Mobile phone blackspots

Ask farmers and residents in Gollan, Sandy Hollow, some parts of Dripstone and Mumbil, mobile telephone coverage for 86 per cent of farmers in NSW is intermittent or non-existent, a NSW Farmers’ telecommunications survey has found.

Meanwhile, 85 per cent of survey respondents said they had no recent improvements in their mobile coverage at all.

NSW Farmers released the results of its 2014 telecommunications survey at its annual conference in Sydney where Fiona Simson was re-elected president.

The survey of 630 farmers revealed a clear trend and pattern with telecommunication issues in the state and highlighted ongoing issues farmers and rural and regional NSW continued to face.

NSW Farmers’ telecommunications spokesperson Anthony Gibson said that good communications were not a luxury – but a necessity.

“The more isolated you are, the more critical reliable communications are. Running a business without access to mobile technology when you are constantly on the move is both challenging and frustrating,” he said.

“For many people in regional NSW, there is no point in having a new phone with the latest applications. Being able to make and receive phone calls effectively is more important.”

Other sections of the survey revealed the quality and volatility of internet services remained a key challenge with many regional users experiencing periods of limited connection or no connection at all. In terms of mobile data coverage, 87 per cent of respondents had intermittent data receival or none at all.

While price remains the most determining factor in choosing an internet provider, coverage is the second largest determinate for farmers choosing their internet provider. Telstra is the market leader in network coverage across regional Australia leaving farmers in remote rural areas with limited choice.

Mr Gibson said that while these issues were starting to be addressed by the federal government’s review of the National Broadband Network as well as the $100 million commitment to mobile phone black spots, this really was only just the start.

The survey also showed that service delivery was another key factor hampering telecommunications in regional NSW.

“The distance and the time taken to access service centres and repairs, the lack of understanding towards rural telecommunications issues and importantly the inability of many to take their businesselsewhere were the main frustrations.

Some 67 per cent of farmers surveyed had experienced a service outage, 47 per cent had experienced a lack of advice on products suitable for regional areas and more than 40 per cent had experienced equipment failure and poor customer service.

“We have met with Telstra as the main service provider in regional NSW and hope that our ongoing dialogue will help address some of the challenges our farmers and their communities face,” Mr Gibson said.

“In our state, 44,000 farm businesses operate across 72 per cent of the state’s total land area.

“When you are living in rural and remote areas, telecommunications play a vital role in maintaining social, community and business links and NSW Farmers will continue working with the National Farmers Federation to ensure that it remains a high priority for the federal government,” he concluded.

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