Labor has called on the Coalition to bridge the urban-rural digital divide and improve regional communications infrastructure in the bush.
It comes as the second Sky Muster satellite is due to be launched this week from French Guiana.
When it comes to delivering high-quality broadband services to households and businesses outside of our major cities the Coalition has failed dismally again and again.
As Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull was initially opposed to the use of satellite technology, describing Labor’s satellite plan as a “Rolls-Royce” communications system.
He later changed his tune on the use of satellites bringing broadband services to remote areas, but under his watch problems have continued to emerge.
Recently, the NBN experienced a “temporary outage” on its first Sky Muster satellite and some communities have reported that they can’t access internet services during daylight hours.
It is just more of the same from a Government that is prepared to have households and businesses in remote, regional and rural Australia suffer from digital exclusion.
A digital inclusion index report released earlier this year outlined the growing digital divide between urban and regional Australia. The overall “Capital-Country gap” is widening, with affordability and ability gaps getting worse.
The results were hardly surprising, particularly since the Coalition has opted for an NBN model that features a record roll-out of copper, over $1 billion in payments to Telstra to maintain the old copper network and a plan to abolish Universal Wholesale Pricing – meaning that some consumers in the bush will pay more.
The launch of the NBN’s second satellite is an opportunity for the Government to take stock of its regional communications failures and take broadband in the bush seriously.
The Minister for Regional Communications, Senator Nash, must deliver a plan for addressing Australia’s digital divide and ensure that problems plaguing the NBN satellite system are fixed.
Regional Australians shouldn’t miss out on broadband access and they deserve better than a Government asleep at the wheel on digital exclusion.