Northern Victorian MP Gaelle Broad has urged the government to take a first-hand look at the appalling state of mobile phone and broadband services in key parts of regional Victoria.
Ms Broad said the issue was increasingly urgent as poor mobile coverage and internet connections were holding the regions back in everything from business and health care to emergency services.
“I have invited the Minister for Industry and Innovation, Ben Carroll, who is responsible for telecommunications and the digital economy, to visit our region” she said.
“In Melbourne, good mobile coverage and fast and reliable internet can easily be taken for granted. I invite the minister to speak with locals and visit towns in regional Victoria where that is not always the case. Our regions are riddled with black spots and deprived of choice.
“In this day and age we rely on mobile coverage for everything, and poor mobile connection and internet coverage is holding our regions back.
“We rely on it for education, for health care and banking, for emergency information, to conduct business and to work from home. Tourism and hospitality operators need it, our community centres rely on it, and we need it to stay connected with family and friends.
“Banks have closed in some regional areas and many government services are moving online. People who cannot get a signal are being left behind.
“The Yarra Ranges Shire Council completed a study on mobile and broadband connectivity and tested close to 25,000 sites, including schools, community centres, CFA stations, bus stops and aged care facilities.
“Twenty-five per cent of locations tested had unusable network quality, especially Hoddles Creek, Steels Creek, Fernshaw and East Warburton. It is a popular spot for tourists, with a fast-growing population, and an area of high bushfire risk.
“Being able to use your phone is not just a matter of convenience, it is a safety issue.
“Mobile black spots continue to be a concern for the CFA, especially in places like Strathbogie, Picola and Upton Hill.
“The Murray River Group of Councils, covering the towns of Mildura, Swan Hill, Kerang, Echuca and Cobram, identified digital connectivity as a key priority, as many black spots remain, and they want to see an end to the digital divide between rural and metropolitan areas.
“While we still have many areas in regional Victoria without mobile service, the government’s Connecting Victoria program has 28 of 88 projects based in metropolitan Melbourne.
“Mobile service and internet connection is critical, and families, students and businesses in regional areas are tired of living with second-class coverage.
“We need Victoria to become a state of cities, not a city–state. But to live and do business in rural and regional Victoria we need reliable telecommunications services.
“Northern Victoria needs consistent mobile coverage and fast and reliable broadband.”