It’s time for the Minister for Regional Communications, Senator Bridget McKenzie, to step up in the interests of up to 200,000 regional Australians who stand to be disadvantaged by the planned 3.6GHz spectrum auction.

The Minister for Communications, Senator Fifield, has given the go-ahead to the spectrum auction as proposed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) but regional-based Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) continue to be locked out of discussions with the Government.

The Minister for Regional Communications is missing in action on this issue despite concerns regarding broadband services for around 200,000 regional customers.

Once again, Senator Bridget McKenzie is all hat and no cattle when it comes to looking after the needs of regional Australia.

Labor supports the planned spectrum auction and welcomes moves to clear the way for higher-value 5G services but believes the very real concerns of the WISPs have not been adequately addressed.

The ACMA proposal for WISPs to move to the 5.6GHz spectrum used by the Bureau of Meteorology is highly problematic.

Squeezing WISPs onto a narrow band of spectrum currently used by BOM for an essential service such as weather radar is not without risks of interference.

Questions the Minister for Regional Communications needs to answer include:

  • Are you satisfied the ACMA has done all it can to find “like for like” spectrum for the WISPs?
  • Are you satisfied the ACMA has adequately examined market and sharing solutions for the WISPs?
  • Are you satisfied that booting the WISPs out of the 3.6GHz spectrum won’t result in a loss in quality of broadband, or a loss of jobs, in the bush?

If Minister McKenzie has any concern for the interests of regional Australians then the time to speak up is right now.

Otherwise there is a serious risk that the 200,000 regional Australians who rely on WISP services will be worse off.