It’s time for the Minister for Regional Communications, Senator Bridget McKenzie, to step up and support the interests of up to 200,000 regional Australians who stand to be disadvantaged by the planned 3.6GHz spectrum auction, including schools and business in Bowral and across the Southern Highlands.

Early this year, the Minister for Communications, Senator Fifield, gave the go-ahead to the spectrum auction as proposed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) despite concerns from regional-based Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs).

Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) are companies which provide a superfast wireless broadband service in the NBN satellite footprint where NBN either can’t or won’t provide the same quality of service.  Councils, small businesses and households in Regional Australia rely on these innovative regional businesses to work, do business and complete their studies.

Unfortunately, the Minister for Regional Communications, Senator Bridget McKenzie, is missing in action and has not addressed the concerns of local WISPs which may be disadvantaged under the spectrum sale.

The ACMA proposal for WISPs to move to the 5.6GHz spectrum used by the Bureau of Meteorology, amongst others, 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.  There is simply not enough of it to go around.

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.

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

Questions the Minister for Regional Communications still has not addressed 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 and services, in the bush?

It’s time the Minister step up to the plate and look after the interests of regional Australia, otherwise there is a serious risk that the 200,000 regional customers who rely on WISP services will be worse off.