected to contain key recommendations for refining Australia’s regional telecommunications policies and initiatives.

The Committee will report to Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, Minister for Regional Communications, by 30 September 2018.

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