Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines hosted a Federal Government review examining the telecommunication challenges of regional communities in her electorate of Indi on Friday.

The Regional Telecommunications Review is held every three years to investigate equitable access to telecommunications services across regional, rural and remote Australia.

More than 50 people attended the public consultation at Benalla Town Hall, which Dr Haines said was an excellent turnout.

“This was an opportunity for people across Indi to tell the federal government directly about the challenges they face because of poor phone and internet services, and they face real challenges,” Dr Haines said.

Multiple Benalla locals said they were fed up with having to head outside to answer the phone because of poor reception, even though they live in the middle of a major regional town.

A farmer from Tarrawingee expressed frustration that he can’t make the most of the latest agricultural technologies to monitor his crops and livestock because of poor and unreliable internet.

A couple from Earlston detailed how inconsistent phone coverage is impacting the ability of the local community, including the CFA, to communicate during emergencies.

One woman from Greta West shared her fear that her husband, who lives with a heart condition, would be vulnerable if he needs an ambulance but the phones and internet aren’t working.

A small business adviser from Fawcett, just outside Alexandra, said that sub-standard phone and internet services were holding family businesses back.

Dr Haines said that these stories show that good regional telecommunications are essential for our safety and our livelihoods.

“Poor telecommunications are a barrier to prosperity and create significant challenges for our communities in times of emergency,” Dr Haines said.

“The federal government has a responsibility to ensure regional communities have access to stable, affordable, high-speed telecommunications.

“One message I heard loud and clear was the need for more generators and batteries to provide backup to mobile phone towers when the power goes out.”

The Review committee is made up of leading consumer advocates, former parliamentarians and international telecommunications experts. The committee will present its final report to the Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland, later this year.

“I am pleased the people of Indi were here to voice their frustrations about mobile phone blackspots, slow internet speeds and unaffordable services directly with the Government,” Dr Haines said.

“Since becoming the Independent Member for Indi, I have worked tirelessly to bring local communities, councils and other organisations together to improve phone and internet connectivity across our region.

“Regional communities should not have to settle for second-rate telecommunications when we rely so heavily on them to run businesses, work and study from home, and access healthcare services.”

Those wanting to contribute to the next stage of the review are encouraged to make a submission to the final report. Submissions are due by 31 July and more information can be found at this website: https://www.infrastructure.gov.au/have-your-say/2024-regional-telecommunications-review.

Dr Haines has fought for improved telecommunications in Federal Parliament by introducing her Faster Internet for Regional Australia Bill in 2022 which sought to guarantee access for regional Australians to fast, high-quality internet of the same standard enjoyed by people in the major cities.

Since being elected in 2019, Dr Haines has secured funding for 13 new phone towns in Indi, with four towers due to come online in 2024. Under independent representation, Indi is the most successful federal electorate in Victoria to secure funding under the Commonwealth Mobile Black Spot Program.


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