6.3 COMMUNICATION INFRASTRUCTURE
Poor mobile phone or broadband coverage was an issue raised by RDA committees in 45 regions. Common problems included limited access to consistent and high speed broadband services, mobile phone and broadband ‘black spots’ and a large proportion of the population without an internet connection. RDA committees in many regions reported that poor mobile and broadband coverage prevented business growth and investment and was a significant safety issue in rural areas. The widening gap in broadband services between urban and rural areas was also frequently raised.
Nevertheless, RDA committees in many regions were optimistic that the roll out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) would help to solve these issues. The NBN is a high speed broadband network that will be established across Australia over the next ten years (Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, 2012, www.nbn.gov.au). Many RDA committees discussed the need to secure early access to the NBN and ensure that all regional centres would benefit. RDA committees in some regions were concerned that not all areas would benefit from the NBN, particularly remote communities who need it the most. The RDA ACT reported that the provision of the NBN would be delayed if an agreement between NBN Co and TransACT (the ACT’s broadband provider) could not be reached (2011, p. 56). RDA Tasmania reported that contractual agreements for information and telecommunication services restricted access to the NBN for some educational institutions (2011, p. 26).
The Barwon South-West region of Victoria and the Kimberley region of Western Australia also pointed out that knowledge and education about the availability and use of information and telecommunication services was needed so that people can effectively use communication technologies and benefit from enhanced broadband access (RDA Barwon South West, 2010, p.10; RDA Kimberley, 2011, p. 54).