The Upper Hunter by-election provides a platform to discuss key issues facing regional NSW. Time and time again, telecommunications arises as a critical issue for regional communities and farmers. If there's an urban/country divide, then it's exemplified by poorer mobile and digital connectivity for the bush.
Strong, reliable and low-cost connectivity is crucial for farming enterprises. From day to day business activities through to the uptake of efficiency building technologies, digital connectivity can make a world of difference.
Yet, overwhelmingly, there is a strong sense from farmers that mobile service across regions is very poor in terms of quality, reliability and coverage. In the Upper Hunter, a number of mobile black spots have been identified, especially along the Golden Highway travelling through Merriwa, Cassilis and surrounds. These blackspots have real-life consequences for health and safety.
Farmers can be disadvantaged in an everyday sense by poor connectivity. For example, the migration of service delivery to online platforms over COVID-19 was built on the assumption by government and the private sector that all users have adequate access to reliable telecommunications.
Crucially, poor connectivity can prevent the adoption of agricultural technology on-farm. Technology has the potential to revolutionise certain farming practices and aid the projections for agriculture to contribute $30 billion by 2030. This is only possible with reliable connectivity and access to adequate bandwidth and speed.
The NSW Government has made a commitment to address the digital divide between metropolitan and regional areas through its Regional Digital Connectivity Program, primarily aimed at eliminating mobile black spots and bringing metro-level internet speeds to regional NSW.
NSW Farmers urges the speedier roll out of projects to deliver on-farm connectivity to enable ag-tech and improve product quality, farm management and productivity.
To meet the candidates of the Upper Hunter by-election, join NSW Farmers at Scone RSL at 6.30pm on Wednesday, 12 May.
- James Jackson, NSW Farmers president
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