One of the most frequent complaints I hear is appalling phone and internet coverage.
Fred, a stone fruit grower from Woorenin, has put up with weak, slow, unreliable, and sometimes non-existent mobile coverage for years. As a small business owner, Fred has had to spend enormous sums of money to attempt to resolve these issues. Sadly, much of this investment has resulted in little improvement. Living in between two major phone towers, he often has to leave his own property to be able to conduct a virtual meeting with his overseas clients. At times he’s had to stand on a chair or climb on a roof to be able to get any signal.
He is not alone. If you live in Walpeup, you endure the same inconvenience.
It’s simply not good enough.
The pandemic has exacerbated the issues. Homeschooling students are enduring disrupted learning in their virtual classrooms because their internet drops out. Teachers struggle to conduct online classes because they can’t get reliable reception at home.
While the Coalition government has invested $15 million to address connectivity in Mallee, many remain disadvantaged, fundamentally because telco companies have not been held to account for their deficient service.
This week I have supported new legislation that seeks to right these wrongs. This reform will hold telecommunications companies accountable for their poor coverage. Telco execs will personally be liable for poor customer service and failure to meet the needs of customers.
Rural residents often live a long distance from emergency services, and when an emergency occurs we simply cannot afford poor connectivity to prevent access to emergency services. Under the proposed Bill, telco executives and companies will also be financially liable for preventable deaths caused through their inaction. Under this legislation, negligence will no longer be tolerated.
We still have a long way to go to ensure every Australian has access to reliable connectivity wherever they are, but this Government is working together to deliver vital measures to make sure that we get there.