The 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit found that telecommunication services in regional Australia provide poor connectivity. Key issues include slow internet speeds, poor reliability and high prices.
There is a lack of competition to provide transmission to some regional centres with lower populations. This impacts both the value for money, capacity and quality of the transmission lines, which in turn inhibits fast and reliable internet connection.
This issue is a key contributing factor to the growing ‘digital divide’ between well connected and poorly connected areas of Australia. While there have been some improvements in market competition, many regional areas still face these issues and may not have access to future technologies such as 5G.
Access to high-speed internet provides a range of benefits, including better access to health (for example, telehealth) and education (for example, online distance education) services that are often difficult and costly to provide outside population centres.
Improved connectivity is likely to also benefit regional firms through greater access to markets and workers. It could also increase productivity of specific industries, such as agriculture through ‘smarter’ farming practices.
The Infrastructure Priority List separately includes a High Priority Initiative for mobile blackspots. Extending transmission capacity can assist in enabling the construction of new telecommunication towers to address blackspots.
Potential options to address the initiative include:
- increasing shared use of the existing transmission network
- upgrading existing regional networks to allow faster digital connections
- investing in new transmission networks.
Proponent(s) to be identified.