After a significant period of consultation and background work, the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee has released its 2015 report. The NRHA also commissioned a background paper from Baradel Economics.
The report is premised on the fact that the adequacy of telecommunications services means a great deal to people living and operating businesses in rural, regional and remote areas. As the National Broadband Network (NBN) rolls out, people living in those areas can expect improvements in fixed broadband capability. There is also significant new investment in the mobile network, although "mobile coverage gaps are likely to persist in areas that are uneconomic to serve".
The report recommends a number of measures "designed to assist new market entry, including by means of NBN infrastructure".
Given what it describes as the rapidly declining relevance of the Universal Service Obligation, the report proposes the introduction of a new Consumer Communication Standard for voice and data.
The Government's response to this report will be critical for social, economic and health outcomes in rural and remote areas.
The report acknowledges that it is regional Australians who have the most to gain from the arrival of higher bandwidth and higher quality fixed broadband services. The NRHA has long been concerned for the 8% of Australian premises that fall outside the fixed line footprint. It is expected that 5% of these will be connected by fixed wireless technology, with the remaining 3% connected by the NBN's Sky Muster, the long-term satellite service.
Sky Muster was successfully launched by the NBN on 1 October 2015 and promises "one giant leap towards better broadband for regional and remote Australia". We will all watch this space!