The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) is urging the Commonwealth to invest more to improve telco services in regional and rural areas.
In a submission to the Regional Telecommunications Review 2021, the agency said the government should:
- provide grants and other investment incentives to promote a wider range of services;
- standardise mobile coverage information that is provided by telcos;
- publish up to date information about what telco services are available in certain regions;
- offer government-subsidised mobile devices that can access both standard mobile networks and satellite networks; and
- build communal connectivity hubs for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The submission was based on concerns from telco consumers living outside Australia’s metropolitan centres, with the TIO saying it receives around 30,000 phone and internet complaints from customers in regional areas each year.
The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has called for a continuation of the Stronger Regional Digital Connectivity Package to improve community resilience and local economic recovery.
The TIO said its role as the complaints handling agency makes it uniquely placed to share its data and insights on the telco problems experienced by regional rural and remote consumers.
The complaints revealed some of the concerns from regional customers include service reliability, poor service coverage, lack of choice, and weak or damaged network infrastructure.
Ombudsman Judi Jones, pictured, said consumers living in regional communities continued to have reduced access to telecommunications services.
“They also face greater risk in natural disasters, such as bushfires and floods, where reliable telco services play a critical role in coordinating disaster response and recovery.
“Providing better access to information about available services could allow consumers to make more informed decisions, encourage competition, and bridge the telco divide between metropolitan and regional, rural and remote Australia,” she said.