ISOLATED rural communities hoping to have improved mobile phone blackspots corrected will be relying largely on state governments into the future with no fresh funding announced in the federal budget this week.
The NSW Government is getting closer to releasing its plans on how to spend $50 million on fixing connectivity issues with the Victorian Government confirming it will contribute another $11 million to the problems being experienced by rural areas.
In addition to building towers, the NSW Government is using part of its committed $50 million to explore “different and innovative technologies” to provide solutions for connectivity problems.
“The NSW Government has made an unprecedented investment through the connecting country communities fund to address this important issue and we are committed to doing it right,” deputy premier John Barilaro said.
The Victorian Government will announce shortly communities which have been successful in winning black spot funding from an initial $11 million of its own.
Indi MP Cathy McGowan said rural communities were being short-changed by the government.
“They broke the trust, the bond, with the states and they’ve not committed to round four,” she said.
“I said to the Prime Minister during the week ‘it was great to get the 200 communities covered in Indi, but we’ve got another 200 that don’t have coverage’.
“There’s a responsibility of the Commonwealth I think the make sure those communities get mobile phone coverage.”
Farrer MP Sussan Ley said: “There are plenty of blackspots remaining in Farrer so I understand Cathy’s frustration, but I would also be careful biting the hand that feeds you.
“Our government has already contributed over $8 million to help build 38 base stations in Indi.
“There are still a number of towers yet to be switched on and, while that’s occurring, the Minister is rightly reviewing the program to assess the best way to invest future Commonwealth funding.
“I actually welcome that formal assessment as, in my view, the telcos were getting too much of a say on where towers are being located.
“There may actually be better, cost efficient ways of achieving outcomes for more people, so let’s take a look at that.”