Rural voices to be heard for nation's communication needs

REGIONAL Australians fed up with mobile phone black-spots - and those looking to capitalise on new communications technology - will soon be able to air their views.

With Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull announcing a review of regional telecommunications this week, a four-member panel with experience across rural Australia has been appointed.

The review sets the agenda on what needs to be done for regional, rural and remote Australians in the areas of broadband and internet, mobile phone reception and new communication technology.

New appointees to the panel included Regional Australia Institute chief executive Su McCluskey and Queensland's Agforce vice-president and primary producer Georgie Somerset.

Speaking to APN from Rockhampton's Beef Week, Ms Somerset said the terms of reference were yet to be set for the inquiry, but the panel wanted to hear from everyday people, businesses and the big lobby groups.

"From an agribusiness perspective, we'd like to hear about what opportunities there are that will lift productivity," she said.

"Doctors' appointments (via internet video link) and health and education could also play a role, but we won't know until we meet in a couple of weeks."

Ms Somerset said the panel would welcome submissions from anyone with ideas on how to improve telecommunications in regional Australia.

"I think for many regional businesses, it's really difficult to keep up unless they've got high-speed broadband access, and some of those solutions are out there but aren't available in rural areas," she said.

The review will assess whether people in regional, rural and remote areas have "equitable access" to telecommunications services, especially those already available in metropolitan areas.

It will also examine consumer protections as the National Broadband Network rolls out, and how successful the government's mobile black spots program has been.

The review panel is scheduled to report its findings in August.

APN NEWSDESK



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