A telecommunications survey of more than 600 grain farmers has reinforced the view in regional Australia that there’s room for a lot of improvement in connectivity and accessibility of mobile and internet services.
David McKeon, CEO for national grain farmer representative body, GrainGrowers said the survey showed that poor telecommunications services remained a major impediment to farm operations in grain growing regions.
“Grain farmers are early adopters of new technology but the main impediments to uptake in many areas is the lack of a reliable mobile and internet service,” Mr McKeon said.
“The implications of poor connectivity and mobile service revealed by our survey are significant and directly impact on business productivity and performance as well as the safety of workers in remote areas in emergency situations.
“The level of mobile service remains extremely poor in rural Australia with 71 per cent of respondents dissatisfied with the service.
“State variations are wide, too. According to our survey, Western Australia is the worst off, with only 17 per cent of participants rating the mobile service as satisfactory, compared to 43 per cent in Victoria/Tasmania.
“Lack of coverage is the biggest concern,” Mr McKeon said.
“Nearly 10 per cent of respondents (and 17 per cent in Queensland) report no part of their farm has constant and reliable mobile phone service, while only 7 per cent (and only 1.8 per cent in WA) say 100 per cent of the farm has mobile service.
“This has significant repercussions for the farm office as well as the farm shed. There are many payments and business or government transactions that are now expected to occur online, which cannot happen where there is no connectivity. Simple banking transactions completed every day by someone on a mobile phone in the city can be impossible in the country.
“Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents said a quarter or less of their farm had reliable mobile coverage.”
Turning to the nbn, Mr McKeon said the survey found that less than 50 per cent of respondents (46 per cent) were connected. (The figure ranged from 50 per cent in NSW to 40 per cent in South Australia).
“Of those not connected, many said it was because it was not available in their area. However, this response suggests that many farmers may be unaware that the SkyMuster satellite service is in fact available and they should be exploring whether this may provide a better service than what they currently receive,” said Mr McKeon.
“The survey found that 70 per cent of nbn users are on the Sky Muster satellite with just over a quarter (28 per cent) using a fixed wireless connection.
“From next week, Sky Muster satellite users can receive 50 per cent more peak data and double their current off-peak data. With such a high percentage of our respondents using it, let’s hope the internet providers pass on these improvements to them without significant costs,” said Mr McKeon.
“Of those who are connected to nbn, 44 per cent rate their satisfaction with nbn as good (36 per cent) or excellent (eight per cent) but nearly a third (31 per cent) rate it as average, and a quarter are dissatisfied (20 per cent) or totally dissatisfied (5 per cent),” he said.
GrainGrowers is part of the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) with the objective of making 2017 the year of delivery for better telecommunications in the bush.
RRRCC is seeking five outcomes:
- A universal service obligation that is technologically neutral and provides access to both voice and data
- Customer service guarantees and reliability measures to underpin the provision of voice and data services, to deliver more accountability from providers and nbn
- Long term public funding for open access mobile network expansion in rural and regional Australia
- Fair and equitable access to Sky Muster for those with genuine a need for the service, and access which reflects the residential, educational and business needs of rural and regional Australia
- Fully resourced capacity building programs that build digital ability, and development of effective problem solving support for regional, rural and remote businesses and consumers.
To read the full results of the survey visit https://www.graingrowers.com.au/policy/micro-surveys