Rural Communications minister Fiona Nash has defended the performance of the recently launched Sky Muster NBN satellites, on the same day numerous farming groups launched a united campaign to lobby for improved digital connectivity in regional areas.
A group of 15 rural advocacy groups yesterday formed the “Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition” to champion better communications services for consumers and small businesses living in rural, remote or regional areas.
Group spokesperson Teresa Corbin families, businesses and communities in rural and regional Australia lacked equitable access to reliable and quality telecommunications services.
The Coalition wants five outcomes to be achieved:
- A universal service obligation that is technology neutral and provides access to both voice and data;
- Customer service guarantees and reliability measures to underpin the provision of voice and data services and deliver more accountability from providers and nbn;
- Long term public funding for open access mobile network expansion in rural and regional Australia;
- Fair and equitable access to Sky Muster satellite services for those with a genuine need for the service, and access which reflects the residential, educational and business needs of rural and regional Australia; and
- Fully resourced capacity building programs that build digital ability, and provide learning and effective problem solving support for regional, rural and remote businesses and consumers.
On the same day the Coalition was formed calling for an end to the data drought, Rural Communications Minister Fiona Nash released a statement saying the rain has already begun.
More customers were now connected to NBN’s Sky Muster satellite than were ever connected to Labor’s Interim Satellite Service (ISS), she said, a milestone that had taken just seven months to achieve.
“The maximum number of activations on the ISS was 44,447 – this week the number of Sky Muster activations hits 46,441,” she said.
“Almost 70 per cent of the NBN rollout completed so far is in rural, regional and remote Australia.
“The fixed wireless roll out will be substantially complete in 2018. The satellite build is complete with 200,000 connections expected over the next three years.
“Labor’s interim satellite service, which provided expensive internet at slow speeds, did serious long-term damage to public perception of satellite broadband. People using the Labor satellite paid more than $10 a gigabyte for speeds of less than 1 megabit a second. There were 44,447 connections at the height of its operation.
“This week, Sky Muster activations hit 46,441, offering download speeds of up to 25 megabits a second and data at a fraction of the cost charged on the interim satellite. It’s great to have overtaken the total number of connections in just seven months.
“There have been teething problems with Sky Muster as you expect with any new technology, but NBN Co has acknowledged this and acted.
“I remind that Labor’s interim satellite is not Sky Muster.
“I’ve spoken to many rural people who mistakenly believed they were on Sky Muster when they were actually on the Labor interim satellite.”
Minister Nash said she welcomed the formation of a new Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition, whom she met with yesterday.
Minister Nash has also held meetings with individual members of the group, and took the opportunity to inform the group of the progress of the roll out of Sky Muster and fixed wireless, and that many of the group’s publicly stated concerns are in fact already being addressed.
“I’m pleased to see a group which can both raise awareness of the issues and help to inform the public on internet access in rural Australia. I look forward to working with them as the NBN rolls out to rural, regional and remote Australia in the next three years.”
Sources: RRRCC, Minister for Rural Communications