Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines has backed recommendations of a parliamentary inquiry into regional mobile phone coverage.
The ‘Connecting the country: Mission critical’ report makes 23 recommendations including guaranteeing minimum levels of mobile coverage, providing roaming across service providers during emergencies, acknowledging the need for continuous coverage along major transport routes, and multi-carrier sharing of mobile phone infrastructure.
“The recommendations in this report are a positive step forward for mobile phone connectivity in regional, rural and remote Australia, and I urge the Government to implement them,” Dr Haines said.
“The 30 per cent of people who live outside the major cities know too well the digital divide that exists between regional Australians and our city counterparts.
“That is why I support the recommendation for an universal service delivery obligation on mobile service providers, ensuring a minimum level of mobile phone service to all Australians regardless of where they live.
“Acting on the parliamentary committee’s advice could go a long way to bridging the gap for people who live, work and study in the regions, and those who are travelling through that rely on good mobile phone service.
“Mobile phone coverage is also critical during natural disasters, and I support the recommendation to establish a working group to investigate the possibility of mobile roaming across service providers during emergencies.
“I agree with the report that the Government should fund infrastructure that supports multi-carrier mobile network sharing along important transport corridors. Our region attracts many visitors but with few service providers available they often find themselves without coverage. Increasing sharing of mobile phone infrastructure among phone companies could tackle this issue while making mobile service costs more competitive for locals.”
Dr Haines made a submission to the inquiry featuring the experiences and connectivity challenges of community members in Indi which were highlighted in the final report.
“As a regional Independent, I’ve worked hard to improve phone coverage across Indi from Cudgewa to Kinglake. By working together as a community, Indi has had tremendous success under the Mobile Black Spot Program,” Dr Haines said.
“Indi is the most successful electorate in Victoria, and the fourth most successful nationwide, when it comes to securing federal funding for new mobile phone towers.
“But there is still much work to do to fix regional mobile phone coverage. The Government has been given sound, sensible recommendations from this inquiry, so now it can get on with improving mobile connectivity for regional communities.”
In September 2022, Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland tasked the House Communications and the Arts committee with investigating the experiences, opportunities and challenges for co-investment in multi-carrier regional mobile phone infrastructure, such as telecommunications companies sharing mobile towers and associated costs.
The parliamentary committee’s report however went well beyond the specifics of the terms of reference, recommending a review of the Mobile Black Spot Program to ensure it remains fit for purpose, and calling for a detailed government-led region-by-region mobile coverage audit.
Read the Connecting the country: Mission critical report here.