SA-BEST supports a State Regional Telecommunications fund allocation of $30 million to leverage Federal and private investment into mobile phone and internet blackspots and improve the reliability of mobile phone signal for rural communities during emergencies.
There are over 830 sites in South Australia identified in the national Mobile Blackspots database.
We need to make sure there is sufficient State Government funding allocated to make serious inroads to fix the backlog.
The Federal Government has committed $220 million to the Mobile Black Spot Program from 2015–16 to 2019–20 to invest in telecommunications infrastructure to improve mobile coverage along major regional transport routes, in small communities and in a number of identified priority locations.
The Commonwealth has already committed $160 million in Rounds One and Two, supported by $287 million from the mobile network operators, $141.2 million from State Governments and $2.2 million by local Councils, businesses and communities.
The South Australian Government has so far contributed only $1.4 million with a total 2017-18 budget allocation of only $2 million.
In contrast, Western Australian Government contributed $53.8 million, Victoria $28.9 million, Queensland $23.7 million and New South Wales, $32.7 million.
South Australia needs to do better. We have a lot of catching up to do.
Regional communities also face additional risks during natural disasters and a greater risk of mass service disruptions due to telecommunications outages.
During the statewide blackout, mobile phone coverage in many parts of regional South Australia was out for several days.
SA-BEST is committed to improving the reliability of mobile phone signal for rural communities during emergencies.
We will work with telecommunications providers, regional communities and local emergency services to identify priority locations and find solutions through, for example, battery or generator backup for mobile phone base towers in vulnerable regional communities.
We will also continue to work with our federal colleagues to push for legislative amendment to ensure mobile phone base towers have at least 24 hours of reserve power in regional areas particularly prone to bushfires.