The potential removal of copper phone lines has rural organisations and councils up in arms, with claims it could put lives at risk.
The Productivity Commission is holding an inquiry into telecommunications services and is examining the possibility of transitioning voice services, currently delivered by the existing copper network, to National Broadband Network (NBN) infrastructure, meaning voice services would have to be delivered via satellite for users in rural and remote Australia.
However, Riverina councils have joined a chorus of dissent from the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC), arguing it would lead to an “inferior, unreliable satellite service”.
Lockhart Shire mayor Rodger Schirmer said in cases of emergency, copper phone lines allow calls if there is a blackout, but if there’s a flat phone battery people would be in big trouble.
“It’s hard to believe Yerong Creek, which is on the Olympic Highway, has almost no reception at all, it’s absolutely dreadful,” Councillor Schirmer said.
“You could potentially have an accident and not be able to ring for help, it’s an extremely poor situation.”
National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said any changes must not result in a poorer services.
“In emergencies a reliable voice connection can be the difference between life and death,” Ms Simson said.
“There are also issues around how remote businesses are expected to operate in a 21st century economy and meet their workplace health and safety obligations.”
Cr Schirmer said people in rural areas were coming a distant second to those in the cities and governments needed to formulate a sound, long-term plan.
“They need a strategic view, not for one term of government, but further out for 10, 20, 30 years,” he said.
“Councils are required to have these plans for 10 years, we’ve got the documents, I wish governments would abide by the same rules.”
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