In a new campaign, Vodafone is calling on voters in regional seats to use social media to raise the “urgent need” for more funding for mobile black spots with their federal representatives and candidates ahead of the coming 2 July election.
Dan Lloyd, Vodafone’s Chief Strategy Officer, said that, while the money provided so far to reduce mobile black spots was welcome, many people in regional Australia still do not have “reliable, competitive 21st century telecommunications services”.
“It’s time for Australians in regional and rural areas to send a clear message to their local MPs and candidates that action needs to be taken to end the mobile class divide between cities and rural and regional Australia,” Lloyd said.
“For far too long, small businesses, farmers and families in regional areas have been forced to put up with unreliable coverage, lack of choice of provider or both, while people in the major cities enjoy world-class mobile services and strong competition,” he added.
Lloyd further suggested that, with around 10,000 known mobile black spots in regional Australia, the existing Mobile Black Spot Programme will only make a “limited difference” and should be expanded to bring services up to acceptable levels.
The allocation of existing funding for telecoms services should be changed through Universal Service Obligation (USO) reform, he said, as well as an increase in overall funding.
The USO is a regulated safeguard that ensures access to standard telephone services and payphones “on reasonable request” to all Australians.
In late April, the Federal Government asked the Productivity Commission to carry out an inquiry into the USO, in order to examine its “role and relevance” in a fast-changing market.
“Australians are voting with their feet by choosing mobile over landlines. The $300 million provided to Telstra every year through the USO to maintain an outdated copper network and payphones in regional areas can be much better spent,” Lloyd said.
Diverting some USO funds to a permanent Mobile Black Spot Programme, would mean more Australians in rural and regional Australia benefitting from increased coverage and choice, he said.
Lloyd concluded: “With the Federal Election quickly approaching, now is the time for regional communities to send a clear message that they deserve a better deal on mobile telecommunications.”