A survey assessing rural people’s telecommunications connectivity and their landline needs has been extended for another week, due to the surge in interest in completing it.
Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia is hosting the 10-minute questionnaire, which it said was important because it would give people a chance to influence the future of telecommunications in the bush.
It focuses especially on what is needed as part of the new Universal Service Guarantee, which the federal government is currently developing options for.
The USG seeks to ensure all Australians can access voice and broadband services and BIRRR spokeswoman, Kristy Sparrow, said if the government got it wrong, they had grave concerns that some in rural, regional and remote Australia could be left in very tough and isolated situations with potentially disastrous consequences.
“We urge everyone in the bush to get online and fill out this questionnaire and help us build a clear profile of which tools are most important to keep us safe and connected,” she said.
One of those filling it out was Randal Coggan, Nangram feedlot, Condamine, who said if they didn’t have landline connectivity, he didn’t know how they’d make the business work.
While fixed wireless has been installed by parent company, MDH, at great expense, it is still being perfected and comes with a price of many thousands of dollars that would be out of reach of most, he said.
They have been relying on a mixture of mobile, which often drops out, and landline, and Randal estimated he used the latter for about 60 per cent of his work calls.
“And I’d say we have good mobile reception here compared to most rural enterprises,” he said.
Voice Over Internet Protocol was not a favourable option for Randal, who said it was dependent on working all the time.
“I don’t believe it can be relied on here for business, emergency or education needs.
“As far as people up north are concerned, when there’s cyclones and floods about and services go down, their landline is what they rely on at the end of the day.”
The Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association voiced similar concerns last year when the Productivity Commission tabled its final report into the USO, which the rural education lobby group said had failed to address the importance of a fixed landline for many residents in rural Australia.
The survey, open to everyone in rural, remote and regional locations, explores the telephone/voice service and internet options in homes.
“Data we collect will be provided directly to the USG taskforce committee, government departments and ministers and will be used in BIRRR work towards better bush communication,” Kristy said.
“Rural, regional and remote Australia contributes a large proportion of Australia’s GDP and live across 80 per cent of Australia's landmass.
“They do this in some of the most hostile and hazardous locations, making their need for reliable telecommunications paramount.
“The government must not consider rural, regional and remote mobile connectivity as a replacement for a Universal Service Guarantee voice service, until this connectivity at least meets the same service guarantees as existing landlines.”
A previous BIRRR survey conducted in May 2016 found that:
- Many rural residents have a landline only, no internet connection.
- Many Sky Muster users (42pc) have no mobile coverage.
- Boosting coverage into your home is costly.
- Illegal repeaters are causing huge issues with mobile coverage.
- VOiP (considered a replacement for landline) is not simple to use and is not reliable.
- If Sky Muster (satellite internet) goes down you cannot trouble shoot your connection without a landline.
All rural, regional and remote Australians are urged to take part, and to share with their networks. The survey will close on April 9.