Despite NBN Efforts, Landline still Matters in Rural Australia

April 18, 2018

The traditional way of communication may have been considered obsolete, especially now with the appearance of mobile devices and the age of the Internet. But for some areas, it’s considered as a part of the way they’re living, citing that it’s their best bet in communicating. This is what rural and remote areas of Australia are experiencing. Having a bad signal reception for mobile, they’re stuck in the middle, especially now that Australia’s Universal Service Obligation (USO), the obligation that allows access to a fixed copper line telephone service will be scrapped by — none other than — the Federal Government.

The decision was made after the Productivity Commission released a report last year that USO’s contract with Telstra, which was worth $300 million annually, was “anachronistic and costly” and should be “replaced by a new framework”, ABC News reported.

Unfortunately, the Federal Government belted out their side and expressed the same sentiments, saying they are planning to do just that. And this initiative is through the notorious rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN).

“When the NBN rollout is completed in 2020, all premises will have access to high-speed broadband services upon request, and 97 per cent of premises on the NBN (fixed line and fixed wireless areas) will have access to fixed voice services on request,” the statement read via ABC News.

“In addition to the NBN, consumers are embracing mobile technology,” the statement added. “More than 99 per cent of Australians have access to at least one commercial mobile network.”

However, this decision will gravely affect the lives of people living in rural and remote areas in Australia. These areas of the Land Down Under are always experiencing connection drops or no reception at all since this is where mobile phone coverage is poor and internet data is expensive.

Take the story of Samara Cassidy and her children Jordan Cassidy, 14, and six-year-old Beau. They live on a piggery on Queensland’s Southern Downs and the nearest school is 50 kilometres away from home. In terms of commute, public transport is no longer an option since the bus route was cancelled after only having Jordan as the passenger. The mother of two said she relied on landline to let her children get the education they needed while running their piggery.

“[Without a landline], it would mean my kids wouldn’t be able to do their schooling properly, because our mobile service — while we get a bit of coverage — it’s sketchy and does drop out,” she said via ABC News

Even though the Federal Government said they assure they will not touch USO until every Australian has access to reliable and cost-effective broadband and voice service, residents living outside of areas that have fixed-line connections to the NBN are worried about Sky Muster satellite and cost of data.

“We do get a certain amount of data for schooling but that’s chewed through by the end of the month with the two kids online and then we’ve got dropouts, so if we’re adding phone to that as well, we’re using even more data every day,” Ms Cassidy said via ABC News.

Landlines are a must and AgForce spokesperson and Dalby farmer Kim Bremner says so.

“We don’t believe that the NBN will be sufficiently reliable for those people in the remote areas,” Mr Bremner said via ABC News. “It’s about having two options so if one of them goes down, you’ve got the other option.

“If you have an accident, you need to be able to contact the [Royal] Flying Doctor [Service] or emergency services,” he added via ABC News.