Labor's Plan to deliver Better Regional Communications

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Labor understands just how critical connectivity is to improving quality of life, boosting productivity and supporting jobs in the regions.

Having access to fast, reliable and affordable communications is an enabler of social and economic opportunity, particularly in regional communities that face barriers of distance.

This is why Labor established a ubiquitous National Broadband Network (NBN), and invested $250 million in the Regional Backbone Blackspots Program.

We will continue to invest in better connectivity to help bridge the digital divide in regional communities.

LABOR’S PLAN:

A Shorten Labor Government will invest $245 million to address mobile black spots, improve digital inclusion and fund local projects to improve connectivity in regional communities.

This $245 million commitment shows Labor is the party most committed to regional communications, and forms part of our broader commitment to support local productivity, jobs and enhanced connectivity in regional Australia – and to improve the NBN.

Labor’s Plan to deliver Better Regional Communications will:

1. Fix more mobile black spots: Labor will allocate $160 million to deliver improved mobile coverage through two further rounds of the Mobile Black Spot Program, as well as strengthening co-location and infrastructure sharing opportunities for new mobile towers funded by the program.

2. Invest in local projects to address regional connectivity issues: Labor will allocate $60 million to local projects to address regional connectivity issues by working with state and local government and other stakeholders to develop Connected Community Plans. This place-based approach will help identify priorities for investment in local connectivity projects and digital literacy initiatives, including in remote Indigenous communities.

3. Improve data collection to support better decision-making: Labor will work with industry and regulators to develop more accurate and comparable mobile coverage maps to support policy making. We will also empower the ACCC to track capital investment in regional mobile networks, including 5G, to support policy analysis, program design and decision making to benefit regional consumers.

4. Work with the States and Territories to better co-ordinate investment: Labor will work with the States and Territories to maximise co-investment opportunities in mobile and other network infrastructure; ensure that Commonwealth investment in road and rail projects incorporates a communications coverage plan where feasible; and investigate co-building of mobile network infrastructure in areas of defined need such as transport routes, where public land can be leveraged in exchange for cooperation amongst mobile network operators.

5. Improve consistency of back-up power arrangements for new mobile towers located in bushfire prone areas: Labor will work with industry and consult experts on options to improve the consistency of battery back-up arrangements for new base stations built in bushfire prone areas.

6. Improve Remote Indigenous Communications: Labor will provide funding to improve remote Indigenous telecommunications and broadcasting to help address digital literacy, improve access to basic services and address the digital divide in remote communities.

If elected, we will also restore much needed rigour to ensure taxpayer’s money is delivering the benefits that regional Australians deserve.

The Liberals and nationals have been caught out for failings in administering regional funding. The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) found 89 of 499 base stations — nearly 1 in 5 towers funded under Round 1 of the Mobile Black Spot Program — delivered no new coverage at a cost of $28 million.

From their second-rate copper NBN, to bungling of mobile black spots delivery, the Liberals and Nationals cannot be trusted when it comes to regional communications.

As it stands, 31 black spot towers promised by the Liberals and Nationals after the 2013 election are yet to be delivered, and a further 71 of the 102 towers promised as 2016 election commitments in are also incomplete.

Regional Australians and taxpayers deserve better than this.

DELIVERING A BETTER NBN EXPERIENCE FOR REGIONAL AUSTRALIA

Labor’s Plan for Better Regional Communications will be supported by our commitment to deliver a better experience for regional NBN consumers by:

  • Establishing an NBN Service Guarantee to improve service standards, and better protect consumers and small businesses against excessive NBN downtime.
  • Undertaking a review of the future funding and capacity requirements of the NBN fixed-wireless network.
  • Improving reliability and speed for up to 750,000 Fibre to the Node households, many of which are in the regions, where the NBN copper network is over-represented.
  • Undertaking fibre upgrade trials to validate costs and inform options for future co-investment to deliver more fibre.

The choice at the next election could not be clearer.

Regional Australians can have better schools, hospitals and connectivity under Labor, or bigger tax loopholes for the top end of town under the Liberals.

After six years of dysfunction and chaos within the Liberals and Nationals, our united Labor team is ready.