Group wants to see #datadrought end

Fiona Simson.
Fiona Simson.

People in remote and regional communities are doing their internet banking in the middle of the night to get a solid connection, according to National Farmers Federation (NFF) president Fiona Simson.

The Liverpool Plains farmer is part of the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition, which formed in 2016 to advocate an end to the “data drought” in the bush.

Ms Simson said the 2 per cent of Australians not covered by the National Broadband Network (NBN) lived largely in the bush, and Sky Muster didn’t have the capacity to deliver the data people needed.

“We have people waking up at two in the morning to do their online banking … and when you look at health services that’s just not going to happen,” Ms Simson said.

“During the day there’s so much congestion on the network that they aren’t able to perform basic tasks … it’s not fair that people aren’t able to access this data.”

The Coalition has recently made presentations to the Productivity Commission (PC)’s inquiry into the universal service obligation (USO) – the regulation which ensures a minimum level of voice services across Australia.

But the USO was “clearly … failing us now”, Ms Simson said, and Australia’s networks needed “wifi capacity, satellite capacity [and] data” as well as landline services.

She said a digital divide was preventing rural residents from harnessing new technology, limiting growth.

“When you think about all the things that now you can do from a small community in terms of Skype … they need data to do that and the potential for farm innovation is enormous,” she said.

“We can’t understand why Australia is lagging so far behind in this space.”