Rural data access a major cost burden

ON THE DOORSTEP: G-Spotter Antennas creator David Edworthy pictured with Kooringaroo Rd resident Urs Walterlin. Above them, the specialised equipment made by Mr Edworthy for rural users to access 4G data.

ON THE DOORSTEP: G-Spotter Antennas creator David Edworthy pictured with Kooringaroo Rd resident Urs Walterlin. Above them, the specialised equipment made by Mr Edworthy for rural users to access 4G data.

FAST, wireless data coverage has never been so easy to access for rural homeowners and businesspeople, thanks to a regional antennae innovation.

But, with telco prices still “prohibitive” the service remains just out of reach, according to a rural resident, leaving users with an oversubscribed and slow NBN Interim Satellite service.

Urs Walterlin, who lives on Kooringaroo Rd about 15km from Goulburn CBD, is one such user.

The foreign correspondent requires a minimum 60GB per month to adequately do his job.

Under changes to the NBN Interim Satellite service in February, Mr Walterlin’s existing plan - allowing him 60GB per month at a cost of $60 - was discontinued.

Now, he pays $104 for 40GB, plus an additional $6 for every extra 1GB over that limit.

He said plan changes to the satellite service have directly impacted his livelihood.

“I actually couldn’t sleep anymore because (the changes were) a direct endangerment of my business, it was a threat to my financial and economic survival here and to my family. I’m totally and utterly desperate,” Mr Walterlin said.

In search of a solution, he made contact with Dave Edworthy.

Based in Windellama, Mr Edworthy (G-Spotter Antennas) builds specialised antennas to maximise the reach of 4G towers.

Since Optus and Telstra switched on to the 4G network via a series of towers on the 700 megahertz network (previously used for analogue TV), Mr Edworthy said fast data coverage was available for rural users.

The only hurdle? Cost.

In the example of Mr Walterlin, to connect to the Optus 4G network it would cost $130 for 15GB on a prepaid plan.

For mobile broadband, $60 for 10GB per month.

He put the onus on Australian politicians to lobby telcos for competitive data prices.

“I would leave (the satellite) if I had a commercial rate with 4G.

“It clearly does the job well and I’m more than happy to pay for it if it’s reasonable,” he said.

“We now have a situation where we have a wonderful solution thanks to innovative people like Dave… The challenge now for people like (Hume MP) Angus Taylor is to do everything to get these prices down.

“This is not a decent commercial rate.”

Mr Walterlin said access to reliable, fast internet was the key to unlocking growth in regional areas.

“Rural development is not just about building roads and pipelines, it’s about communication,” he said.

“People need their roads, they need their water, health, services; that’s all extremely important, but if we talk like Mr Taylor about improving the quality of the bush and attracting people to live in the bush, this is a rather cheap way of actually doing it.”

---- Positive solutions

FEDERAL member for Hume Angus Taylor agreed.

Further, he said there were already a number of solutions in place for frustrated residents in the electorate.

This included ADSL, NBN fibre roll-out, fixed wireless NBN, the 700 MHz network and the NBN satellite for remote areas.

“By the first half of next year anyone suffering the interim satellite will have multiple solutions,” Mr Taylor said.

“700MHz network is an extraordinarily good interim solution and we are months away from a permanent solution (in the rollout of the NBN Satellite).

“Frankly where I live, 10km out of Goulburn, I suffer as much as anyone. I understand the issues, and it’s why I have been more vocal in the parliament then anyone else on this issue.

“I think it’s a contributor (to slow regional growth). I have known for a long time if we can improve telecommunications platforms in this area we will get more and more people wanting to live and spend more time here which is good for the economy and good for everybody.”

Mr Taylor said through creating a competitive market, with the rollout of the NBN Satellite (set to be operational within six months), telco prices are likely to fall.

“We’re putting active pressure on the telcos. They choose their own pricing but of course the most important thing is we create a degree of competition and a fixed price across all regions of Australia for the NBN is creating enormous competition,” he said. 


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