Regional Telecommunications Review 2021 — Issues Paper

The benefits of the digital economy cannot be shared when some members of the community are still facing real barriers to online participation. This creates a ‘digital divide’ and highlights that issues of digital exclusion are also issues of social justice. Those experiencing disadvantage are most likely to be left out of the digital world, further increasing social and economic inequality.

Tasmania’s ADII score and the PESRAC Final Report findings provide a strong argument for the need to improve Tasmania’s digital infrastructure network. They also point to the need to invest in digital skills and for measures that increase digital affordability. With reliable, widely accessible and affordable digital infrastructure and services, and a population with high levels of digital skills, Tasmania’s geographic location could turn from a constraint to a thriving opportunity.

Summary of Recommendations:

  1. Recognise reliable, high-speed internet and mobile networks as essential services and as such, ensure appropriate regulation that protects consumers in respect to price, quality, access and reliability.
  2. The federal and state/territory governments work with NBN Co and telecommunications providers to introduce low-cost broadband services for low income households.
  3. The Australian Government takes a lead role in collaborating with the Tasmanian Government and telecommunications providers to improve Tasmania’s digital infrastructure.
  4. The Australian Government establishes a “Community Infrastructure Fund” that makes grants available to invest in regional and rural infrastructure, ensuring more Tasmanians have access to reliable, high-speed internet.
  5. The Australian Government provides resources to establish and fund a consumer reference group in each jurisdiction to represent the needs and concerns of regional communities to government, with a focus on:
    • Input into and/or the development of digital inclusion strategies that promote regional development.
    • Consultation and engagement with key stakeholders and local communities, to ensure the strategies and responses to government reflect the lived experiences of communities, service providers and those cohorts at most disadvantage.
    • Facilitating partnerships with researchers, ICT experts, communities and business to strengthen consumers’ voices and impact.
    • Setting goals and targets over the short- and medium- terms for lifting digital inclusion levels.
  6. The Australian Government provides funding for community-based, digital literacy initiatives that support the digital skills and knowledge needs of different population groups experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage, through innovative and responsive delivery methods.