Telco policy reforms needed to unlock Australian agriculture’s potential

Putting the digital divide on the election agenda

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 Australia, Vodafone said today.

Speaking at the Digital Transformation in Agriculture Breakfast at Parliament House, Vodafone Chief Executive Officer Inaki 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,” Mr Berroeta said.

“M2M can enable farmers to work smarter and faster, such as remotely monitor and adjust soil moisture levels, or receive live updates from the paddock on their tablets.“

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,” Mr Berroeta said.

Mr Berroeta 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“It’s an enormous missed opportunity that $253 million is spent every year through the USO to maintain an outdated copper network in regional areas which will be connected to the NBN,” he said.

“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.

“The USO is a roadblock to effective competition in regional areas, which 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.”

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Notes to editors:

The Digital Transformation in Agriculture Breakfast at Parliament House was hosted by Vodafone and the National Farmers’ Federation. The breakfast included a panel which comprised Assistant Minister for Agriculture Anne Ruston, Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon, Member for Hume Angus Taylor, Vodafone Chief Technology Officer Benoit Hanssen and NFF CEO Simon Talbot.