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Grenfell's Next Crop forum reveals frustration with web access

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Richard Heath and Emily Essex are frustrated about the lack of internet connectivity, and high-cost packages are not neccessarily the answer.

Richard Heath and Emily Essex are frustrated about the lack of internet connectivity, and high-cost packages are not neccessarily the answer.

MANY business people would like to capture a share of the lucrative markets continually opening around the world through the internet – but in rural NSW and Grenfell in particular, connectivity, or the lack of – is the big stumbling block.

Close to 80 people from as far away as Young, Cowra and Forbes joined locals attending The Next Crop forum at Grenfell last Thursday evening where agricultural technology shaping the state’s rural future was discussed in detail by six panelists including Grenfell local Emily Essex, who with her husband, Nev, own the Grenfell Meat Barn.

On hearing the opportunities already open, especially into Asian markets like China and India, Mrs Essex said her business would love to get involved in that marketing, but connectivity was her handicap.

“We have so many problems with internet,” she said. “I’ve even been asking others who their provider is, to see if I can do better.

“There are no fast connections in Grenfell and businesses are losing money waiting days for connection after transferring just to the NBN.” Mrs Essex said they do not use internet in the their butcher shop because of poor availability.

Instead of towns hoping for economic benefit from weekend tourism visitations, Australian Farm Institute general manager, Richard Heath, said they would have millions of virtual visitors who would be helping to drive agriculture and investment technology – the middle class boom in Asia.

“It’s no new story, but it’s real,” he said.

Technology exists for a market opportunity to individuals, businesses or even communities to invest in the delivery of connectivity in regional, rural and remote areas.

“I believe there is a large market opportunity now through e-commerce or online presence just through the efficiency improvements leading to business or even a community making investments to deliver connectivity,” he said.

“We are seeing these communities just taking it into their own hands and putting in connectivity solutions, not waiting for the government’s universal service delivery.”

Possible solution

BITWAVE Networks at Parkes has developed a high-speed internet solution for areas of NSW.

Proprietor John England buys internet access wholesale via fibre optic cable and then uses high-powered antennas to deliver it to rooftop aerials on homes or small businesses.

Mr England said the system was fairly cost effective, particularly for remote areas where some customers were currently being overcharged.

“We’ve got a few happy farmers out there,” he said.

He said he is offering a 35 megabits per second assured service. Packages cost between $50 to $120 a month for packages ranging from 30 gigabytes to 750GB per month.

“Coincidentally we are actually looking at Grenfell at the moment,” he said.

“One of the big factors is tracking down fibre optic access that doesn’t belong to Telstra.”

Mr England said he had a hut at Parkes fed by fibre optics with large antennas to retransmit that signal point-to-point until a rooftop antenna could pick up the signal and then cable it into a home or business.

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