Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Event Attendance: Regional Communications

< Date: 06 October 2016

Julian and Mitch Fifield

Caravan Industry Association of Australia’s Julian Harniman recently attended an Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry event where Senator Mitch Fifield, the Minister for Communications, laid out the Government’s plans for the communications industry.

Julian was able to take advantage of the question and answer session to enquire about the Government’s plans for the mobile blackspots that affect so many caravan industry businesses. The Minister explained that the black spots emanated out of the private sector historically providing mobile coverage on a location by location basis, resulting in coverage gaps nationwide. He went on to say the Government is addressing these gaps with a $220 million Mobile Black Spot Programme with three rounds of funding.

The CEO of Vodafone Australia, Iñaki Berroeta, also spoke at the event about the digital divide between regional Australia and the major cities. He said that through continued investment, Vodafone have a 4G network that reaches more than 22 million Australians. However, he went on to comment that there are still many regional Australians that don’t have mobile coverage, or if they do, they have no choice in service provider.

Berroeta said, “This is not only due to Australia’s extreme landmass and dispersed population, but is worsened by many legacy policies and regulatory dysfunctions”. He claimed that Telstra’s dominance in regional areas was a result of public subsidies and regulation, leaving millions of Australians without choice when it comes to mobile service providers.

Berroeta went on, “It is completely reasonable for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to investigate whether regulated domestic roaming could benefit consumers in regional Australia by providing increased competition”. He called on the ACCC to regulate domestic roaming through a network sharing arrangement where operators would pay a market price for their customers to use another operator’s network, either through a commercial agreement or regulated pricing, effectively providing regional Australians with greater choice.

With many of the caravan industry’s businesses based in regional, rural or remote Australia, Caravan Industry Association of Australia is looking to the results of the Productivity Commission’s examination of the Universal Service Obligation and the Government’s Mobile Black Spot Programme as the means to ensure regional Australia sees improvements in coverage and choice.