According to Vodafone Chief Executive Officer Inaki Berroeta, Australian agriculture will never reach its potential to deliver innovation, jobs and growth for regional communities without telecommunications reform to deliver more competition and more reliable telecommunications services to regional areas.
Speaking at the Digital Transformation in Agriculture Breakfast at Parliament House today, Berroeta said Australian farmers and regional communities deserve “better mobile coverage and choice in the 21st century”.
“Agriculture is one of the areas where Machine to Machine (M2M) technology can make the biggest differences, but changes are needed to ensure farmers don’t miss out on the opportunity to take advantage of advances in technology.
Berroeta said Vodafone has partnered with the National Farmers’ Federation to work closely with farmers, agribusinesses and consumers to capture the opportunities for mobile technology to drive agricultural productivity, and to help bridge the digital divide.
“It’s time decision-makers act to bring about change to address barriers which are preventing regional Australia from reaching its full digital potential,” Berroeta said.
Berroeta also urged bi-partisan support for the Regional Telecommunications Review’s recommendation for the Universal Service Obligation (USO) funding arrangements to be replaced by a new Consumer Communications Fund.
“It’s an enormous missed opportunity that $253 million is spent every year through the USO to maintain an outdated copper network in regional areas which will be connected to the NBN.
“By devoting these funds to delivering 21st century telecommunications in regional Australia, farmers and all Australians would reap the benefits of the digital transformation through access to improved coverage and choice of provider.”
According to Berroeta, the USO is a “roadblock to effective competition in regional areas”, which he said means customers are “paying more than they should. In fact, the Centre for International Economics found the price premium paid by Australians for telecommunication services is $3.1 billion each year”.
“Vodafone and many regional communities want urgent and effective action when the government responds to the Regional Telecommunications Review’s report shortly.”